You might expect loud noises, close quarters and attention-grabbing maneuvers in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead don't sound appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.
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Smaller than Small
Sure, price is a major factor when booking your cabin, but give yourself the benefit of the doubt: Would you want your "home away from home" to be smaller than your own bedroom? To give you an example of square footage, the average master bedroom in an American household runs about 200 square feet. Carnival's standard inside cabins begin at a healthy 185 square feet, but beware of the line's Category 1A cabins, which are oddly shaped and feature pull-out or bunk beds. In comparison, Royal Caribbean's inside cabins on Majesty of the Seas run 114 square feet.
"Inside" doesn't mean one size fits all, so carefully read cabin dimensions before selecting. Also, check whether a balcony is included in the total square footage of the room -- the added outdoor space might be nice but not if it's being factored into an already teeny-tiny cabin.
It's important to note that cabins on newer ships seem to be smaller than those found on their older siblings. For example, Haven suites on Norwegian's Breakaway and Getaway are smaller than the suites on its Gem-class ships. Even if you've sailed a line before, don't assume each ship will offer similar cabin sizes.
What a Lovely View?
If a view is important to you, make sure you know what you're getting a view of. An obstructed-view cabin category might cost less, but the quality of the vista varies from room to room. One view might be only partially obstructed, leaving most of the window occupied by sunsets over waves, while others artfully frame a length of lifeboats.
Passengers on Caribbean Princess vow that even cabins categorized as having a fully obstructed view still provide room for photo ops and oceangazing. It might be helpful to read the reviews of others who have stayed in the same cabin. The Cruise Critic boards offer thousands of reader reviews and feedback from cruisers across every line, making them a great place to start.
Ear Plugs Required
One common rookie-cruiser mistake is not checking the deck plans before booking a cabin. It might seem obsessive to a first-timer, but locating loud and late-night venues could be a lifesaver when picking a place to rest your weary head. Anything near a dance club, sports venue, lido deck or all-night eatery could mean throbbing bass, bouncing basketballs and the sweet sound of deck chairs scraping at 3 a.m. Even worse is the galley: bumping, rolling, shouting and stomping around the clock. Just because a venue shuts down at a certain hour doesn't mean there won't be commotion as it's being cleaned.
It's widely agreed that the best passenger deck to choose is one sandwiched between other passenger decks -- you might run into noisy neighbors, but it's unlikely they'll have access to pots, pans or an industrial sound system. Additionally, a cruise line will be more equipped to handle a passenger noise complaint rather than a request to move your cabin on what could be a fully booked ship.
If your ship offers family suites (typically located near children's facilities), keep in mind that families are likely nearby (read: the potential for screaming children). If you'd rather avoid the ambient sounds of a large family group, then perhaps it's best to relocate away from that area entirely.
If you can, identify where crew service entrances are located -- stories of slamming doors day and night are enough for us to check twice. And if the sound of footsteps keeps you up at night, don't book a cabin nearby major promenades or staircases. Another potential peeve is the dinging of elevators, if you're close enough to that area to hear them.
And don't forget the cruise ship engine. While humming noises put some to sleep, the loud buzz of machinery might drive you batty. Passengers on the lowest deck are most likely to hear engine or even anchor sounds.
Privacy out the Window
A view is always preferable to no view, but be wary: Cabins that open onto a promenade deck offer little privacy, even with curtains closed. This was the complaint of one cruiser in an oceanview cabin on the lower promenade deck of Holland America's Volendam. The line's Lanai cabins boast sliding-glass doors with one-way views offering total concealment, but don't forget to shut them if you're planning a private moment; this isn't your back yard.
Other cabins providing questionable seclusion include the mini-suites beneath the SeaWalk on Royal Princess and Regal Princess and cabins facing the Boardwalk and Central Park areas on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. A passenger who stayed on the lowest level of the Central Park cabins reported having to keep their curtains closed for the length of the cruise because other passengers strolling through the park could see straight in.
Motion of the Ocean
Rough seas or not, motion sickness can ruin a cruise vacation. If you know you have a history of motion sickness or even if you're not sure, err on the side of booking a more stable cabin. By "stable," we mean midship, closer to the interior and on a lower deck, where rocking motion is less likely to be felt. A balcony room might seem enticing for the fresh air, but a location on the outer edges of the ship could make it more susceptible to movement. That said, visual contact with the horizon line is said to aid in reducing nausea as you bob up and down.
Rough waters can be anticipated by itinerary and the time of year you're sailing. Generally, in the winter months, seas are rougher especially in the Atlantic. If you don't have a stomach of steel, consider skipping cabins that could make you queasy. A deluxe suite at the front of the ship might come with all the bells and whistles, but you won't be able to enjoy them with your head in the toilet.
What Kind of Guarantee?
Not saying that guarantee cabins aren't worth the gamble for an upgrade, but if you want assurance that you won't be in a pitching, noisy cabin, these cabins aren't the way to go. A guarantee cabin isn't actually a type of cabin but, rather, a method of booking a cabin. You pick a minimum cabin level you'd be comfortable in, and the cruise line assigns you a cabin close to booking dates based on availability.
The potential for an upgrade is appealing, and if you're cruising on a budget and don't have a particular issue with any of the cabin dilemmas listed above, then it could be worth your while to see what a guarantee might deliver. But your guarantee also could place you squarely above the anchor, next to a crew entrance or below the theater. With guarantee cabins, you lose your ability to complain about what you end up with.