For some reason, most cruise lines assign their nicest and most expensive cabins to the highest decks, usually just below the pool deck (most likely because if you have a window or balcony, you have a more sweeping vista). Still, it is the pool deck that often causes the most noise problems, so if you do not want to hear scraping chairs at the crack of dawn or yee-hawing pool parties until the wee hours, go down a level. In fact, when it comes to noise, the best bet is to select a cabin that is both above and below other cabins.
On many ships, basic inside and outside cabins are usually the same size, the difference being that one has a porthole or picture window to let in natural light. Balcony cabins can also be the same size as standard insides and outsides, with the addition of the outdoor space on the verandah; sometimes the interior space is larger. A basic cabin, regardless of category, is referred to as a "standard" unless there is something about it that makes it different (such as physical layout, being handicapped accessible or a designated family cabin). With minisuites on up, you get bigger and bigger indoor and outdoor spaces.
When trying to determine how much cabin you can afford, do not forget to factor in the cost of the rest of your trip. If you have to spend a lot on airfare, pre-cruise hotels and activities in port, you might not be able to afford the fanciest suite; if you are using frequent-flyer miles or do not need to book a hotel, you will have more money for cruise fare; the money you save on airfare can be used to spring for a nice stateroom. Or, look for value-added perks from cruise-line and travel-agent promotions. Offers for complimentary onboard cash, prepaid tips or included airfare can free up some money to pay for other vacation expenses.
All cabins come with basic amenities, such as the services of a cabin steward to clean your room and turn down the beds, soap and shampoo in the bathroom, individual climate control, etc. But certain categories of stateroom come with added perks. Suites come with a variety of extras and privileges, everything from priority boarding to in-cabin bar setups. Spa cabins will offer spa-related perks, such as yoga mats in the cabin or a fancy showerhead; concierge-level cabins will give you access to a concierge and niceties like afternoon canapes; and even solo cabins might offer extras, such as the use of an exclusive lounge. How do you want to be pampered on your vacation?
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