Best and Worst Cruise Ship Cabins

Kim Jack Riley
Disney Dream Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
Disney Dream Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

Whether it is finding the best or avoiding the worst, research is the first step to selecting the stateroom that's right for you. Review the deck plan online and don't be afraid to ask your travel counselor questions. Remember, a bad choice can make or break your vacation, and the worst case scenario would be opening the door to your cabin and not finding what you were expecting.

Three Best Large Cruise Ship Cabins

1. The Disney Dream

The Disney Dream comes out the winner across the board amongst travel industry establishments like CruiseCritic and cruisers alike. There is a wide range of cabin configurations, but the Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah comes out on top.

Cabin Details

In addition to its tasteful design, this cabin fits 4 to 5 people and is furnished with:

  • A queen-size bed or 2 twin beds
  • Double convertible sofa
  • Upper berth pull-down bed
  • Full bath with vanity, sink
  • Round tub and shower
  • A half bath with vanity, sink and toilet

That means a large family or even a small group can enjoy in-room time without getting in each other's way.

The stateroom is priced accordingly, but when you factor in the number of people you can fit into the room, it ends up ranking high for best value.

2. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Getaway/Breakaway

Norwegian Cruise Line Studio Suite
Norwegian Cruise Line Studio Suite

On the opposite end of the size scale, a Fodor's pick makes the list for most innovative cabin: the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Studio Suite. If you've ever tried to cruise solo, you'll appreciate the pioneering efforts made by NCL to accommodate passenger traveling alone without imposing a single-rate supplement.

Cabin Details

At 99 to 131 square feet, the Studio Suite has one full-size bed, a one-way window to the corridor and a separate bathroom area. If you are traveling with a friend but simply don't wish to share a room, the suites offer adjoined connections. Studio Suite passengers also receive key access to a private Studio Lounge.

The Breakaway - which offer sailings out of New York, and its sister the Getaway - sailing out of Miami - offer the same floor and cabin plans.

3. Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

This ship scores high marks by cruisers at Cruiseline.com for best value with 775 of 1,557 cabins falling into the 'affordable' category. As with most large ships, there are three main cabins categories -- suites, outsides and insides - but the Mariner (and other RCCL ships) also offer the unique atrium-view (looking onto the Royal Promenade) cabins. This is quite a spectacular view of all the onboard ship action, and provides a great way to travel on a budget without sacrificing window views.

Cabin Details

The cabins on this ship feature small ideas that make a big difference on a moderate budget. Standard balcony cabins range in size from 184- to 199-square feet (with 50- to 65-square ft. balconies), while ocean view cabins range from 160-square feet for a standard to 293-square feet for a family-sized room.

Balconies are positioned outside the vessel's superstructure, rather than inside so they are less cave-like and more light-filled, and cabins are three feet wider and airier, as well. Windowless inside cabins and atrium-view promenade cabins differ by just ten square feet.

Three Best Mid-Size Ships Cabins

1. Coral Princess

Cabin aboard the Coral Princess
Cabin aboard the Coral Princess

The Coral Princess from Princess Cruises is a winner according to Frommer's for its ability to blend an exotic feel with familiar amenities. The ship was built just trim enough to make it through the Panama Canal and typically holds port in Ft. Lauderdale.

Cabin Details

What makes the Coral Princess stand out is the cabins. The decor is, of course, coral - but that's not the only outstanding feature. The majority of outside cabins have balconies. Some cruisers find the option of covered or half-covered balconies a great feature in the event of rain.

Features on the Coral Princess include 100 percent Egyptian cotton linen in all staterooms and Pullman beds to provide extra sleeping capacity in many cabins.

2. Oceana Cruises Riviera

USA Today's Reviewed.com points to The Riviera as a well-loved ship both for Caribbean and European itineraries as well as great staterooms. Although balconies tend to run small, the room sizes make up for it as does the light and airy décor. The Riviera is categorized as 'upscale,' which means it is not for the budget-conscious, but even low-end cabin comes with a sense of luxury.

Cabin Details

An inside stateroom, for example, comes with a Tranquility BedSM (Oceania Cruises Exclusive) and 700-Thread-Count Linens so you'll still feel pampered. If your budget allows, a penthouse with an extended balcony is a wonderful cabin. The balcony is huge and can accommodate a party of 12 with no problem. It has fabulous beds and bedding, walk-in closets and bathrooms with both a walk-in shower and separate deep tub.

3. Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas

According to Cruise Critic, a 2012 refurbish gave this ship a new lease on life. Royal Caribbean spent millions on this ship to add favorite Oasis-class features like updated cabins, including flat-screen TV's, and ship-wide Wi-Fi.

