21+ Best Cruise Cabin Tips, Secrets, & Things to Know (Read Before Sailing)

When you are on the ship, your cruise cabin is your home away from home. It’s a place for you to relax, take in a beautiful view (assuming you have a balcony), and generally enjoy yourself. It’s not just where you sleep; it’s your refuge away from the rest of the ship.

cruise cabin tips and things to know

But cabins on the ship have some unique characteristics that make them unique from any other place you might stay, such as a hotel room or an AirBnB.

Because of the small size of cruise rooms and the fact that you are literally on a floating hotel, things a little different than you might be used to… and you need to know how before you sail. There are also small things you can do that make your experience much better and more comfortable.

To get you prepared, here are more than 20 tips, tricks, and things to know for your cabin before you get on the cruise ship.

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Save Money With Interior Rooms on Short Trips (Splurge for Nicer Cabins on Longer Cruises)

Interior cabin on NCL ship
Interior cabins can be tight quarters, but are fine for a few days. We’d prefer bigger/nicer cabins such as balconies for trips of five days or more.

Cruises come in all sorts of lengths, but two of the popular lengths are those that are short (around 3-5 days) and then trips that are a full week. If you’re not sure whether to spend more and get the balcony or suite, or to spend less and go with an interior room, we have a suggestion.

On shorter trips of less than five days, we say save the money and go with the lower-priced cabin. When you’re on the ship for just a few days, you’ll likely spend more time out and about, including by the pool and in port. So having an interior cabin isn’t a big deal and can save you money.

But on longer trips, it’s a good idea to splurge and get a nicer room. In this case, having a balcony will offer a sanctuary for when you need some time to recharge or just have some downtime on a longer cruise.

Don’t Eat Smelly Food in the Room (Especially Interior Cabins!)

Want to dine away from crowds? You can order room service on the ship or simply grab a dish from the buffet and take it back to your room. It’s a great way to dine without having a lot of other people around. Before you do, however, consider what you are eating.

In interior or oceanview cabins, there is no way to get fresh air into the room. That means any food you bring in will have a lingering smell. A piece of chocolate cake? Who wouldn’t want the room smelling like that? But a plate of eggs? You could be reminded of that meal well after you’ve eaten it.

This isn’t as big an issue with balcony cabins or suites as they have access to fresh air, but be aware of it in other rooms.

Be Careful of the “Wind Tunnel” Effect in Balcony Cabins

Balcony door open
An open balcony door can create a wind tunnel when you open the front door of the cabin.

If you have a balcony cabin, one of the big benefits is having access to fresh air. Many people choose to leave the door open to let in a breeze, hear the ocean, and generally enjoy the sea.

If you do this, you need to be aware of the wind tunnel that can be created should you open the balcony door and the front door of the cabin at the same time. If conditions are right, instantly a huge gust can move through the room, creating all sorts of chaos, blowing things off tables, and potentially slamming doors closed with the wind.

Instead, just have one door at a time and you don’t have to worry about anything.

Don’t Hang Things to Dry on the Balcony

On a cruise you’re going to have wet clothes and wet towels. The tempting thing to do is to hang them out on the balcony to let them dry versus hanging them in the cabin. But you’ll be warned against hanging clothes on the balcony, and it’s not a good idea anyway.

It can get breezy on the ship, especially if the ship is underway. All it takes is one gust of wind and your towels and swimsuits are taking a ride down to the ocean, never to be seen again.

Instead, cabins come with a small clothesline in the bathroom or you can bring magnetic hooks to dry things (see below). If you have wet pool towels, you can exchange them out for dry one at the pool deck.

Ordering Water for the Room is a Smart Idea

Many cruise lines will let you bring on non-alcoholic drinks. But there are often rules about packaging (for example, Carnival allows cans and cartons, but not bottles) and you have to deal with lugging those items around.

For that reason, we recommend simply ordering a small case of water for the cabin. Getting a drink of water on the ship can be tricky. You have to go to a bar or the buffet, or drink out of the bathroom tap, which just seems wrong. Instead, if you order a case of water, it will be there waiting for you in the room and you don’t have to go far to get a drink.

Bring a Few Magnetic Hooks for the Cabin

You might not realize it, but the ceiling of your cabin is made of metal. That’s nothing to write home about, but it can come in handy. If you bring some magnetic hooks (you can find them for cheap on Amazon), then they are perfect for hanging items in the room.

