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.
Balcony cabins: These cabins are better, and more expensive, than oceanview cabins because they typically have full glass sliding doors that lead to a balcony. The balcony allows fresh air and light into the cabin and also may have additional chairs or loungers. Balconies tend to be separated by dividers which give some sense of privacy, but be aware that most balconies are not fully private and can be viewed from above or by the cabin next to you. Balconies on new Norwegian Cruise Line ships and Princess Cruise Line ships tend to be smaller and more narrow than balconies on other ships. We will list balcony size in the cabin description. Carnival offers what is called a "Cove Balcony" on some of their ships. These balconies are very popular because they sit lower on the ship (closer to the water line). Expect to pay $200 to $400 a night for an balcony cabin.
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".
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.