What types of cabin are available?
As cruise ships have got bigger and more elaborate, so too have the individual cabins. You'll see loads of confusing jargon thrown around as each line tries to impress you with their latest features, but in simple terms most offer up to four different types of cabin, catering for a variety of different preferences and price ranges.
The cheapest tend to be inside cabins, which have no window at all, or occasionally an internal window.
Next cheapest are oceanview cabins, which look out to sea and have either a porthole or a window.
Above that come balcony cabins, which have a private balcony, usually accessible by French doors.
Most expensive are suites, which are usually the biggest rooms with the most lavish facilities.
Which cabin type should I choose?
This is really a matter of personal taste and budget. Some people like to spend a lot of time in their room, in which case things like size and view become more important, whilst other people like to spend most of their time out and about in the ship's bars and restaurants and see a cabin basically just as a place to sleep.
On older ships, the majority of cabins were inside or oceanview, but these days balcony cabins are by far the most common type and can account for up to 80% of rooms on new ships. This has had the effect of making balconies increasingly affordable and this is undoubtedly now the top choice for most travellers.
Alternatively, if you really want to travel in style, a suite is the way to go. Basic suites are often just expanded versions of balcony cabins and aren't that much more expensive, whilst top suites can be astonishingly lavish (think multiple floors, private jacuzzis and grand pianos) and come with a price tag to match.
What do all the different categories of cabin mean?
Some cruise lines attach what can seem a bewildering array of additional names and labels to their cabins, over and above simply describing them as inside, oceanview, balcony or suite. Some for example use descriptions like standard, deluxe and executive, whilst others use a combinations of numbers and letters like 1A, 2B and 3C.
Sometimes the difference can be significant (for example a Royal Suite is very different to a Junior Suite), whilst other times the differences can be almost imperceptible (for example a cabin might cost more simply because it is slightly nearer the centre of the ship).