12 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Cruise Cabin

Your cruise cabin may not be much in terms of size (a typical room is between 160-200 square feet), but it’s your own personal sanctuary on the ship.

Cruise suite
Your cabin is the one spot on the ship that’s your own private space. If you’re a first-time cruiser, then there are likely things you don’t know about the room.

Your cabin is where you’ll sleep, relax, bathe, get ready for the day, and unwind after a long day of being out and about. And unlike other places around the ship, it’s the one place where you can get away from everybody.

And while it’s likely that most of your time will actually be spent outside of the cabin in various areas around the ship, the room is definitely the one specific spot where you’ll spend the most time onboard. That means you’ll get to know your cabin well.

But if you’ve never cruised before, then there are some things that you definitely don’t know about your room that can make your stay more comfortable or are simply nice to know. That’s why we’ve rounded up a dozen things you didn’t know about your stateroom on a cruise.

The Cabins Walls Are Made of Metal

Magnet hooks
Metal walls mean that magnetic hooks are a smart thing to pack. Stick them to the wall and you have a spot to hang a lanyard, hat, or anything else.

They certainly don’t look like it, but one thing you didn’t know is that the walls and cabin door are actually made of metal. Why is that important?

One item that we suggest packing are some magnetic hooks. With these, you can stick them right to the wall or even the ceiling and instantly have a place to hang hats, lanyards, wet swimsuits, and more. Because they are magnetic, you can place them nearly anywhere you want.

Packing 3-4 of these hooks gives you more spots to keep things organized and helps to declutter the cabin.

Your Bed Separates (or Joins!)

Zipper on a cruise bed
Bed are joined with a large zipper in between two smaller mattresses, giving you the ability to have one large bed or two smaller ones.

When you book the cruise, you are asked if you want to have a queen bed or two twins. But if you’re imagining the crew lugging a mattress in and out of the cabin to meet your wishes, think again.

Cruise ship beds are actually two beds with a large zipper between the mattresses. A couple sailing together that wants one bed in the cabin? The two mattresses are put together and zipped up as one.

Staying with a friend where you don’t want to share a bed? Then it can unzip and separate, creating two spots to sleep. So if you walk into your room and the bed isn’t set up how you wanted, just let the cabin steward know.

Don’t Forget Storage Under the Bed

There’s no arguing that cruise ship staterooms are “cozy” in their size. One thing they do very well, however, is make the most of that space.

In particular, there is lots of storage space. Your room will have a large closet, along with a large desk area with drawers to store clothing. Bathrooms come with plenty of shelves and there is one other place to store things — under the bed.

Ship beds are on a metal frame that sits up about 18 inches from the ground. This is the perfect spot to store an empty suitcase so that it’s out of the way and doesn’t take up precious space in the closet.

TV Channels Are Very Limited

Cabin television on a NCL cruise
It’s a good thing there’s a lot of other things going on around the ship because TV watching is limited. If you want to watch something, you’ll need to stream it.

Any cruise you sail will have a television in the room. Depending the ship, it can have all sorts of technology integrated, with some offering the chance to review your onboard account, watch on-demand movies, see maps of where the ship is located, and more.

The basic function of being a television, however, can leave a lot to be desired. Cruise ship TVs — no matter the line — are known for having very limited options. There are usually only a couple of dozen channels available and many of those are related to the cruise itself, from showing the view from cameras around the ship to promotional channels showcasing destinations.

In total there are often only a handful of traditional stations, including a couple of news options, an international ESPN feed, some channels like HGTV and maybe a movie channel or two.

If you want something to watch, it’s a good idea to download shows before the cruise or stream if you have a wi-fi package.

Someone Slept in Your Bed Just Hours Before

Your room is your room for the cruise. But just hours before you arrived, and just hours after your leave, someone else is in your place.

It’s a bit strange to think that when you walk into your cabin on the first day of your vacation there was someone sleeping in that bed just that morning. Still, that’s just like with any other hotel or resort, so it makes sense.

Of course, everything is cleaned and washed before you settle in, but it’s still just something that most people don’t think about.

Yes, You Can Bring in Food or Drinks

Eating and drinking is a major part of a cruise. There’s always a spot to grab something to eat, and drinks — ranging from coffee in the morning to cocktails at midnight — flow freely.

