Family Vacation Tips

Which Cruise Ship Cabin Is Right For Your Family?

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 5, 2013 11:24:00 PM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Which Cruise Ship Cabin is right for my family
Updated Sept. 2018 - Family cruises come with many decisions. When planning a family cruise, choosing the right cruise cabin and cabin location can really make or break your family cruise vacation, especially when your cruising with kids. Given some many choices can be mind boggling. Here are a few helpful hint to pick the right cabin for your family...

The basics

For the sake of first time cruise families, let's start with the basics. Cruise ships are like huge, floating hotels at sea. When you book a room in any hotel, you are basically paying for the size of your room, the location of your room and the services and amenities that go along with that room. Obviously you will pay more for a penthouse suite with butler than you would for a tiny room that offers a view of the brick wall across the ally. The same holds true at sea except your room is now called a cabin or stateroom. When it comes to the price tag of your cabin, you are paying for the size of your cabin, the location of your cabin and the amenities offered with that cabin.
As you choose the right cabin for your family cruise vacation, you will need to balance the needs and wants of your family along with your family cruise vacation budget. As with any vacation, establishing a budget for your family cruise vacation will help you and your vacationkids family cruise expert work efficiently to select the right cabin and prevent any scary credit card bills in the future.


Understand Prices

Cruise prices are based on double occupancy or first and second passengers. There is a price reduction for third, forth and sometimes the fifth passenger sharing the same cabin. Cruise lines price according to the number of passengers sharing a cabin. One person alone in a cabin pays a surcharge or premium fare. The good news for parents is that there isn't an age break for kids. This often makes cruising a much cheaper option for families with teens and tweens over the age of 12...the age in hotels where kids usually have to pay full adult rates and/or require a separate hotel room.


Understand Cabin Features

When it comes to cabin size, bigger certainly is better. Parents often question how much time they will spend in their cabin so why spend extra valuable vacation dollars on a bigger cabin. Cruise cabins are generally smaller than your average hotel room. Your family WILL be spending several hours per day sleeping, preparing for adventures and storing all of your belongings in your cabin. Much will also depend on the ages of your children. There is a big difference sharing close quarters with little ones compared to sharing one bathroom with two teenagers. At Vacationkids, our family cruise experts generally recommend upgrading to the best cabin your family can afford. We don't do this trying to spend your hard earned vacation dollars, we say this so that everyone will enjoy a fun family cruise and to protect parent's sanity at sea.
Regardless of which cabin your family calls home, everyone is entitled to all the services, food and entertainment offered on board (except some suite areas)

Inside Cabins - Are the smallest staterooms offering very basic accommodations. Bedding usually consists of two twin beds that can be fashioned together to make a king. For third or fourth passengers, convertible bunk beds pull down from overhead. There is very little floor space for dressing or moving about. Standard features are air conditioning, closed circuit TVs, music channels, telephones, and a small shower in your bathroom. Generally inside cabins do not have any windows. We say generally because there are now some ships designed with inside atriums or public areas. These newer ships do have inside cabins offering windows overlooking interior public areas of the ship.These rooms do not feel as claustrophobic as regular inside cabins but having a window to public areas affords you less privacy and sometimes more noise. Some ships have an upgrade option to a "virtual window" which is a large screen decorated with with curtains like a window.  The screen can be flipped on and off to give you a virtual look to cameras outside the ship. 

Outside cabins - offer ocean views with either a porthole or window. These windows are for the view and are not operational and do not open. Outside cabins are priced according to how high they are located. There are also obstructed or partially obstructed views. This means you may have a window but your view to the ocean may be blocked by a pole or lifeboat. Outside cabins are generally a bit larger and offer the twins/king bed for parents. Additional beds can be bunks or convertible sofas for kids.

Balcony Cabins - These are the rooms that most families want and usually sell out the fastest. The are larger, affording more living space. Bedding consists of twins/king for parents with bunks and or convertible sofas for kids. These cabins offer families a doorway onto a porch deck area with lounge chairs to relax and enjoy the ocean vistas and sea air. There are different categories of balcony cabins. Some cabins located towards the rear of the ship offer large, wrap around balconies and of course, higher price tags.

Suite Cabins - Offer plenty more room and plenty of extras. Once again, depending on the price tag you can expect everything from a private room for parents, whirlpool tub, even a grand piano. Many suites have larger occupancy rules allowing more family members to cruise together in guaranteed adjoining quarters. Suites are located in the most prime locations on board and suite guests usually get preferred embarkation and disembarkation privileges so there is much less waiting in line.


Most important for parents to know, most cruise ship cabins do NOT offer bathtubs. There are specific cruise lines and cabins that do offer bathtubs which certainly are helpful for bathing younger children. Generally having stateroom with a bathtub is an up charge. Parents may want to consider bringing along an inflatable baby tub.
Larger families or those with teens might consider opting for two cabins connected to each other by a door. Yes, this is an additional expense but your family gains two bathrooms with way.

Cabin Location 

The price of your family cruise cabin is not only determined by which type of cabin your family selects but also where on the ship that cabin is located. A cabin located near the lobby might gain one family more convenience, while the lobby noise may become a nightmare for another family trying to get their toddler to fall asleep. 
Everyone adores a penthouse view and this is why cabins located on higher floors or decks cost more. You are paying a premium for the views. The view is also the reason why an unobstructed view costs more than an obstructed one.
If anyone in your family is prone to sea sickness, then it's best to select an outside cabin located as close to the middle of your ship as possible. This is the area on board that the least motion of the ocean.
The cruise lines publish ship plans and allow their guests to choose the exact cabin they want for their family cruise vacation. This is very helpful for families that require adjoining cabins or handicap accessable accommodations. To have exactly what you want, you will pay a bit more

Guaranteed Cabins

Because all passengers depart the ship at the same time, cruise ships guest can pick and choose their exact cabin and location.
Families can save a bit of money on their family cruise by selecting a guaranteed cabin. This term means that you are guaranteed a specific type of cabin...inside, outside, balcony or suite but, you give the cruise line the right to select the specific location of that cabin type. You will not know the location of your cabin until the day of your cruise at embarkation which is when you check in. The gamble is, if cabins don't sell they you may luck out and get a much better cabin location for a cheaper price. The risk is that you may end up in an inferior location that won't make you happy. Whether to purchase a guaranteed cabin can depend on your personal flexibility and timing. Due to supply and demand, you have a much better chance of a cabin upgrade during off season sailings and almost zero possibility of a cabin upgrade during popular sailings and holiday weeks.

For all these reasons, and many more, it's best to work with a family cruise expert at to make your reservations. Our fees are already included in the advertised cruise prices you see online. If you book your own cruise yourself, you do extra work and the cruise line pocket's the profits.  We often have exclusive offers that will save you money that you won't see advertised online.  In addition, we can monitor your cruise and apply any sale discounts even after your confirmed. Our goal is for your family to get the best value for your family cruise vacation dollar while having a wonderful time at sea sailing with your kids.
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Topics: Family Cruises

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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