One thing that places the Grandeur on this list is the easy flow for passengers. The great deck designs create the impression that there are no bad cabins, and cruisers like being able to get around the ship and back to their cabin with ease.

Cabin Details

Two categories of inside cabins range in size from 137 to 145 square feet:

  • Standard outside cabins measure 152 square feet
  • Standard balcony cabins (with 'superior ocean views') are 192 square feet with 39-square-foot balconies

The cabins are comfortable and practical and storage space is generous. Cruisers rate the cabin service on the Grandeur far above her counterparts.

Three Best Small Ship Cabins

1. Paul Gaugin Cruise ships

Paul Gaugin Cruises B Veranda Stateroom
Paul Gaugin Cruise ship B Veranda Stateroom

Maybe it's because their destinations seem straight out of a list of places to see before you die, but there's really nothing like a Paul Gaugin cruise and their cabins never disappoint. The Cruise Connection notes that the ships and the destinations may be small (mostly French Polynesia), but the staterooms are definitely not.

Cabin Details

All Paul Gauguin cabins have ocean views and almost 70 percent are equipped with balconies. The cabins range from 200 to 588 square feet (including the balconies) and most have actual queen-size mattresses (vs. two single beds). Nearly every cabin comes with a full-size tub and shower stocked with high-end L'Occitance bath products.

Beds feature feather-down duvets and share a colorful interior design of plush red carpeting, Mahogany-lacquered cabinetry, chiffon yellow and sheer draperies, navy blue sofas and ottomans, and purple bedspreads with gold leaf patterns. If the shore excursions weren't so spectacular, you may not want to leave your stateroom!

2. Seabourn's Sojourn

The Sojourn has received top reviews across the board from Cruise Compete. The cabins themselves, starting at 300 square feet, are marvelously designed and have been described as a destination in their own right.

Cabin Details

All cabins face outside and toiletries come from Molton Brown. Even standard accommodations have distinct living and sleeping areas, a flat-screen TV, balconies and marble bathrooms. Seaborn offers an economy option - still 300-square feet, these cabins are on Deck 4 and have picture windows instead of verandahs.

3. Azamara Journey

The Journey gets honorable mention on this list because their cabins are highly favored by cruisers who voted on Cruise Critic, and the service and staff are just top flight. Whether you're booked in the Penthouse Suite or an inside cabin, The Journey still provides impeccable butler service including the delivery of a full in-suite tea service at 3:30 p.m. and hors d'oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. daily.

The Journey is an older ship in the small-ship category, so cabins are just that - small. What you may lose in space, you easily gain in quality and comfort.

Three Worst Cruise Ship Cabins

While there are literally hundreds of great staterooms on the open seas, there are also a few staterooms that cruisers pointed to as being the worst. Rated for space, amenities, comfort, quality and cleanliness, the bottom three are:

1. RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas Aft Insides

Although these inside cabins are an equal match to other staterooms for amenities and design, cruisers booked into inside Aft (back) have complained about the noise coming from the proximity to deck activities and thin walls. CruiseAdvice.org shares the details of the cabins to avoid if a good night's rest is on your cruising checklist.

2. Norwegian Epic Cabins

Norwegian Epic balcony cabin
Norwegian Epic balcony cabin

Americans are known for requiring vanity space and functional designs when it comes to their toiletry routine. Described as more of an 'outhouse' with frosted glass screens, FoxNews.com gives a vivid and detailed account of what's wrong with the Epic's lavatories.

3. Carnival's Category 1A Cabins

Generally speaking, Carnival enjoys a respectable popularity rating especially when you consider price points and ease of sailing. But they took the concept of 'snug' a little too far with their unique cabin category, 1A. Basically, you get what you pay for and these should only be reserved for the risk-taker who plans on being up all night in the casino.

In other words, if you desperately must be on that cruise, and you plan on spending little to no time in your cabin, this one's for you. Cruise Critic lists the 1A as one to avoid. Note that on some Carnival ships these have been adjusted to 6Bs - same cabin, different number!

Choosing Your Cabin

When choosing a cabin on your selected cruise line, consider expert and consumer review, as well as your own travel habits and the amenities that mean the most to you. If you plan to spend much time inside your cabin, then it's likely worth extra money to select one of the most luxurious (and higher priced) options. If not, it may make sense to go with a smaller or more basic cabin - though not so small that you feel cramped or crowded.

You'll want your cruising experience to be a positive and comfortable one, so pay attention to what seasoned travelers have to say when it comes to making your cabin selection.

Best and Worst Cruise Ship Cabins