Of course, sometimes you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the ship and have a cocktail on the balcony or a snack in the cabin.

In that case, you should know that it is perfectly acceptable to eat and drink in your room. You might think it would be discouraged due to the potential for spills, but that’s not the case. In fact, there’s room service available if you don’t feel like venturing out.

So feel free to drink up or chow down and you can definitely bring food out of the buffet and into your room.

The Room Fridge Doesn’t Get Cold

Your cruise cabin will have its own small “dorm room” style fridge. On some lines this includes a mini-bar and on others, it’s just an empty spot to keep things cool.

Notice that we said cool and not cold. These fridges aren’t going to freeze anything and they won’t even get things that cold. They are more for just keeping small items chilled cooler than room temperature (there may even be a sign on the box saying as much).

If you need to keep something colder, ask your room steward for some ice.

Older Cabins = Limited Plug Space

Packing an outlet adapter is a good idea. Normally ships only have one or two plugs, although newer ships are better. This simple device offers three plugs (one on each face) where only one is available.

The good news is that newer cruise ships are getting better about having more plug outlets in the room, including many having spots for USB where you can charge a phone or tablet.

If you’re sailing an older ship (generally more than 10 years old), then be prepared for limited outlet space, including in some cases just one or two spots to plug in all your electronics.

In that case, you’ll want to bring an outlet adapter that plugs into one spot and provides multiple spots. Just be sure not to bring one with a surge protector as those aren’t allowed on cruise ships due to interfering with the electrical system.

Beware the Wind Tunnel Balcony

Anyone that’s sailed in a cruise cabin with a balcony has made the mistake of creating a wind tunnel effect through their room.

Here’s the deal, if your balcony door is open, then there might be a gentle breeze and some fresh air in the cabin. But when you have the balcony open and open the cabin door, then the pressure difference creates a jet stream through the cabin.

It’s nothing that will knock you down, but loose papers or small items might get blown around and it can slam doors shut if they aren’t propped open. Truth be told, this is likely to happen to you at one point or another during the cruise, just don’t be surprised.

Unlikely to Use the Balcony Much

Your balcony is nice, but if we’re honest, the amount of time spent here is actually fairly limited.

Speaking of balconies, there’s no arguing that having your own little private balcony space is nice and well worth the extra cost if sailing a longer cruise. We typically suggest them on trips of longer than five days as the longer trip gives you more of an opportunity to enjoy it.

What might surprise you, however, is that most people go on their balcony only a limited amount of time. Take a look at any cruise ship that’s coming into or leaving port (a great time to be taking in the sights), and you’ll notice that actually very few balconies are being used.

In our experience, we might go out on the balcony several times a day, but usually only for a few minutes to take in the view or maybe to have a drink. But for the vast majority of people, the idea that you’ll be spending hours out there isn’t accurate. It’s still nice to have, but likely will be used less than you think.

That Thermostat May Not Work

One thing you may not know about your cabin is something that, frankly, we’re not 100% sure if it’s true or not, but based on our personal experience, we think it is.

Every cabin you sail will have a thermostat allowing you to adjust the temperature in the room. What we’ve found is that on newer ships, you can generally change the thermostat and then hear the air kick on. On older ships, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

We’ve cranked the air down on older ships only to come into the room in the middle of the day and have it be warm. Other times, we don’t mess with the thermostat at all, but it’s freezing in the cabin. Our impression is that the air is controlled enmasse on the older ships, but we have yet to confirm.

Handy Tip: Dual Switches for Lights

One unique feature of cruise ship cabins is pretty handy if you know how to use it. In your cabin you’ll have a number of light switches around the room, usually with most located by the door as you enter. These control different lights in the stateroom. But what you’ll find is that there are usually switches by the bed as well.

These bedside switches will often control a lamp by the bed but also give you the ability to turn on more lights without having to get up. So you can have the lights on, jump in bed and turn them off without having to get up again. You can also light up the cabin in the morning without needing to get out from under the covers.

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  1. Not all staterooms are made of metal. Our last cruise on Holland America, Zaandam, the walls of our inside stateroom were not metal. We were only able to use our magnets on the stateroom door and the door frame to the bathroom.


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