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Room of one's own

Ultimate guide to cruise ship cabins – what to expect & which to choose

Cruise ship cabins can be a minefield but finding the best one for you is key to making your vacation go smoothly so we’ve helped simplify it for you with our cruise cabin guide.

Words by Nick Dalton

You want to go on a cruise – now you need to find the cabin that satisfies both your ambition and your pocket. Here’s the way to do it…

The room you’ll be staying in is a hotel room at sea but far more exciting than a regular hotel, combining contemporary décor, luxury trimmings – and a new view, often a new port, each morning.

Deciding can be confusing, not least because most cruise companies now shy away from ‘cabins’, instead preferring the more sophisticated ‘stateroom’. Don’t panic, it’s the same difference.

And even though when flicking through the cruise website you might be overwhelmed by the choices – Norwegian’s 4,000-passenger newcomer Norwegian Prima has seven options and other companies list considerably more – there are generally four simple categories.

What’s the difference between cruise cabins?

Which is which?

Inside cabins

The cheapest, but definitely not a room with a view. Cruise companies increasingly shy away from these, with all-balcony accommodation increasingly common.

Yet although inside rooms can be small, they’re not as confining as you might imagine – and with a Caribbean or Med cruise you’ll want to spend a lot of time on deck anyway.

Seaview cabins

That means a window (sometimes simply a sizeable porthole) rather than a panorama. A well-priced compromise between inside and having a private balcony.

Balcony cabins

What most of us think of when it comes to cruises. A glass wall opening on to a space with at least a table and chairs, generally sun loungers and perhaps comfier chairs. A space for a sunset glass of wine before dinner – and with Virgin Voyages you also get a smart red hammock on your ‘terrace’ [below].


Posh rooms with, at the very least, a defined living area, often with a separate bedroom. Smaller ‘suites’ – often labeled Junior or Mini Suites – can seem like larger ‘rooms’ but as you move up the scale you find places bigger than you live in at home.

How to choose a cruise ship cabin?

What to consider

Where to start

Inside rooms can give reasonably-priced access to bigger ships, such as those of Princess, P&O (the interior rooms on new Arvia are stylishly contemporary) and Holland America Line (cosy yet with a queen-size bed), but smaller companies that utilise ships sold on by bigger ones moving to grander vessels can be a good place to start.

Ambassador Cruise Line, sailing from UK ports, launched its first ship, Ambiance, in early 2022 with its second, Ambition, this spring. The latter has just over 700 cabins (yes, cabins!) and suites; a third have balconies and the others a mix of traditional inside and outside at excellent value.

Meanwhile, if you’re heading for the top, Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers all-balcony suites as its only accommodation.

Top deck

On some ships, the top-end accommodation is grouped within a complex, often at the top of the ship, away from other passengers, such as the Haven on Norwegian, including Norwegian Prima.

MSC Cruises has its Yacht Club [below] on more than a dozen ships, a private club-like feel with suites, a restaurant and pool deck. The Suite Neighbourhood on Royal Caribbean’s new Wonder of the Seas is effectively a private resort with suites, Coastal Kitchen restaurant, sun deck and private bar.

Single cruise cabins

There’s been a move to encourage single travelers, offering single rooms at the same – or not too much above – the per-person cost of a double cabin.

Some can be small double rooms now allocated as single while on newer ships there are often smaller studio rooms, often grouped around a singles’ lounge, such as on various Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

Celebrity Cruises has interior solo studios and cabins that feature an ‘infinite balcony’ – a window-like screen with real-time views. Other major cruise companies big on solo rooms include Royal Caribbean and MSC.

Best cruise ship suites

If money’s no object, there are plenty of mind-blowing options. The Otium suite on Silversea’s Silver Ray and Silver Nova [below] gives 270-degree views and if a whirlpool on the sweeping balcony isn’t enough, there’s a spare one in the bathroom.

And on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, the Mega RockStar Quarters are mega suites with guitar, record player and vinyl selection – and bottomless bar tab.

Family cruise ship cabins

Most companies have family suites or connecting rooms. P&O Cruises has suites for four plus, on Azura and Ventura, family suites for six.

Marella, part of the family-friendly TUI empire, has family cabins for five – double bed, bunks and fold-down bed – on various ships, including Marella Voyager, which entered service in June 2023.

Just don’t show them photos of the Ultimate Family Suite on several Royal Caribbean ships or they’ll never want to go anywhere else… two floors with slide down from the bedroom, table tennis, video games room and more.

How to get a cruise cabin upgrade

When it comes to getting a cabin boost, it’s good to be on a cruise company’s email list as that gives you first news of new cruises. Early booking, a year or more ahead, generally gives you the best prices.

It can also be good news if you’re going for the cheapest (inside) cabins; when cruise companies are coming up with last-minute offers in a final bid to fill their ship (particularly the big ones, as smaller, luxury ships such as those from Silversea, Seabourn, Oceania and Emerald tend to sell out) so as not to offend early bookers, that embarrassing, “How much did you pay?” conversation at dinner, they tend to offer the cheapest cabins, offering the early bookers an upgrade, which means you could find yourself with a window or even a balcony even if you didn’t pay for it…

Published 09.04.23