Where this can be especially helpful is hanging clothes to dry. As mentioned, you shouldn’t hang them on the balcony. And while there is a small clothesline in the bathroom, it is usually only large enough for a towel or a couple of swimsuits.

With these hooks, you can stick them to the ceiling and have another spot to hang items to dry.

Our Favorite Cabin Location? Upper Decks… Here’s Why

One tip for selecting your cabin is to look at the upper decks. We think it’s the most convenient location to sail.

The way that cruise ships are designed, there is usually an inner public area in the middle of the ship, with things like the casino, shops, restaurants, and more. This area is normally around decks 6-8.

Then there are the pool and outdoor decks at the top of the ship (these deck numbers vary widely based on the number of levels on the ship).

Getting a cabin between these two areas is ideal. Given that they are the two spots where you’ll spend the most time, it makes sense to be between them. That way you can take the stairs (much faster than the elevator) or simply don’t have to go as far to get to the fun.

Consider Hallway Noise When Selecting a Cabin Location

Cabin hallway on a cruise ship
Hallways can go on forever. Spots at the end see less foot traffic and less noise.

Cruise cabins are fairly well insulated to where you don’t hear much from the adjoining rooms (within reason). The same can’t be said for the doors. When people pass through the hallway outside the cabin door, you can hear them well. That’s not a big deal most of the time, but if it’s 2 a.m. and a loud group is coming back from the bar, that can definitely wake you up.

That’s why we try to find rooms toward the end of the hall instead of in the middle of the ship. In these locations there is much less foot traffic, meaning less of a chance of passersby in the hallway disturbing the peace and quiet of your room.

Cabin Beds Separate (or Join!) for Your Convenience

The bed in your cabin can be joined to form a queen, or separated to make two twin beds.

Staying in a room as a couple? Then you’ll want a single large bed in the cabin. But if you are cruising with a friend, you likely don’t want to actually sleep in the same bed.

When you check-in online ahead of the cruise, you’ll normally be asked how you want the bed configured. If you arrive and the beds aren’t how you wanted, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to sleep in the same bed as your friend or sleep apart from your spouse. Simply ask the room steward and they can put the beds how you want them. Unlike a hotel room, the beds can adjust based on what you want.

Don’t Expect Much From the Cabin TV

We know that people don’t go on a cruise to watch TV, but when you just want some chill-out time there is little that’s better than hanging out in a cool room watching the tube. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much to watch. TV channels are limited, as you might expect when you are in the middle of the sea.

There are typically a couple of movie channels, some news stations, and a few other things to watch, but most channels are related to the cruise. This includes shopping channels, safety information, and replays of events happening onboard.

Put Your Bags Away on the First Day

Unless you pony up for a huge suite, the first thing you’ll notice about your room is that it’s pretty small. Most are around 160-200 square feet. For a cruise with a couple of people, it’s certainly enough space, but you need to do yourself some favors. The biggest is to unpack your bags and put away your suitcases on the first day.

Cabins have lots of storage space, so you’ll have plenty of room for your things. Putting them away right off the bat means you won’t be tripping over bulky suitcases as you try to get around the room where space is at a premium.

Store Your Suitcases Under the Bed

Cruise cabins are small but they make good use of the space they do have. Case in point is that cruise cabin beds are normally raised up with space underneath them.

This area is perfect for storing empty suitcases. They slide under and are completely out of the way, freeing up floor or closet space where they would otherwise be stored. And you also don’t have to worry about forgetting them because they are out of sight. After all, you’re not going to get off the ship without your suitcase.

Good Luck With the Thermostat

Every cabin you sail with have a thermostat in the room, usually located near the door. In our experience, however, it’s not clear if it works. We’ve had rooms where lowering the thermostat quickly turns on the air, cooling things off. Then we’ve had others where changing the temperature seems to do nothing.

As well, it seems like there are often wild swings in temperature even if you don’t touch the thermostat. Just know sometimes it can be frustrating to get the room comfortable.

Never Smoke in Your Cabin (Even on the Balcony)

Do you smoke or vape? It’s not allowed in your cabin. That also includes the balcony area if you have one. Cruise lines put on big fees if you’re caught smoking in the room. Instead, there are designated smoking areas on the ship if you need to light up.

Not only are cruise lines cautious of keeping the room from smelling like smoke for future guests, but the biggest fear on a cruise ship is fire. You’ll notice that most things that produce heat or flame are prohibited. But in the interest of safety, smoking in your cabin where an accidental fire could be an issue is not allowed.

