When visiting your travel agent to book a cruise, once you've decided on a ship, the next question you're going to be asked is what "category" cabin you'd like to book. Whether you're a first time cruiser, or a very experienced cruiser, figuring out the answer to this question can be as confusing as choosing what combination dinner you're going to order at a Chinese Restaurant when you're actually in a Deli.
This subject should really be quite simple; there's inside cabins (with no windows), ocean view cabins (with a window), balcony cabins (with a private balcony), and suites (cabins with private balconies, but the cabins are larger, and have more amenities). But that would be much too simple.
I think the cruise lines have contests, and choose the number 1 prankster in their home offices, and reward them the job of determining just how many variations of categories they can fit into a deck plan. The runner up in the contest gets the opportunity to make the winner's job a bit more complicated by getting to name each deck, so instead of naming ships Deck 1 through 12 (or however many decks there are), there's Vista Decks, and Veranda Decks -- and of course, upper and lower Veranda Decks, and Navigation Decks, and Main Decks, while other lines have Caribe Decks, and Baja Decks, and Riviera Decks, while others have Panorama Decks, and Sunset Decks, etc. There's no end to how twisted the minds of these people can get.
It all began when the first person assigned the job of defining categories decided that aside from the standard, inside, outside, balcony and suite categories, they could add family cabins, and balcony cabins with extended balconies, and with suites, they could add mini-suites, and Penthouse Suites. But then why stop there? So, others added Junior Suites, and Sky Suites, and Concierge Class Suites, and Royal Suites, and others, not to be beat out on the name game brought us Villa Suites. What a great assignment to have; someone hands you a blank deck plan and tells you your job is to name all the pieces, and make it as confusing as you can for prospective passengers (sort of like this article).
As passengers we really have to approach examining the various cabin categories with a sense of humor. You have to laugh when your cabin is 1304, and when you finally find it, it's actually on the 9th floor. It's rather like going into an office building, and finding office 206 is on the 11th floor. That would never happen because designers of office buildings have no sense of humor. That's one of the things that makes cruising different; everyone, including the design team is having a good time, and a good laugh as well.
The most stable part of a ship sailing on the seas is mid ship, and low in the ship. So, it makes good sense that the least expensive cabins on the ship are located there, doesn't it? And following that thought process, it makes good sense that generally the higher up in the ship (and less stable) you go, the more expensive the cabins become, doesn't it? OK, it doesn't, but it is another great example of the sense of humor the cruise lines have.
By now I'm sure you're asking yourself how this article is going to help you choose your cabin for your next cruise. The simplest answer is that the very best cabin is ON THE SHIP! Because, with rare exception, once you're on the ship you have access to all the ship the has to offer.
The rest is all a matter of personal choice, and budget. Going back to the basics, the least expensive cabins are the inside cabins (with no window), so for those who want to vacation on a limited budget that's the natural choice. Yet, I know people who book only inside cabins, regardless of the fact they could easily afford more expensive categories. The lack of a window or even a private balcony to them is a positive rather than negative, because the inside cabins are so dark they say they get their best sleep in those cabins.
Normally slightly more expensive than those inside cabins, are Ocean View cabins. These are like inside cabins with a window (which does NOT open). The difference being that you can look outside; see where you are, and more or less what the weather is like.
The next step up on the cost scale are the cabins with a private balcony. The standard balcony cabins are often slightly smaller in cabin square footage than the outside cabins. This is because some of the floor space is used to create the outdoor balcony. These cabins are equipped with regular swinging glass doors, or sliding doors which open to allow you access to a small balcony.
With private balcony cabin categories, those located closer to the middle of the ship are usually slightly more expensive than the same cabins forward or aft of center.
The different cruise lines all have their own variations above (read more expensive) than their standard balcony cabins. Whether they are called mini-suites or junior suites, or sky suites, or concierge cabins, the bottom line means higher costs translate to larger cabins and usually larger balconies as well; sometimes with added amenities offered to those guests booking them.
Once a cabin category gets a "Suite" designation you can be assured it is amongst the largest and most expensive accommodations on the ship, along with the top amenities available on the ship, sometimes including things like butler and concierge service.
The very best way to choose your own best cabin on a ship is to talk to a well trained and knowledgeable Cruise Travel Agent. It's a part of their job to take your personal preferences, combined with the budget you have in mind, and help you make an informed decision about which cabin you should book.