Are Cabin Upgrades Really Worth It?

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Whilst cruising, your cabin can be a sanctuary of peace, or simply a place to get your head down. Similar to a hotel room, but usually a little smaller, choosing the perfect cabin can be pretty complicated depending on what specific needs you’re seeking. With up to 20 different categories to choose from, we’ve done the research – so you don’t have to!

When it comes to upgrading your cabin – it’s not as straightforward as moving from economy to business class on a plane. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit the jackpot and land a suite. If you’re unlucky, you could end up in a noisier location, smaller space and underwhelming views – or even none at all. So if you’re hoping for a specific cabin in a specific location, you should probably decline that cabin upgrade. 

Booking guarantee might make for a cheaper cruise, but it comes with a risk. It means securing a room category rather than a specific cabin. Your room also won’t be assigned until a week or a few days prior to departure which means that, that cabin you’ve got your eye on might not be available by the time sailing comes around. If that feels too risky, then we suggest skipping the upgrade.

Why do cruise lines offer upgrades?

Cruise lines want to fill their ships to maximum capacity. After all, more people, more buying, more money – higher profit. Therefore, cruise lines entice people with last-minute bookings so they can fill up their cabins. However, last-minute bookings ideally come in at lower prices, so in order to offer lower price, they offer already booked passengers an upgrade to more expensive rooms to free up the cheaper cabins. 

Different types of cabins

  • Inside: smallest of the cabins, with no window to the outside. 
  • Outside (oceanview): a room with a window or porthole (round window) with a view to the outside. Similar size to an inside cabin, but slightly larger.
  • Balcony: similar size to an outside room, but this time featuring a balcony – allowing you to step outside without going on a public deck.
  • Suite: a larger cabin, often with a separate living and sleeping area including a wide range of amenities and perks. 

Cabin Location

The ‘real estate’ of your cabin – regardless of type, can leave you feeling seasick, up with noise, or provide unbeatable views and lull you to sleep at night. For this reason, it’s really important to do your homework regarding where on the ship your cabin is located. 

Stability: If seasickness is a concern of yours, then try to locate yourself more centrally and lower in the ship. If you’re wanting a balcony cabin, choose the lowest level and the most midway point of the ship. The higher decks and cabins situated more at the end (aft) or front (forward) of the ship might experience more rocking. 

Distance: Depending on how you want to spend your time aboard, sun-worshippers might prefer an upper-deck location close to the pools and sundecks, while party-goers might want to be more centrally focussed near the entertainment areas. If you’re concerned about mobility, you might want to position yourself nearer to a bank of elevators. 

Noise: most cruise lines assign their most luxurious cabins to the highest decks, usually below the pool deck (probably due to the vantage point allowing for the most phenomenal views). However, this comes at a price; the pool deck is usually the noisiest location onboard from hearing sun beds scraping the ground in the early hours of the morning, to the late-night pool parties going on into the night. 

For some peace and quiet, opt for a cabin above and below other cabins. Keep in mind of service areas both adjacent to or above your cabin, lounges or bars adjacent to, above or below your cabin, and self-service launderettes across from your cabin. Problematic cabins are those situated low and at the back (because of their proximity to engine noise, vibration and anchor) or low and forward (because of bow thrusters).

Cabin Size

Due to the introduction of mega-ships, cabins come in all shapes and sizes. Not only will you find the traditional boxy in-and-outside cabins, but you’ll also find expansive suites, duplexes and lofts. Balconies also come in a range of different sizes from smaller ones which are barely able to fit two chairs on – to huge wraparound decks with outdoor dining and hot tubs! 

Layout

Not all cabin layouts are created equal, so pay attention to the unique setups on your ship. Carnival is known for having larger-than-average standard cabins while Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn ships feature all-suite accommodations. Norwegian Epic cabins are designed in a ‘new wave’ style which uses curvy walls and separates rooms for showers and toilets. 

Family

Cruising is popular among families due to the multitude of activities on offer for all ages. Therefore, cruise lines have built ‘family accommodations’ into the design. Often suites, with separate rooms for the kids (sometimes a small alcove with bunk beds or an adjoining cabin). Both families and groups can take advantage of the design with pullout sofas or pull-down bunk beds (Pullmans). 

