Know how to pick the best cruise cabin from the overwhelming number of choices.
Know how to pick the best cruise cabin from the overwhelming number of choices. Ocean/Corbis

When choosing a cruise ship cabin, you could face a whopping 20 categories.

But despite the brochure hype, you only need to know four basic terms:

  • inside (no view)
  • outside (view through a closed window or porthole)
  • balcony/veranda (with a door opening to your own outdoor space)
  • suite (larger cabin, possibly with more than one room)

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Here are 5 more tips to help you sail through your selection.

1. Consider your travel companions

If you don't mind rubbing shoulders with family or friends — or don't plan to spend much time in your cabin — go small. These cabins generally accommodate up to four people, though someone may get the bunk or sofa bed. The first two in the cabin pay full fare, but fares for the third and fourth passengers are discounted. If your group includes kids or more than four people, consider connecting cabins (which might be cheaper than a suite). Bathtubs are a rarity, so make sure your cabin has one if you need it.

2. Mind the noise factor

If you're sensitive to noise, avoid cabins under the disco floor, the basketball court, and the fitness center and running track. If you’re below the Lido Deck, you might hear people moving their lounge chairs around and the poolside band. If you're too close to the ship's engine room you might feel vibration. Also, avoid cabins near stairwells.

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3. Hedge your bets

If you're flexible, pick a "guarantee" cabin, which means you choose a category rather than a specific cabin on the ship. If the category sells out, you’ll automatically be upgraded. The downside is you can't choose your cabin by location. Keep in mind that the cheapest and most expensive cabins on the ship book up first.

4. Consider shipboard activities

If you plan to spend a lot of time in the fitness center and spa, book a spa cabin. Found on newer ships, these include complimentary access to the steam room and other facilities and are close enough to the spa that you can walk to and fro in your bathrobe. If you're traveling with kids, choose a cabin near kids' facilities.

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5. Remember: location, location, location

Cabins at the very back of the ship tend to have the largest balconies — and cool views of the ship's wake. In a forward-facing suite, you’ll enjoy the same views as the captain. Elsewhere, watch for obstructed views, so the natural light in your cabin isn’t blocked by, say, a lifeboat. Also, a cruise ship conundrum is that fancy cabins tend to be on upper decks, where the most motion is felt; the more stable cabins are midship on the lower decks. So, splurging on more expensive accommodations could be a problem if you’re prone to seasickness.