In This Issue:
In Praise of Inside Cabins
Calculating The Best Deal
Avoiding Problem Cabins
A Better Departure Day
Booking your dream cruise vacation takes some planning and we have some tips that can help insure you get the best value including ideas to avoid common problems. Things like when to book an inside cabin, comparing price options and making the most of that day you sail.
Saving More Than Money When Booking That Inside Cabin
Generally, inside cabins are the least expensive cabins to book on a cruise. Even if we can afford larger cabins we’re still pleased when we’re saving money because it allows us to cruise more on our budget. While there are some cruises where the views from a balcony are worth the cost, some cruises have less to offer in scenery (think trans-Atlantic). When on a cruise ship, there is so much to do, we usually spend very little time in our cabin. After one cruise where we had a large suite, we really felt it was a waste, considering how little time we actually spent there. Inside cabins have other advantages as well. If you are a light sleeper or have trouble sleeping through the night, they can be a big help as they can be very dark. We usually find ourselves sleeping much later when we are staying in an inside cabin and that can be a good thing.
Next time you are considering a cruise, take into account what scenery you’re likely to see or miss and how much you can save by booking inside. In our experience there are some cruises where that balcony cabin can be worth every penny (think Alaska), but with many cruises it just doesn’t matter. On some ships, because of the shortage of inside cabins, it is sometimes cheaper to procure ocean view accommodations or a balcony stateroom.
Note: Inside cabins are at times not the most economical choice and you need to sharpen your pencil when you start comparing. Most cruise lines are now offering “freebies”(?) when you book. They include drink and internet packages, onboard credits and free gratuities. Often times inside cabins are not offered these perks, so you need to calculate what the perks are actually worth when considering the total cost.
When Considering A Cruise, Do The Math Before Booking
Reduced deposits, refundable deposits, “free” perks, suites, inside cabins, concierge class, guarantee and “run of the ship” cabins all add up to a wide range of pricing options. That being said, with so many choices and combinations you really have to comparison shop.
Inside cabins are supposed to be the least expensive but often these cabins don’t provide “free perks”. In that case you need to calculate the value of included gratuities and subtract that from any cabin upgrade price. There are times that the results can be surprising. Concierge class is usually a costly upgrade but, if you are a big spa fan, it could actually be less expensive than paying the daily spa fees on some lines.
If the location of your cabin isn’t particularly important, you can save by considering either a category guarantee or “run of the ship” booking. A category guarantee means you are guaranteed the category cabin you select but the cruise assigns your stateroom location just before sailing. A “run of the ship” booking guarantees you a cabin but the ship decides what type of cabin, also near the sailing date.
“Free perks” matter but are becoming less free. A number of years ago the various cruise lines began to try enticing passengers by offering a selection of “free” additions on a booking. The most popular were drink packages, onboard credits and free gratuities and, depending on the class of cabin, you could select one or more. At first these didn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual cabin rate but recently things have started changing. Now we are seeing levels of pricing on some staterooms that start at no freebies and go up depending on the freebie selected so the choices now have to be part of the formula. Booking a cruise while on another one may offer reduced deposits as well as onboard credit for the new booking that isn’t a published deal.
Another area where you can save on a cruise has to do with when you book. Just like airline pricing, cruise prices are in constant flux. Generally, when a cruise is announced, the prices are at the high end of the scale. There’s a whole year or more to book those staterooms and logic says they start high and adjust based on apparent demand. The good news is that, if the prices drop, you can usually adjust your booking right up to the date of final payment. On popular cruise itineraries you will often see the prices increase through time so booking early can at times save money. Some people wait to book after that ninety days before sailing hoping to grab a bargain but, in recent years, that is getting harder to do.
The bottom line is you have to do the math and have a strategy to save money on booking a cruise.
Cruise Life – Things To Avoid When Selecting A Cruise Cabin
We love cruising and, overall, the experiences have been fantastic but there have been exceptions. On more than one cruise our cabin was so noisy we couldn’t get much sleep. There are usually two sources that contribute to this problem.
The Party Crowd – Some cruises are magnets for a party crowd. These are usually Caribbean cruises with shorter itineraries which tend to attract a younger and noisier crowd. Not that we object to having fun but you can make plans to avoid the noise issue by paying attention to cabin location. Staterooms that are right at elevator lobbies or are just inside passageways leading from public spaces can be very loud. People that are partying late and imbibing a bit aren’t known for being quiet on the way to their cabins.
Noisy Ship Spaces – On more than one occasion we have been in cabins that were obnoxiously noisy during the night. We’ve always been amazed when the ship claims that nobody else has had issues with the cabin but then what can you expect them to say? Our remedy is to pay attention to the ship’s deck plans and avoid booking certain cabins. Now we only book cabins with other cabins on either side or behind us. If you pay attention, there are cabins with nothing indicated in the space next to them. Sometime these areas are crew stairwells or storage areas but they can also be machinery spaces which generate noise at odd hours. Also, take a look at the deck above the cabin. These can be dining rooms or pool decks or even clubs which will often be noisy late at night.
Any time we’ve had an issue with a noisy cabin those empty spaces have been the culprit. Once, when we were under a dining room, it seemed that they were moving furniture all night long. Fortunately, when we have had a problem, the ship has usually been able to find us another cabin. Lately, however, cruises are sailing completely booked and that option is disappearing. Avoid that risk and be aware when you are selecting your location.
There is an additional consideration when selecting a cabin if you’re prone to seasickness. The trick there is selecting a cabin that minimizes the motion of the ship when the waves pick up. When looking at a ship you will sometimes notice a series of geometric lines showing on the hull, these are indicating where the ships center is along with where it will ride in different climes and water salinities. The most stable spot on a ship is at that center of balance and near the water line. When the bow and stern are rising and falling by feet that spot is moving by inches. So selecting a stateroom amidships and near the level of the ocean is the best choice for reduced motion.
Cruise Life – Tips For A Better Embarkation Day
On the day of sailing there are a few things you can depend on. First, boarding usually begins somewhere around 11:00 AM and, as people board, the majority migrates up to the buffet on the upper deck. Second, you will see a lot of passengers loaded down with backpacks and carry-on bags just sitting around so empty seating can be hard to come by. Additionally, most cruise ships will have passageways blocked until sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 PM when passengers are allowed into their staterooms. Finally, for the duration of the cruise the pool deck and spas will never be as empty as on that first day.
All of the above suggests a strategy that can greatly improve your enjoyment of that embarkation day. Consider ours:
- Lose that extra carry-on load. By early evening, chances are your bags will be delivered to your cabin and, with a little planning, you can survive until then. We recommend checking most of the load with a porter on the pier. Carry a light backpack with a few carefully selected items. Consider, the important stuff like medications, a bathing suit, tee shirt and flip flops. A good book or e-reader and perhaps your laptop.
- Leave the herd and find your own space. Usually by 12:30 the buffet is a sea of people walking around with trays looking for a table and many are lugging suitcases too. If you’re really hungry, there are probably a few lesser known options like hamburgers on the pool deck or a speciality venue or two that the crowds haven’t thought about yet.
- If you pack a swim suit you can change, stretch out on a pool deck lounger and open up that book you’ve wanted to read. Isn’t that what you’ve been looking forward to? Instead of standing around waiting for the stateroom to open, get a head start on that vacation. The pool bar will be more than happy to pour you a drink and there’s a good chance the spa is open as well.
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