Do you have to have a whirlpool bathtub or a walk-in closet? Will you be entertaining and thus in need of a dining table that can seat six or eight? Do you want benefits like priority dinner reservations and being first in line to get on or off the ship? Do you want to be pampered with extra-plush linens and bathrobes, fancy bath products and in-suite coffee and booze? You can find those amenities and more in most of the upper-level suites.
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. You need to discover the cruise deck plan first. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it is helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel.
Some lines offer gated-access suite complexes where some of the most expensive accommodations are arranged around exclusive deck areas, including private pools, whirlpools, fitness centers, sun decks, restaurants and lounges; MSC Cruises Yacht Club and Norwegian s Haven are two examples. Norwegian s studio cabins -- although tiny inside affairs -- also gain you access to a special lounge reserved just for solo travelers.
Since cruising has become a popular family vacation, more new ships have built "family accommodations" into the actual design. These are often suites, each with a separate room for the kids -- sometimes a small alcove with bunk beds, sometimes an entire adjoining cabin. Families and groups can also take advantage of regular staterooms with third or fourth berths found in pullout sofas or pull-down bunk beds (called Pullmans). If you are going to squeeze your whole troupe into one cabin, make sure the space is big enough to accommodate the lot of you ... and all your belongings.