Cruise Cabins: What To Know Before Selecting Yours

A common question from those who have not sailed before a lot has to do with cabin categories and might go like this;What is the difference between all these categories of cabins?” Each cruise line has their own way of classifying cabins.  Knowing the difference between each can help match travelers with accommodations that are appropriate for them and those they are sailing with, eliminating a bunch of problems before they start.

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Image- Carnival Cruise Line

On Carnival Cruise Line, it’s a number and a letter like 4A.  Princess uses two letters like BB or AC.  Royal Caribbean uses a combination of both with designations like E2 or PR.  Other lines use a variation of these.

The easy way to sort this out is to remember that there are really three basic cabin configurations:Cruise Compete
  1. Inside cabins with beds, a bathroom, places to store clothes, a tv, a phone and maybe a refrigerator or desk but no view.  You can’t see out of them.
  2. Oceanview cabins are for the most part the same as an inside cabin except that they have a porthole or window to look out of.
  3. Balcony cabins can be the same as the inside and Oceanview except they have a balcony attached that you can walk out onto.
  4. Suites are balcony cabins with more.  That ‘more’ could be as simple as more space and that’s it.  Suites can also come with more space and added amenities.
Where the difference in designation, say between 4A and 4D,  comes from for the most part where the cabin is located on the ship.  The prime real estate is the dead center of the ship because there is less noticeable movement there and it’s closer to everything.  4A will be in a less desirable location while 4D will be better.  Important to note: there is usually little or no difference in the interior configuration of these cabins.  They are all exactly the same.

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Your Work In Progress Cruise Booking

One mistake made by those new to the world of cruise vacations: Considering booking the end of the search process.  The potential to gain value in some way by continuing to watch cruise pricing and special offers between when the booking is made and when the ship sails is considerable.
Frequently, we have started out in a lower priced category cabin and moved up as we came closer to sailing.  Two common reasons:  Our closely-watched budget for any given trip may have some extra funds to play with and/or the price of a higher category cabin than we are booked in has gone down.  We have gone the other way too, moving to a less expensive cabin for whatever reason.
Taking a step back though and looking beyond price/value,  while cabin categories are similar in design elements, there are some noteworthy nuances exclusive to each category.  Let’s take a look:
Image- Carnival Cruise Line
  • Great if you like to sleep in- very dark
  • Even though dark you can still see outside and what the weather is- on the cabin tv via the bridge cam
  • Starting prices can be misleading.  All the cruise lines do this; advertize a really “cheap” deal then we go find out that it is in a cabin with bunk beds and that taxes are not included.
  • Tend to be mostly on the lower decks.  This could be good or bad depending on your outlook.  No, the higher class guests are not on the higher decks…well except on Cunard. or so they say.
Image- Carnival Cruise Line


  • May be “obstructed view” meaning they really don’t have much of a view of the ocean..if you look straight out.  If you look more down you can often see past the lifeboat that is in the way otherwise to the ocean below
  • Some may have picture windows, other portholes
  • Great choice if claustrophobia is an issue- stay away from inside cabins
Image- Carnival Cruise Line


  • The cruise lines add more and more of them because they are very popular
  • Offer a private outside refuge on a day when the pool area might be very crowded
  • Awesome place to watch the ship sail away and leave your real life behind
  • Basic balcony cabin could be about the same as the inside or oceanview. except that there is a sliding glass door that opens to a wonderful world.

The point of all this is to be informed about the differences in cabin categories, which seem to be more all the time.  Where that cabin is located can make a huge difference.

Also to know: the terms “cabin” and “stateroom” are interchangeable.  Stateroom just sounds better, I suppose.

CruiseCompete-LogoThis article is brought to by Cruise Compete. allows you to easily compare multiple offers from Cruise Experts.

Cover image- Flickr user Dan Moyle

Chris Owen
Chris Owen
Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida who shares frank, inside information about cruise vacations with fellow Cruise Addicts.

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