One of the great advantages of being a member of Cruisemates is the ability to get specific advice about planning a cruise
by asking a question on our Message Boards. Let's consider the
question, Why are some stateroom categories more popular than others?

Cruisemates, which is visited regularly by thousands of cruisers,
can be the perfect place to find answers from people who have been
there -- done that.

Those who contribute to our Message Boards are all regular folks
from all walks of life and income levels, with one thing in common: a
passion for cruising.

I admit I have only taken two cruises myself, and am planning for my
third next summer, but I am an avid researcher and have a passion for
CruiseMates, the website. I began in-depth reading about the various
aspects of cruising four years ago and quickly gravitated to
Cruisemates because it was here that I found the answers best suited to
my specific questions, from people with hands-on experience.

Recently a Cruisemates forum user, Fireball,
asked the question, Is booking a suite worth the extra money? An
admittedly unscientific survey on stateroom preferences was conducted
and here are the results. Of those responding, 54 percent chose balcony
cabins, 22 percent preferred suites, 14 percent selected inside cabins
as their favorite, 6 percent claimed outside cabins and 3 percent had
either no preference or chose other.

According to the poll and current ship design, it's abundently clear
that balcony (also called verandah) cabins are the most popular. Newer
ships often have as much as 80% of their staterooms in the veranda
category, but readers have a variety of reasons for preferring that
class. One female respondent said she prefers a balcony cabin because
she enjoys sitting out and reading on her balcony. Reading and writing
are the two main reasons I want to experience a balcony cabin.

Editor Paul Motter himself contributed to this thread and stated that
while he usually becomes bored with sitting on the balcony, he prefers
balcony cabins because he enjoys the extra light and fresh air a
balcony cabin provides. He notes that a room service breakfast can be
especially exilarating when enjoyed on the balcony, especially when the
weather is just right. Sailing into the bay of Stockholm
during breakfast through mile after mile of wooded archipelagos and
feeding seagulls by hand is one of his favorite veranda memories.

readers prefer staterooms in categories even higher than balcony
cabins, such as suites, finding they are worth the increased expense.
One experienced cruiser professing a fondness for suites stated that
while many folks claim they are never in their cabin long enough to
justify the expense, he figured that most cruisers (himself included)
were in their cabins probably far longer than they realized. So for
him, the extra room and amenities included in a suite were worth the

One cruiser said she had once received a free upgrade to a suite,
and that she thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the experience. But in
preparing for her next cruise, she discovered the true cost of that upgraded cabin, and said there was no way she would ever pay such an amount.

cruiser said he prefers a large outside cabin and notes that they can
be larger than balcony cabins. This is because the space given over to
the veranda has been built inside the structure of the ship -- usually
because the cabin is too close to the water line to permit an open
door. This is the type of cabin I prefer, and for the same reason.
Someday I would like to experience a balcony cabin, but I love having
an extra-large oceanview cabin with a picture window overlooking the
bow of the ship (I want to see the iceberg before we plow into it).
This is the class of cabin we had on our two cruises on RCI's Explorer
of the Seas. Its size -- 211 sq. ft. -- insures there is plenty of
elbow room.

Finally, most cruisers who book inside cabins do so because they are
the least expensive, and they prefer to spend their money on excursions
or other pursuits. This is an excellent choice for many people. The
truth is, with a few exceptions, everyone gets the same ship access no
matter what kind of stateroom is booked, from the least expensive
inside room to the most massive suites. Some cruisers are only in their
cabins when they need to sleep and change clothes. They read in the
library, tan by the pool and generally spend all of their waking time
in the public areas of the ship.

We mention exceptions. It is a very recent trend on a few newer
ships to feature limited access common areas to groups of certain suite
passengers. A good example is the New Cunard Queen Victoria. This ship
has suites in the Queens' Grill and Princess Grill categories.
These passengers eat in these respective dining rooms, but also have
exclusive access to a common lounge area with books and a concierge,
and a private outdoor area for hot tubs and plush lounge chairs.

There are usually sub-categories within each cabin class which come
in a range of prices. So all cabins may not be equal even when they
have the same dimensions. Cabins are often placed into sub-categories
identified by a letter (A) or letter-number combination (C2, etc.).
The specific location of a cabin can have a lot to do with its cost.
Generally speaking, as you go up to a higher deck, the cost of cabins
-- especially balcony cabins -- increases even when the cabin remains
in the same category. An outside cabin on Deck 10 may provide a more
spectacular view than the same cabin on Deck 6. The Deck 10 cabin may
be categorized as an A, while those on Deck 6 might be categorized as
a D. The cost of an A category cabin can be several hundred dollars
higher than category D, even if they are both the same size and
layout. In editor Paul Motter's opinion, when comparing two cabins with
identical floorplans, paying more for a cabin just because it is on a
higher deck is a bad idea. There is no significant advantage to being
on a higher deck unless you really care about the view. Staterooms on
lower decks generally experience less motion when the ship is sailing.

There is one exception to this rule. Some cabins can have a view
that is partially or nearly fully obstructed by lifeboats. These are
sold as obstructed view cabins at a lower price than non-obstructed
view cabins of the same floorplan. These cabins are usually situated on
the deck where the lifeboats are kept, just above the promenade deck.
Some people seek these cabins out because they are cheaper. On the
other hand, if you find yourself in one of these cabins when you paid
the same price as the oceanview category, you have a legitimate

Some cruisers prone to seasickness often choose a cabin on a lower
deck near the center of the ship. The ship's motion is more noticeable
the higher up you go, and also near either end of the vessel. While my
cabins have been all the way forward on Deck 9, we've suffered no
discomfort. On today's mega-ships, passengers rarely experience
debilitating seasickness. That is not to say it can't happen. Cruisers
who routinely become carsick or airsick might want to take extra

Every cruise line
has its own method of classifying cabins, and what's true for one line
may not hold for another. For this reason, Cruisemates advises that
newer cruisers book through a travel agency
that has been certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International
Association). That certification means the staff of that agency has
been trained in the details and nuances of cruise sales.

To make your choices easier, join Cruisemates -- if you haven't done
so already (it's free of course) and get involved in our message
boards. There is a category for almost every subject and a couple of
catch-alls for unclassified topics. This will help you ask the proper
questions of your travel agent

, or might even preclude your having to ask them.