Cruise ship staterooms have improved since the days when you bumped into walls on your way to your bathroom, but there is still a difference between staying in a small, windowless interior space versus a room with its own balcony or even a lavish suite. For many people, it makes sense to upgrade to the best cabin you can afford.
Consider a cruise stateroom your hotel room for the year and start by thinking deeply about how much time you will actually be in your room (or rooms). If you are planning to do every shipboard activity, party until the wee hours and use your cabin only to sleep, shower and shave – especially if you are on a tight budget – a lower-priced stateroom with or without a window or porthole may well suit your needs.
If, on the other hand, you want your own private space to escape from the crowds and the frantic pace of cruise activities, without missing any ocean and coastal views, you may be better off upgrading to a balcony stateroom or a suite with balcony – even if it adds hundreds or thousands of dollars to your cruise budget. You’ll have more private space to lounge around reading a book, watching movies or ordering room service.
With many pandemic-related health and safety protocols in place on cruise ships, sometimes including mask rules for public spaces, having a spacious room and outdoor balcony also provides a comfy place where you can go mask-free.
The suite life
At the top end of cruise accommodations are suites. Be aware, “suite” is a flexible term on cruise ships. It may mean only a 250-square-foot room, with or without a curtain separating a bed and sofa area. With a bigger budget, you may be able to book a multi-room, multi-bathroom apartment – or even a house-sized oasis.
Space is reason enough to upgrade to a suite, but other perks come with the experience. On some big ships, suites are located in a separate complex with a private restaurant, sun deck, swimming pool and a lounge open only to guests in the fancy accommodations.
If you want a king-sized bed, a cruise rarity, you are most likely to find one in a suite. Bathtubs and whirlpool tubs, also cruise rarities (most staterooms only have a shower) are also, typically, a suite perk.
Suites tend to come with larger balconies than you’ll find with balcony staterooms. In top suites, the spaces are huge – complete with outdoor living rooms, dining areas and hot tubs.
Depending on your ship, additional perks may include everything from cushy robes and designer soaps to free drinks and specialty dining. Your suite accommodations will likely come with the services of a special concierge desk to help you book shore excursions, spa treatments and dining reservations. You may even have a butler at your beck and call.
If you are thinking of upgrading to a suite, read carefully to determine how much space you’ll actually get, and evaluate whether the perks are something you will actually use.
The spa life
Spa staterooms have décor designed to inspire Zen and even romantic moments. These staterooms are usually located near the spa and fitness facilities – no need to traipse through the whole ship in your bathrobe or gym shorts. Spa staterooms are typically balcony staterooms or suites with more space than standard staterooms.
Stateroom amenities may include a bathtub and special soothing bath products, upgraded bathrobes, designer water and even beautiful scents. You will have complimentary access to the spa’s thermal suite, where you will find an array of wet and dry experiences such as a sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool and aromatherapy showers.
You’ll get priority access in terms of booking massages, and free spa treatments may be included. The same goes for fitness classes – you’ll be able to sign up fee-free before the classes are open to others on the ship.
If you are a big spa fan or gym fan, these suites are worth the upgrade.
Fresh air is nice
Balcony staterooms – standard staterooms with a step-out space for sitting – are among the most popular accommodations on cruise ships both for views and the fact that you can open your door to let the sea breeze in and hear the waves (a recent innovation is balcony-ish staterooms where a large window opens).
If you have a standard, step-out balcony it will be equipped with two chairs and a small table for drinks. Larger balconies may have loungers and an actual dining table where you can enjoy a private meal.
Some passengers consider a balcony an unnecessary upgrade. They are just as content to book a cheaper stateroom and don’t mind jockeying for a lounger on the open decks. But others relish having the option of being able to head outdoors, even in their bathrobes, to enjoy the sea.
On itineraries where stunning coastal scenery is a particular focus – such as the glaciers in Alaska and fjords in Iceland and Norway – a balcony is definitely worth the upgrade.
Author: VCL team