For those travelers planning their next cruise vacation, it can be overwhelming picking between cabin types on a variety of cruise lines. Here are some tips to ensure your cruise will be smooth sailing.
Often times the lowest price available is on what is called a "guarantee cabin" -- which essentially means the cruise line selects the cabin for you. If you know what you want inside, oceanview, balcony, etc., you can still select a guarantee cabin in each of those categories, but you can't choose where on the ship your cabin will be located.
The upside is that in addition to paying a low price, you may get upgraded to an even nicer category or cabin type (inside to oceanview for example) -- but you may also get the worst cabin in the category you selected, so there is a risk involved.
Best for families or groups
Many cruise lines -- such as Disney -- offer larger cabins to accommodate families, and even suites with a separate room or alcove with bunk beds for the kids. If you are willing to share a small cabin, some cruise lines offer discounts on the third and fourth passengers in the same cabin. Before you book, check your options. It may be a better value to buy two adjoining cabins -- especially if the cruise line is offering valuable extras for each cabin because then you get double the extras (such as onboard credit) to offset the cost.
Other cruise lines such as MSC offer "kids free" options when sharing the same cabin as parents -- but call or check online to be sure the cabin you are looking at can actually accommodate more than two people.
If you are prone to (or worried about) getting seasick, choose a cabin toward the middle of the ship on the lowest deck you can find. Some also suggest getting access to fresh air, so choose a balcony cabin if it fits your budget, but still look for the lowest and most centralized balcony cabin available. Cabins on the highest decks and those towards the very front and very back of the ship tend to feel the motion of the waves the most.
Some light sleepers experience the best sleep of their lives in an inside cabin -- where there is no natural light, and you can be lulled to sleep by the motion of the waves while resting in absolute darkness. Others need natural light and choose an oceanview or balcony cabin on a higher deck -- but pay close attention to where your cabin is located.
Cabins directly below the pool deck, nightclub, theater or bar are subject to loud noise -- day and night. Also beware of cabins toward the front of the ship on the lower decks near the engine or the anchor. When the ship pulls into port early in the morning, the sound of the anchor slowly dropping will wake even the heaviest of sleepers.
In the middle of it all
If you want easy and fast access to the pool deck, bars, and all of the amenities -- or have trouble getting around and do not want to walk very far -- choose a cabin in the middle of the ship on a higher deck or near the elevator banks (just know it may be noisy). There are also handicapped-accessible cabins that make it easier to get in and out of the cabin and the shower with a wheelchair.
Cabin with a view
If you plan on spending a lot of time in your cabin, a good view will be important. Balcony cabins offer floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a small seating area on a patio. Oceanview cabins only offer a window -- ranging from a small port-hole to a large picture window. But don't be fooled into thinking every oceanview or balcony cabin has a great view.
The lowest priced ones often have an "obstructed view" where the lifeboats or a structural portion of the ship may be blocking part or all of the view from the window. These can be a great value though, so don't rule them out if you are looking for a budget-friendly offer. Many new ships offer cabins with views of interior areas.
For example, Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure of the Seas offer balcony cabins overlooking the boardwalk and Central Park areas of the ship -- often at a lower price than their ocean-facing cabins.
The Suite Life
If you want to splurge on your next cruise vacation -- or are just looking for a luxury option -- a suite is the way to go. Suites are often the first to sell out because there are so few of them. They can range from a mini-suite (which is basically a slightly larger balcony cabin - or a balcony cabin with more separation between the living and sleeping area) to a three-bedroom villa with a private hot tub and piano.
Many luxury cruise lines -- such as Regent Seven Seas and Silversea -- offer all-suite accommodations, which can offer a great value if you're looking for more space and an upscale experience.
Darlene Carenza is a producer at Travelzoo and based in Miami. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.