Picking Your Cruise Ship Stateroom

Your cruise ship stateroom is your home-away-from-home on-board the ship. You may spend a lot of time in your stateroom entertaining friends, watching the scenery, or enjoying a meal or two. If you’re like me, your stateroom may just be a spot to sleep and shower. Either way, it is important that you pick the right stateroom that best suits your needs. As the saying goes, “there’s no place like home,” and this holds true on a cruise ship too!

Types of Cruise Ship Staterooms

Lucky for us cruisers, most cruise ships offer a wide range of staterooms to choose from. No matter what your stateroom needs are, there should be a room that’s just right for you. Each cruise line has different room offerings, but some of the most universal types of cruise ship staterooms include:

Interior Staterooms

Interior cruise ship stateroom
An interior cruise ship stateroom on Carnival Conquest. Notice the lack of a window.

Attention budget-conscious cruisers: this is the room for you! If you just need a bed, a shower, and a place to store your stuff, then look no further. Interior rooms are my preference because they’re the least expensive, and every now and then I may get lucky with a free room upgrade on-board! (Don’t get your hopes up; this has only happened to me a couple times.) I’m pretty low maintenance, so when I cruise solo I look for the lowest fare possible. No frills required.

Interior staterooms are usually located on most passenger decks, so there’s a good variety of locations to choose from. Unfortunately, interior rooms can be smaller than their outside counterparts. (But again, as a solo cruiser, this is fine by me.) Another big downside to interior rooms is the obvious lack of natural sunlight. It can be super easy to sleep the day away when your room is pitch black at high noon! If you’re afraid of oversleeping, do yourself a favor and set up a wake-up call or bring an alarm clock!

Oceanview Staterooms

These rooms are becoming a rare breed on newer cruise ships. With the huge popularity of balcony staterooms (see below), more space is being made for rooms with private verandas instead of window views. When available, these rooms make a nice, lower cost alternative to balcony staterooms for those who want an outside view from their stateroom. Oceanview staterooms will usually be available with either portholes (small, circular windows) or larger picture windows.

On older cruise ships, a good portion — if not the majority — of exterior staterooms will be oceanviews. There will be oceanview staterooms available on most passenger decks, and throughout the length of the ship. However, on newer cruise ships, I’ve found the majority of the oceanview staterooms (of which there are relatively few) are only available on the lowest passenger decks. Any oceanview staterooms on upper decks tend to be toward the front of the ship. If you’re looking to cruise on a newer ship, your options for oceanviews may be limited.

Balcony Stateroom

A standard balcony on Carnival Breeze
A standard balcony on Carnival Breeze

Nowadays, balcony staterooms outnumber all other categories of staterooms on new cruise ships. In fact, some ships are advertised as balcony-only ships! (This means balconies and suites.) With rows and rows of balconies stretched end-to-end, many cruise ships today are viewed as floating apartment buildings. (I disagree with this opinion, but many people find this look to be ugly.)

Have you ever wanted to watch the waves go by, but the crowds up on deck were bothersome to you? How about having a cup of coffee outside in your bathrobe? If you long for these kinds of activities, a balcony stateroom is for you! You get the benefits of the outdoor decks in a private setting.

If you share adjacent rooms with friends or family, many cruise ship balconies have dividers that can be opened to extend the size of your outdoor space. Some premium balcony staterooms have longer balconies by default. These gems can usually be found on the back and corners of the ship, and some even wrap around the corner of the ship!

Suites

All cruise ships — large or small, old or new — have suites. As you can imagine, these are the largest staterooms on the ship, and they come with the most amenities. Suites will feature multiple rooms — sometimes including bedrooms, a living room, and more than one bathroom. Some suites will also come with a wet bar with a supply of alcohol at no additional cost.  On certain cruise ships, the grandest suites will span more than one deck!

Guests staying in suites will be offered additional perks.  Suite guests may get priority boarding, a dedicated concierge on-board, butler service, and more. Among new cruise ships, there has been a trend to offer exclusive areas on-board the ship that are only accessible by suite guests. (Think “first-class” areas of ships long ago.) These areas may include their own pools, private dining and bar areas, and even private spa facilities. These ship-within-a-ship experiences are the ultimate luxury experience, but they will obviously come at a premium cost!

Location is Important

No matter which type of cruise ship stateroom you choose, you will need to consider what location on the ship you wish to stay in. On larger cruise ships, staterooms in the middle of the ship are most convenient. Staterooms overlooking the very back of the ship are often highly desirable and priced accordingly.

You should also be mindful of the location of your cruise ship stateroom in relation to other areas of the ship. For example, a stateroom directly above or below a nightclub may be noisier than a stateroom sandwiched between more staterooms on all sides. From personal experience I can say that staterooms at the very front, bottom of the ship are within the range of hearing the ship’s anchor being raised and lowered. Light sleepers beware!

Picking Your Cruise Ship Stateroom

If location isn’t important to you, you can often save money by letting the cruise line choose your stateroom for you. You choose the type of stateroom you want and the cruise line will assign you a room. This is called booking a “guarantee” because you are guaranteed to get at least the category stateroom you choose. For example, let’s say you book an interior guarantee. If all of the interior staterooms on the ship sell out, the cruise line will upgrade you for free to a higher category (oceanview, etc.). Keep in mind the key word is “guarantee”, so you can’t be downgraded. The downside to booking a guarantee is that you may get a stateroom in a crummy location. Personally, I’ve had success with guarantees — I’ve never gotten a terrible location and I have even been upgraded!

What type of cruise ship stateroom do you prefer? Do you have any tips on selecting a cruise ship stateroom? Leave a comment below!

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