In real estate, they say it’s all about location, location, location. The same is true on a cruise ship. WHERE your cabin is on the ship is what determines the price you will pay for your cruise, even though you probably won’t spend much time there. When you are comparing the pricing for a cruise there will be different prices for what ‘appears’ to be the same kind of cabin (interior, ocean view, balcony), however you also need to be looking at the ship’s layout to REALLY see why there are differences.
On the cruise line’s website or brochure, they will have ‘lead in’ prices for each of the main cabin categories (Inside, Window, Balcony (aka Veranda) and Suite). This will ALWAYS be the lowest priced cabin in that particular category (this is also usually the least desirable cabin!) and then as you get to the ‘better cabins’ the price goes up.
What You Need to Know:
Front to Back:
The prime location on a cruise ship is the middle of the ship (midship) – this is the most stable, followed by the rear of the ship (aft) and then the front of the ship (forward).
If you’ve ever watched a ship go through water, if there are rough seas, the bow of the ship can lift up and then slam back down again into the water, so ‘forward’ is going to have the most ‘activity.’ The aft of the ship, however, will ‘sit down’ in the water and be more stable, however, since the engine room and propellers are at the rear of the ship, those vibrations can often be felt. Therefore, midship is the most desirable. So the highest prices in any given category will usually be for those cabins that are midship. (If you notice, the suites are sometimes in this location, which is also a good indicator).
Top to Bottom:
Again, midship is considered to be the prime location, followed by the upper decks and finally the lower decks.
Think of a pendulum swinging back and forth – when you are on one of the upper decks, the pendulum swings at its widest point and more ‘sway’ is felt. If you are on a lower deck, it will not ‘sway’ as much, so the lower deck is the most stable part of the ship.
If you are prone to motion sickness, being on one of the lower decks would be the most stable and you would have the least amount of ‘motion.’ However, if you want a balcony, those are usually on the upper decks, so you should try to book something on the lowest balcony deck available.
One of the best deals going on a cruise ship can be an obstructed window cabin. These are cabins with a window, but some portion of the view is obstructed by either a life boat or other rigging of the ship.
If you’re considering an inside cabin (for the low price), consider booking an obstructed cabin as this at least will get you some kind of view, without paying the higher price for a full window cabin.
If you are considering a ocean view cabin, on the most recently built ships, the window cabins are generally on the lower decks of the ship, yet the obstructed view cabins are usually on deck 8 or at least midship, so you would have better placement on the ship than a window cabin category. (Since you are truly NOT in your cabin much anyway, it might save you some money to just get the obstructed view – you will still be able to see out AND get better placement on the ship and save your money for some nice shore excursions!)
With this category, you are ‘guaranteed’ a cabin in ‘at least’ that category, however you will not know where your cabin is until shortly before boarding (usually by two weeks from your sail date, if not earlier). These come from the ‘leftover’ cabins that were not filled through passengers selecting their cabin.
Sometimes you can really score a good cabin and often be upgraded (especially if the ship is not sailing full) but sometimes you can end up with the worst cabin on the ship! This is the gamble you take when you get that nice low price! For people who don’t care where they are, this is a good way to go, but if you are picky about where you want to be, this is not for you.
Sometimes you can truly strategize and use the guarantee category to get a better cabin and pay the least amount of money. This kind of strategy could be used on a cruise with high demand (such as Alaska), where the demand for limited inventory cabins is high (inside cabins). You could book a guarantee inside cabin with the hopes that they would sell out of inside cabins and you would be upgraded to an ocean view category! It doesn’t always work, but you get the idea.
Also understand that since the guarantee cabins aren’t distributed until about a month before sailing, that means that they are going to assign you a cabin from list of cabins that are currently unassigned (or left over cabins). So chances are good that you are probably going to get a cabin in the least desirable spot.
TIP: If you are booking a triple or a quad cabin, booking into a guarantee cabin category CAN be a VERY good strategy to use, as the cabins that can accommodate a triple/quad are ‘usually’ placed near the stairwells and are also ‘generally’ in the middle of the ship (this is because in an emergency situation, getting four people out of a cabin will be more challenging, so they are usually nearest the evacuation points)
Be careful if you click on the box that says ‘open to upgrade’. As in the guarantee cabins, you might be given an opportunity to upgrade ‘to a higher category’, but that does NOT mean it’s going to be a better cabin. If you have carefully selected your cabin according to what I’ve shared with you regarding location, your ‘upgrade’ might be to one of the least desirable cabins, but in an upgraded category, so just beware…
ALSO SEE Location, Location, Location Part 2