Solo

Not regular among all ships, so if you’re looking for one – make sure to get the right ship/cruise line. Solo cabins have enough sleeping space for one and can be pretty small. Studio cabins on Norwegian are actually famous for this. 100-square-foot cabins containing a full-size bed, lighting effects and a large round window looking out into the corridor. If you’re travelling solo, we advise checking the price difference between solo and standard cabins (double-occupancy rooms might have a higher rate than a similarly sized cabin, but there’s an extra fee if there’s only one person occupying a single cabin – which can come out almost double the regular rate). Book early – solo cabins sell out quick!

Personalised Extras

It all depends on how you’re planning to spend your time onboard and ultimately what extras you’ll need. Do you absolutely need a walk-in wardrobe or a dining table to seat six to eight people for hosting? Do you want guaranteed restaurant reservations and be first in line to get on or off the ship? Are you wanting luxury and comfort – with big fluffy robes, spa treatments and aromatic scents? To find out which upgrade you’ll need, you should start by figuring out what you want.

Suites

Coming in all shapes and sizes, the most opulent suites are on Norwegian Cruise Line’s who boast a 5000-plus-square-feet suite including the three-bedroom Garden Villa suites on its Jewel-class ships. Each of these features a private terrace with a hot tub, spacious living and dining areas, butler service and exclusive-access deck area. Other suites come with dining areas, wet bars, deluxe bathrooms, walk-in closets, multiple levels and even pianos! Mini-suites – which are found on nearly all ships are often slightly larger than a standard balcony cabin. 

Figure out how much space you really need, which amenities are important to you and what your budget is. Suites also tend to sell quickly due to the limited amount of them. They’re pretty good value – so decide early what kind of suite you’d like. 

Amenities 

All cabins come with the basics; a cabin steward to clean your room and turn down the beds, soap and shampoo in the bathroom and individual climate control etc, but each category of cabins comes with perks, privileges and extras from priority boarding to in-cabin bar setups. Whichever way you wish to be pampered on your holiday will dictate the amenities which suit you best. 

Concierge Add-On

Concierge service takes care of all those annoying practical matters you need to tend to whilst cruising, like making dinner and spa reservations, booking shore excursions and making requests. These services are usually included in the price of the suite and on some ships grant access to an exclusive concierge lounge where suite guests and high-level passengers can snack, drink and chill in private. Concierge-level guests can expect added-extras like welcome drinks, fruit baskets and afternoon canapes. 

Butlers Add-On

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a personal butler – and on certain cruise lines, you can include the specialised service as part of your fare! When considering it, look at the price of fares and see if it falls within your budget and how much of a necessity it is for you.

Make sure to account for the kind of service you’ll receive – on certain cruise lines, butlers really go the extra-mile from hand-delivering your food order from exclusive and hard-to-get-to restaurants, refill your mini-bar to personal specifications, serve in-cabin meals course-by-course, unpack and repack your bags, draw you rose-petal baths to assisting you in preparing in-suite cocktail parties. 

Spa Cabins

It all started at Costa where wellness-lovers can pay a little bit more for a cabin decorated and designed with their spa-loving guests in mind. You’ll find interiors that are Asian-inspired-zen with the addition of extra amenities from extra powerful shower heads, speciality bath products, fluffy bathrobes, yoga mats and a healthier room service menu to free access to spa restaurants, a complimentary pass to the spa pools and sauna/steam room and often a free, discounted or priority spa treatments and fitness classes!

Exclusive Spaces 

A few cruise lines will dedicate gated-access areas to selected suite complexes and for the most expensive accommodations. Included are private deck areas, pools, whirlpools, fitness centre, sun decks, restaurants and lounges. MSC Yacht Club and Norweigian’s Haven are two examples who also offer selected solo cabin’s access too. 

Views

How important is your view, and what kind of scenes do you want to wake up to every morning? Aft balconies (at the very back of the ship) can be most prized because they can make you feel as if you’re on the end of the world, offering 180-degree views over the stern.

Balconies are usually 50 per cent bigger than standard… But because they’re located at the back you’re far away from a lot of activities and any passengers looking over the rail from the pool or higher cabins can overlook into your balcony forfeiting your privacy.

Front-facing balcony cabins are usually always suites. We advise going for cabins at the ‘corners’ of the ship where the balcony curves around the sides – that way you can see where you’re going, and where you’ve been – at the same time! 

Obstructed Views

Due to some of the ship’s structural design, some ‘oceanview’ cabins have obstructed or blocked views. You’ll find these located in balcony cabins under the pool deck close to the bridge wing and cabins adjacent to lifeboats.

