Whether you've never been on a cruise ship or have been on 50, we bet there's something surprising you don't know about your cruise ship cabin. Staterooms are a little more complicated than hotel rooms, and you can learn a few tricks of the trade to make them more user-friendly. Most people stumble upon them over time -- through self-discovery or getting tips from Cruise Critic readers on our message boards -- but we thought we'd speed up the process for you.
Here are nine (sometimes unexpected) things the Cruise Critic team has learned about cruise cabins after hundreds of sailings on ships of all types.
The Walls are Magnetic
A cruise ship is really just a big, beautified floating piece of metal, and that includes your cabin. So even if the walls don't look or feel metallic, they are -- and that means you can use magnets to help organize the abundance of papers the ship's crew will usually throw your way. For instance, have a cocktail invitation you don't want to lose? Use a magnet to stick it to the wall nearest the door so you can grab it on your way out.
Bathrooms Lack Ventilation
With so much hearty food on a cruise, a stomach can't be blamed for a little rebellion. But that's when you realize few cruise ship bathrooms have ventilation fans, and it's not long before more than just the bathroom smells, well, funny. But a little forethought and a scented freshener hanging from your shower curtain can make all the difference. Whether you bring some aromatherapy oils or a hanging car freshener doesn't matter -- they'll all do the trick. Just don't bring anything you need to light with a flame, such as a scented candle or incense.
There's Plenty of Room Under the Bed
On my first few cruises, I often found myself complaining that my dresses and skirts couldn't hang nicely in the closet because our big suitcase took up so much space. Then one day, on perhaps our third or fourth cruise, my husband looked under the bed and found lots of empty space there. We didn't have to shove all our bags into the closet. We have since learned that not all cabins are the same, however. Even if half the space under the bed is taken up by your bedspread during the day, you should still be able to fit a suitcase or and a few small items under there.
Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock
Beds Can be Reconfigured
While it's always best to request the bed configuration you want before your cruise, just because you enter your cruise cabin to find two beds when you're traveling with your spouse, or one bed when you're traveling with a friend, doesn't mean you're in trouble. Beds on most ships can easily be pushed together or separated; just ask your cabin steward to do it while you're out of the cabin. (If you're a light sleeper and worried about the cruise ship mattresses, you can always bring your own travel mattress overlay set).
Photo: Cruise Critic
Beds Can Also be Moved
One last note about cruise-ship beds: Not all beds face the same direction. In fact, on many ships, the positioning alternates between cabins or from side to side. Beds can be aft-facing, forward-facing and even port- or starboard-facing. If there's room (and you wouldn't be blocking furniture or a doorway), you could ask your steward to switch the beds or move them yourself. Just keep in mind that the chances you'll feel any movement akin to riding backwards in a train is pretty slim. (We always carry motion sickness pills as a backup, just in case).
Photo: Cruise Critic
But the Furniture Stays Put
Unless you have a suite, don't plan on lots of dancing around your cabin. That's because beds are the only large items in a cabin that can be easily moved. That center table, for example, may be small, but it's usually pretty heavily weighted so that it doesn't fall over during rougher seas. The same is true for just about every other piece of furniture in the cabin. So get used to moving around the furniture, because you're not going to be able to move it out of your way. (If you chronically bump into furniture – and have the bruises to prove it – a pack of removable child safety edge protectors can help).
Photo: Cruise Critic
Leaving your Balcony Door Open can Create a Wind Tunnel
Here's a science experiment to try on your next cruise (or not!). What happens when you open both your balcony and cabin doors at the same time? Ever seen the movie "Twister"? Okay, so a cow isn't going to come swirling into your cabin, but a wind tunnel will whip its way between the two doors, leaving a mess in its wake. Travel pouches for documents, daily programs and receipts will help keep you organized.
The Tap Water is Safe to Drink
No need to lug a case of water with you when you go cruising. The tap water on cruise ships is completely safe and drinkable, having been through rigorous filtration and testing, all of which are overseen by U.S. and European heath agencies. While some cruisers claim that the tap water in restaurants and bars tastes different from what comes out of the cabin bathroom, it is all, in fact, the same water. Carry a collapsible water bottle so you always stay hydrated.
Some Standard Balcony Cabins Have Special Perks
Not all cabins or cabin balconies are created equal, and we're not just talking about category differences. Just because two cabins are in the same category doesn't mean they're identical. In fact, some of the most desirable cabins aren't in the highest categories. They're the "special" standard balcony cabins that just happen to offer a little something extra, like the "hump" balcony, which is only found on ships that bulge out at the middle, therefore offering a larger balcony and interior space. Likewise, corner aft cabins, priced the same as regular aft cabins, often feature wraparound balconies.
Have you made a "discovery" about cruise ship cabins that you'd like to share? Post in the comments section below.
Photo: EMc&DrS/Cruise Critic Member
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Hate paying individually for drinks on a mainstream cruise ship -- or perhaps you've been known to run up a huge bar tab onboard? You might be the ideal candidate for an alcohol-inclusive drinks package, offered by the majority of mainstream cruise lines. Found somewhere between the ubiquitous soda packages and the included-in-your-fare booze of most luxury lines, these programs let cruisers pay one base price that covers most -- if not all -- of their nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks onboard. Of course, while high prices and annoying fine print may persuade some travelers to go it a la carte, for others, the freedom to sample brightly colored cocktails and wines of unknown provenance can be too appealing to ignore. See below for a line-by-line guide to available drink packages, followed by some Cruise Critic reader reactions to the programs.