Cabin Selection – What’s the Big Deal?

One of the most stressful parts of booking a cruise for me is cabin selection. As my wife can attest to, I generally put more time in on this than I do cruise selection, and I tend to change my mind more than once along the way.

So what’s the big deal? Why not just select a category and go along with whatever default cabin the booking site selects? Well, for me, the last thing I want to do is end up spending all that money and have the family annoyed by the cabin we end up in. Our first few cruises were group ones with the staff of my wife’s office. Her boss was very generous with them, and if they made goal for the year, he’d take the staff on a vacation, which most of the time was a cruise. On those, I never had cabin selection, we basically went with whatever the travel agent he used gave us. We never really ended up with bad cabins, I’d say, but nothing memorable, either.

Prior to our Thanksgiving cruise on the Freedom in 2011, I’d never actually done any cabin selection research. When we booked that one, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. We knew that within our budget, we could only afford interior or certain ocean view classes. With the available ocean view cabins in our budget being the two lowest decks, I started researching interior options higher up the ship. After a long hunt, I settled on an interior on the Panorama deck, room 1053. It seemed like an interesting location, being one deck above Lido and in the forward section of the ship. This area also seemed like it would have less foot traffic with a smaller number of cabins in that section. Here’s a shot of the deck plan, with our cabin circled in red:

FreedomCabin

We absolutely loved that location. It had the added benefit of quick access to the “secret deck” on that floor that very few people ventured out to, so it was almost like having your own balcony at the front of the ship. One of the really nice things about this location was having easy access to the outside areas of the upper decks. No waiting for an elevator, walking down a long hall, etc. Just walk out the door, turn right, and head out to deck. It was also a very quiet location, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone running, or any voices, and never heard any noise from the Lido deck. That became our new favorite area for a cabin.

When it came time to select a cabin for our Thanksgiving 2012 cruise on the Legend (also my 40th birthday), I went through another lengthy hunt. This time, our budget allowed for a balcony, which complicated things a bit. We’d never had a balcony, and after reading so many people say how they’d never go back to an interior/oceanview after having a balcony, we finally decided to try one. I’m pretty sure I took even longer finding the right one, as I now had drifting cigarette smoke to worry about. The last thing we wanted was to end up with smoke blowing back on us from any cabin ahead, as non of us can really stand cigarette smoke. After a long hunt, I decided on 4204, which had a group of lifeboats in front of it, meaning there were no balconies immediately ahead of us to worry about:

LegendCabin

No complaints on that cabin either, and that lifeboat right ahead of it doesn’t detract from the view in any way, as shown in the Photosynth I did of the balcony while we were in port in Roatan. I will say that we never got the “once you go balcony, you’ll never go back” feeling from it thought. It was nice having it, and we got some great views, but just weren’t wowed to that level.

Moving on, when deciding on a cabin for our Thanksgiving 2013 sailing on the Breeze, we once again found ourselves a little budget constrained, limiting us to inside or oceanview. Somehow I managed to get us booked in to 11203, which is a forward room on the Spa deck, which also meant we got the Spa cabin ammenities:

BreezeCabin

As we discovered later, this is categorized as handicapped accessible, something not indicated on the site we used to book. We didn’t even realize it until a week or so before the cruise when I changed the bed layout to king on Carnival’s site. Regardless, the room was huge, with plenty of space to move around in, and the same went for the bathroom. The window was pretty good sized, and looked out the right front side of the ship. Additionally, this room also had very easy access to the “secret door”, basically giving us an almost private forward balcony. Just turn right out of the room, and walk out the door :).

Finally, the room selection on our most recent cruise on the Celebrity Summit. This one was a bit of a nightmare through our own doing. When we booked this cruise, I did so with the understanding it would just be the three of us, and our budget allowed for anything up to (and including) a Sky Suite, and having never stayed in a suite, we decided to give it a shot. Adding that in made it far more difficult, as the Sky Suites available were all on deck 6, which frankly didn’t appear to give really clean views of the ocean below due to the presence of lifeboats right below the cabins. After a long process of trying to hunt down pictures, asking advice on the Celebrity forum on CC (which I never did get a response to 🙂 ), and reading reviews, I finally settled on 6128, towards the aft:

CelebrityCabinNo1

Pretty sure that decision took me about a week to make, which all turned out to be a waste of time. About a month later, we (and by “we”, I mean my wife and daughter) decided it’d be fine to bring her boyfriend with us. His parents had agreed to pay for him to come along, and since they hardly ever see each other (they live in another state), we agreed. The problem at that point was that a Sky Suite only sleeps three. That left us with two options, look for something in a lower category that sleeps four, or he can book a single. We ended up choosing the latter, at least initially, as the Family Veranda rooms weren’t available when we called initially. That brought us another snag, you can’t book a single if you’re under 21, and he’s only 18. My wife called the travel agent, who conferenced in Celebrity, and we finally got things set. My wife would be listed in the single interior on deck 2, and the rest of us would be in the suite. When we got on board, we’d switch it up and just have him stay in the interior, which Celebrity said would be fine.

All set, right? Not quite.

About a month before the cruise, I noticed that the family veranda rooms (which sleep up to 5) had opened up. We decided we liked the idea of having us all together, especially since it was his first cruise, so my wife called our agent back. Again, I had to do more research before-hand to see which one of the available FV cabins we wanted, but we ended up moving all of us to 9156, an aft corner FV:

CelebrityCabinNo2

That room was awesome, and we’d finally found a balcony that gave us the “yea, it’ll be hard to go back” feeling. As I mentioned in my review of the ship, there are plenty of pictures of this room available here, and you’re more than welcome to check out my Photosynth of that balcony to get an idea of how big it is, and how wide of a field of view you get. I’d definitely jump on an aft-wrap room again if the budget allowed. The picture I have set as the featured one at the top of this post was shot off the balcony showing the sunrise as we approached Bermuda. We spent a ton of time, including multiple breakfasts and dinners, enjoying that aft view.

So really, cabin selection boils down to the following for me. I want a cabin that meets as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Provides easy access to upper decks whenever possible. That 10-15 second walk to Lido on the Freedom, Breeze and Summit was awesome!
  • Has as little foot traffic as possible, so we’re not peppered with loud talking / running kids all night. This means selecting something in an area with few cabins, or even at the aft of the ship.
  • If we have a balcony, one that isn’t going to be impacted by smokers, whether they be from another balcony, or from an open deck below. Tip for those wanting to avoid smoke: Most lines only allow smoking on the open decks on one side of the ship. Find out what side that is, and choose the other one if your cabin is near an open deck.
  • Another balcony wish: Has a clean view of the ocean, with no lifeboats in front or below that might obstruct the view
  • If choosing an oceanview, ensure it isn’t so low that we might get to watch waves coming and going over the window (that’s the only thing that’s caused my wife’s motion sickness to pop up so far)
  • Won’t be subject to noise from anything above or below the cabin

That last one is a big one for me. Some of the most common complaints I hear about cabins center around ones situated above or below active areas of the ship. For example: below the gym, directly above or below the main theater or clubs, near the galley, or for higher cabins, below busy decks where you might encounter scraping chairs, noise from sports courts, etc. Our last two cabins, on the Breeze and Summit, violated that rule, but I did a ton of research online to prepare myself. For the Breeze, we were directly below the fitness center, and yes, if you were in the cabin during the day, there was the occasional noise from some of the equipment, but it was never an issue, and we never heard anything in the evenings. On the Summit, we were directly below the outdoor aft bar area. We did hear chairs being moved from time to time, but it was pretty quiet and was never an issue, even for someone like me who’s oversensitive to stuff like that. I’d stay in either one of those rooms again without question. On the Summit, there was one nice benefit of being there. In the evenings, they have live music, so you can sit out on the balcony and enjoy some relaxing tunes :).

So what do I do to find that perfect room?

  • Scour the Cruise Critic boards for the line we’re looking at. In several cases, I’ve found pics of a given room in one or more of those threads, or have been able to get members to send pics simply by asking about a room on the boards.
  • Also check cabin reviews on Cruise Critic
  • Run a search in Google or Bing, as someone may have written about the cabin in a blog
  • Search photo sharing sites like Flikr, Photobucket, etc for pictures of the cabin. I found a ton of pictures of our Summit cabin that way, including exterior shots showing where it was, what sort of view it provided, etc.
  • And finally, spend hours going through all that data to make an educated guess on what the best cabin will be within our budget.

I think that about covers it. I know I probably obsess over cabin selection more than I should, but I’m that way with anything I’m spending large sums of money on. If you have any suggestions to add, feel free to comment!

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