Do you need a balcony? Cruise travelers who spend all their time in the public areas -- sun decks, lounges, restaurants -- or on shore may be perfectly happy with standard-size cabins and no private outdoor space. Those who love to avoid the crowds and lounge quietly on their own verandahs or have private room-service meals outdoors will surely want balconies. Do not forget to take your itinerary into account; on a chilly-weather cruise, you might not be spending too much time outside, so depending on how much space and light you need, a balcony might not be worth the splurge.
Costa started the spa cabin trend, but many mainstream lines quickly followed suit. The concept is simple: Spa aficionados pay more for cabins decked out in Asian-inspired Zen decor that come with extra amenities, ranging from fancy showerheads and specialty bath products to fluffy bathrobes, yoga mats and healthier room service menus. Spa cabin residents are granted free access to spa restaurants (such as Celebrity s Blu or Costa s Ristorante Samsara), complimentary passes to spa pools and sauna/steam room areas, and may get free, discounted or priority spa treatments and fitness classes. And you do not always have to book a huge suite; on Holland America, several inside cabins have been designated as spa cabins with all the associated perks.
Pay attention to the unique cabin setups on your ship, as they are not all created equal. Disneys four cruise ships, for example, have large standard staterooms designed to accommodate families. Even inside cabins may have a sleeping section that can be curtained off from the living area along with a split bath system. (One bathroom has the shower/tub and sink, another a toilet and sink.) Carnival is also known for having larger-than-average standard cabins, while Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Seabourn ships feature all-suite accommodations. Norwegian Epic cabins sport the "new wave" design, with curvy walls and separate rooms for showers and toilets; sinks are located in the main cabins. As mentioned earlier, cabins at the very front and back of a ship often have different layouts than the cookie-cutter cabins that run the length of the ship.
Exception: Carnival has several cabins which are classified as inside cabins but actually have a french glass door which allows light into the room (no balcony, but the door can be opened). Carnival also has some cabins that have a window, but because the window has an obstructed view (that means there is a railing or object in the way) it is listed as an inside cabin. Royal Caribbean has some cabins that have a window but look out over an inside promenade area. These are called "promenade staterooms".