The good news, however, is that these rooms are usually a good deal – especially if you don’t plan on spending much time in your room. If the amount of money you spend is relative to the view you get, then look for ‘secret portholes’ on inside rooms or ‘obstructed view’ for the outside. These are sold as inside cabins that actually have windows with blocked views – or partially obstructed – these are outside cabins sold at the price of an inside. 

Inferior-Facing Cabins

Windowed and balcony cabins don’t necessarily promise a look-out to sea. If you sail Royal Caribbean you can opt for an inside-view cabin which overlooks public inside spaces – like Central Park (the ship’s live greenery area) or the Boardwalk (an amusement park-theme stretching around the ship including a carousel and food stands).

Pricing for these fall between inside and outside cabins. The latest in viewing trends is the introduction of Virtual Views which display where a window would. To obtain the images, ship-mounted cameras play real-time images of the sea and port onto HD display screens to simulate light, view and space. 

Scenic Views

If you’re planning your cruise with seeing the beautiful world around you – make sure to check your itinerary before selecting your cabin. If you’re sailing on a roundtrip Caribbean cruise or a transatlantic crossing, then the side of the ship you’re in won’t make too much of a difference. However, if you’re one-way sailing to Rome or Alaska, for example, then you should think about choosing a cabin on the side of the ship that faces land. 

No View

Inside cabins with no views are typically smallest and cheapest. They’re great options for the travellers on a budget and don’t wish to spend a lot of time in their cabin – or sleep best in total darkness. However, if you’re prone to seasickness, need natural light or lots of space – then it’s advisable to avoid booking these rooms. 

Pricing

Your cabin is only one part of your trip – so don’t forget to factor in the rest of your trip; airfares, pre/post-cruise hotels, shore excursions, food in port, drinks, speciality restaurants, WiFi, fitness studio access/classes, spa treatment and gratuities – to name a few. 

Dependant on your budget, you need to decide which aspects bare the most importance to you when choosing a cabin and how you plan to spend your time onboard – will you be spending minimal or maximal time inside your cabin?

Things to look out for

  • Beware of words like ‘Deluxe’, ‘Spa’ or ‘Penthouse’, because the truth is, where else would a penthouse be but on the rooftop? Do your research, search online, read reviews and check out passenger photos. 
  • An upgrade doesn’t necessarily mean you get all the perks that full-paying passengers receive. Check the benefits that are applied. They really can cause ‘wow’ moments – like getting a huge suite with butler service. 
  • If you’ve already booked and find a better deal, then you can use the injustice to negotiate a better cabin. However, in order to do this, they need to cancel your first booking to rebook a new one – which means you’ll probably lose any existing promotion associated with your original booking. Sometimes this can be a free drinks package, which could end up a better deal than a nicer place to reside.  
  • Sometimes a cruise line will offer you an up-sell to a better cabin – but whilst it may seem like a few hundred pounds now because you’ve separated the transaction, it doesn’t mean you’ve saved any money. Think about why you didn’t book the nicer cabin in the first place and consider what’s most important to you. 
  • If the upgrade is an obvious step up, for example, going from a window-less inside cabin to a balcony then we’d suggest going for it, but if the jump is small – it’s probably not worth it.

Reasons TO or NOT TO upgrade

As I’ve said; it all depends on how you plan to spend your time onboard. If you’re looking to take advantage of all the shows, games, restaurants, excursions and more whilst sailing, then splurging a little more on an upgraded room doesn’t really make sense.

However, if you’re prioritising privacy, perhaps a beautiful view and/or specialised treatment, then investing a little more so that your cruise meets your expectations will be worth it – especially if you’ve been looking forward to sitting in quiet, reading that book you’ve been trying to pick up the last 6 months and revelling in the spectacular views when you wake up.

Cruising is a special experience – and every passenger’s needs and wants are unique. Whilst a beautiful view is nice, but you’re travelling on a budget and see your cruise as the journey to get you to your destination, then it’s worth staying in the cheaper room – after all, a cruise is a hotel on sea that saves you from having to unpack and repack in every new destination!

The good news is, that whichever way you want to cruise, and whatever room you’ve got your eye on, you can tailor your trip to your specific needs. More so – you can trust that at Cruise1st we’ve worked hard to find you offers that include free or complimentary cabin upgrades – but remember, is that cabin upgrade really an upgrade if you’ve already got the specifications you’re after!?

Give us a call on 0808 2746 777 to speak to one of our friendly sales people!

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About Author

Darcy Alexander

Darcy is a writer and blogger, with a passion for travel. When she's not exploring somewhere new, or writing about her experiences, you'll most likely find her on the field-hockey pitch, or indulging in a good book!

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