Cruise Tips - How To Book A Cabin

  • Unlike hotels, you'll book a specific cabin on board a ship.  You can look at the location of "your" cabin online at the cruise line's website.  Deck plans for each level of the ship will show you where your cabin is situated, and what is above and below it. 

  • When you reserve a cabin through a travel agent, it will be held for you for several days without a deposit.  Use this time to check out where it is located on the ship (see below).  Remember -- you can always turn down a cabin.  And also remember -- with so many cruise lines and ships, you shouldn't settle for a cabin that is going to be a problem.

  • Should you use a travel agent?  That is your decision, but consider that you will pay nothing extra if you book your cruise through an agent who is thoroughly experienced and can help you decide the right ship and right itinerary for you.  The travel agent is paid by the cruise line, through a commission.  Whatever you do, do not book direct with the cruise line, unless you want to pay the highest price.  One additional consideration -- on our Rotterdam to Venice cruise, the cruise line was offering a 40% discount for early booking.  We received that discount, but we also received an additional 9.5% discount because our travel agent was a high volume agent with the cruise line.  And the travel agent's fee was paid by the cruise line.

  • For your first cruise, book a cabin with a veranda (balcony) if you can afford it.  If not, book a cabin with an outside view.  Many veteran cruisers book inside cabins because they have learned they aren't in their cabins very much during daylight hours, except to change clothes.  But for your first cruise, keep connected to the outside world through a veranda or window.

  • At sea, ships can be like seesaws, going up and down, but also going side to side.  The newer, larger ships experience very little motion, but you should still try to book a cabin in the middle of the ship, down low.  Remember the seesaw -- don't be at one of the ends.

  • Stay away from cabins in the very front of the ship or in the very rear.  Front cabins will experience the up and down pitching of the ship.  Rear cabins will get a lot of vibration and noise from the props, even on newer ships.  These are usually the last cabins to sell, and there are often great deals on them, for obvious reasons.

  • Look online at the cruise line's website for deck plans which will show you what is above you and below you.  If at all possible, you should have only cabins above and below you -- not nightclubs, restaurants, shopping areas, jogging tracks, pool areas, etc.  Sound does carry onboard a ship.  Would you book a regular hotel room above a nightclub?  Use the same caution here.

  • Look at minor upgrades.  For example, going from a "A" cabin to a "AA" may only cost a few dollars more, but the location may be much better.

  • When you decide on a particular cabin, you'll pay a deposit to hold it.  This deposit is fully refundable up to the date when the final payment is due.  Until then, you can cancel your plans and receive a full refund of what you have paid.

  • After you have paid your deposit, you'll have a period of time before the remainder of your cruise payment is due.  If you cancel during this time, you will normally receive a full refund.  (Be sure to check your cruise line's policy on this.)

  • Once you have made a final payment, you're locked in.  The ship is going and your cabin will be held for you, regardless of whether or not you're in it.  And you'll pay for it.  Exceptions are situations covered by travel insurance (see the Travel Insurance page for information on this important coverage).

  • Should you book early (usually at a discount), or book late?  Either way has advantages and disadvantages, but normally we would recommend an early booking, to get the cabin location you want.  Also, most cruise lines offer early booking discounts, sometimes substantial ones.  On our Rotterdam to Venice cruise, we booked our cabin 14 months prior to sailing (!) and received several advantages.  First, we reserved a cabin that was in the center of the ship, but was right up against the higher priced cabins that we normally would have preferred.  We saved $80 per person.  Second, we received a 40% discount off of the full rates.  The rates for this cruise never came down -- as the months ticked off, the fares slowly increased, and the ship finally sold out.


Useful Links

Guide to Travel Insurance

Norwalk Virus & Cruise Ship Illness

CDC Sanitation Inspection Results for Cruise Ships








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