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A connecting balcony room aboard Norwegian Viva - note the door on the right (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
A connecting balcony room aboard Norwegian Viva - note the door on the right (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

How Booking Connecting Cabins on My Family Cruise Kept Me Sane

A connecting balcony room aboard Norwegian Viva - note the door on the right (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
A connecting balcony room aboard Norwegian Viva - note the door on the right (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
May 14, 2024

Read time
5 min read

If you’ve travelled with family or friends – or are planning to – you’ll know how hard it is to find the perfect room on a cruise. Standard cabins are often too small, while suites are often priced so astronomically that the average family of four doesn’t have a chance of affording one without evaporating the kid’s college fund.

But cruise lines have a secret trick up their sleeves that caters perfectly to friends and families travelling together. Some try to hide this from you; others make booking this hidden hack a much easier process.

The secret to successful cruise travel with family and friends: connecting cabins. These rooms, which typically come across all grades, from economical insides to lavish suites, are indicated with a little symbol on a cruise ship’s deck plan and denote cabins that have a set of inner doors that can open, joining two individual cabins into one.

Cruise ship deck plans will identify connecting cabins (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Cruise ship deck plans will identify connecting cabins (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Annoying if you’re travelling solo or as a couple (connecting cabin doors often allow for some pretty significant sound bleed-through), these connecting cabins are a value-added godsend for those looking for a bit more space on their next cruise without going into massive debt.

I’ve personally booked connecting cabins four times now, across lines like Cunard, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean – and I’d do it again.

Here’s what I learned about the art of booking connecting cabins on your next cruise.

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The Advantages of Booking Connecting Cabins

A connecting Family Harbor ocean view cabin on Carnival Jubilee. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
A connecting Family Harbor ocean view cabin on Carnival Jubilee. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Booking two connecting cabins offers a number of advantages over a larger suite.

First, it’s less expensive: most ships have connecting staterooms in less-expensive Inside and Oceanview categories, while connecting balcony rooms have balcony partitions that can typically be unlocked and opened, creating one very large balcony space.

So for less money than a comparably-sized suite, two oceanview or balcony connecting cabins offer separate living space, double the storage space, twice as many bathrooms, and a lot more space to spread out and relax by day and night.

Having that storage space – and double bathrooms – is a huge win for families with little kids. Rather than cramming four people into one room with little-to-no space to move around, two connecting cabins offer twice the floor space to move around in, plus double-bathrooms and closets to ensure that everyone’s things get hung up and put away, and prevent that queue for the stateroom bathroom during the morning and evening rush.

Much like having a large hotel room, two connecting cabins offer convenience and space for a fraction of the cost of a full-blown suite (though more on why you might want to book one of those further down).

On some ships, like Carnival’s newest Vista and Excel-class vessels, connecting rooms might even be in a desirable area of the ship, like the Family Harbor area designed for parents with little ones.

Which Lines Make It Easy to Book Connecting Cabins?

Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity make it easy to book connecting cabins (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity make it easy to book connecting cabins (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Royal Caribbean is one of the easiest lines to book a connecting cabin on: the line’s website asks you up-front how many cabins you’ll need, and a small radio button can be toggled on and off to search for connecting cabins that are right next door to each other. Ditto for sister-brand Celebrity, which also offers the ability to book connecting rooms right online.

Other lines aren’t as user-friendly for those who want to do it themselves. We had good luck booking connecting cabins with Carnival, though the process was much more involved and had us looking at printed-out deckplans to determine which cabins were adjacent to each other and, indeed, connected internally.

Some lines make booking connecting cabins downright difficult. Expect to have to phone in – or use a knowledgeable travel agent – to book a connecting room on lines like Cunard and Holland America, which don’t ask how many staterooms you’d like to book.

What Do You Need to Consider When Booking Connecting Cabins?

Cabin corridors aboard Carnival Conquest(Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Cabin corridors aboard Carnival Conquest (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

When booking a connecting cabin, keep in mind that you may have to pay two deposits: one for the first room, and one for the second. And if you’re putting, say, two people in one room and a solo traveller in another, that solo may cost as much as two fare-paying passengers thanks to the dreaded single supplement charge.

Also keep in mind that you can’t have a minor registered to their own room: you’ll have to manifest anyone underage with another adult of legal age. Can they sleep in the connecting room by themselves? Yes. But you’ll need to have them manifested with an adult at the time of booking.

And if you do put the little ones to sleep in their own connecting room, make sure you lock their door and put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, just in case. Our room steward on Queen Mary 2 inadvertently interrupted our daughter’s nap, which – through no fault of his own – sent her into an absolute fit worthy of her two years of age. We learned quickly: Do Not Disturb signs are your friend.

Finally, don’t be shocked if you embark your ship and find your connecting room door still in the closed and locked position. Your room steward can quickly unlock the internal connecting doors once you board if you just ask. Our experience has been that the doors are still closed about half the time upon embarkation.

Why Not Book a Full-Blown Suite?

The Master Bedroom in the Concierge (Funnel) Tower Suite aboard Disney Wish (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
The Master Bedroom in the Concierge (Funnel) Tower Suite aboard Disney Wish (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

If money is no object, sure: booking a multi-room suite may be the way to go for families travelling together.

But even then, not all suites are created equal. Some are little more than enlarged rooms with no real portioning between living and sleeping areas, while others may be ill-suited to those with little children.

In most cases, you’ll still be left sharing one – albeit very nice and lavishly-appointed – bathroom.

Some lines, however, offer a nice feature for those with the cash to burn on a suite: ultra-luxury line Silversea pairs some of its largest suites with a connecting standard Veranda or oceanview cabin, making these suites some of the most spacious offerings for those looking for both space and privacy.

Connecting Cabins: Space and Value

Costa Toscana balcony stateroom (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Costa Toscana balcony stateroom (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

While connecting cabins may not be the right choice for everyone, they offer both privacy and space for families and friends travelling together. They’re fantastic for those on different sleep schedules thanks to their enclosed nature, and they are a boon for families looking to maximize storage and bathroom space – without breaking the bank.

Having booked connecting rooms on four separate cruises now, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so in the future.

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