Be Careful Being Naughty on the Balcony

Ships railing

Cruise ship balconies can be romantic places. Your own little cozy, private spot with a beautiful view, the person you love, and a drink in your hand… it simply doesn’t get much better than that. Of course, that may give you the idea of getting a little frisky with your significant other. Or maybe the sunshine makes you want to lay out and get a suntan all over.

Just know that balconies are private, but not completely private. There are dividers between each, but they leave some gaps between them. Sound can easily travel between two balconies and if someone were to simply lean over, they could get a peek into your area.

If you decide to get a little naughty, maybe wait until later at night when fewer people are out.

Let the Cruise Line Select Your Cabin to Save Money

When you go to a hotel, you usually don’t get to select the room you’re given. On cruise ships, you can select your specific cabin, but just know it can be more expensive that way.

While some people care a lot about where the room is, others simply want to get on the ship. When you book, you’re usually given the option to select a “guarantee” cabin. In this case, you select your room type (interior, balcony, etc.), but the cruise selects the actual spot. In return, you can save a decent chunk of change on the room.

But won’t you just get stuck with a bottom floor room next to the elevator? It’s possible, but in our experience having a poor location has yet to happen.

Scout Out an Alternate Bathroom

Ok, let’s get real for a moment. In the course of a cruise, there may be times when you have to go. Packing some air freshener (or Poo-Pourri) is a good idea, but it doesn’t always do the trick. Having smells linger in an enclosed cabin isn’t the best. As well, what if multiple people in the cabin need to go at once?

That’s why one tip is to scout an out-of-the-way bathroom that can be used during these times. Public bathrooms that are located in lower-trafficked areas are usually empty (look on lower decks at the ends of the ship), providing you some privacy and helps keep your cabin that much more pleasant for everyone.

Be Conscientious of Your Neighbors

On a cruise ship, we’ve already mentioned to you that cabins are small. But they are also packed in tight. There might be hundreds of cabins on a deck, and you can literally have another room on either side of yours, one above, one below, and one about three feet across the hall.

In other words, no matter the time of day or night, there is likely someone nearby trying to nap, getting ready for dinner, or simply just relaxing on their vacation.

That’s why it’s nice to be considerate of your neighbors. Things like stomping in the cabin, playing loud music, or having loud conversations shouldn’t be done. Think of the golden rule — if you wouldn’t want people disturbing you in your room, don’t disturb them.

Every Cabin Comes With a Safe That You Should Use

Your cabin is a secure spot, but there’s no reason to get lax. While you’re out at the pool you might leave your money, passport, or phone behind. Instead of just leaving them out in the open, be sure you use the calbin safe.

Every room you stay in will have a safe — usually located in the closet. Putting valuables in here keeps them more secure so you have less to worry about while you’re out enjoying the ship or in port.

Showers Are TIGHT

For most rooms, the showers are small, so be prepared.

If you feel like a giant in the cruise cabin shower, you aren’t alone. For many rooms, the shower area is just a couple of feet wide. Some are round and you can hit both sides at the same time if you stick your elbows out.

While space is tight, the good news is that shower heads are on flexible hoses so you can take them down to get the water exactly where you need it instead of trying to position yourself just right in a tiny shower. 

Hair Dryers Are Included in the Cabin

Save space when you pack and leave the hair dryer at home. No reason to pack a bulky device and take up precious space in your luggage. Every cabin comes with a hair dryer, but it might not be where you think.

Instead of finding the hair dryer in the cabin bathroom, it’s often in the built-in console that houses the mini-fridge and the television set. To be sure, the hair dryer isn’t super powerful (it’s the typical small one you might find in a hotel) but it’s plenty to get you through your cruise.

Be Ready for the Attendant to Be In Your Room Regularly

Cabin stewards are there to make your stay much more comfortable. They typically come twice a day — once in the late morning and once in the early evening — to straighten the room, change out towels, and provide anything else you might need.

With that in mind, be sure to put away anything you wouldn’t want the room attendant to see. So if you packed something romantic for your cruise or snuck on some alcohol you shouldn’t have brought, you might want to keep it out of sight, unless you like having some awkwardness between everyone.

Pack Three Important Things to Make Your Cabin Experience Better

This compact plug gives you a spot for three devices.

Cruise cabins have everything you need… almost. There are some items we highly suggest you pack to make your life in the cabin more comfortable.

Outlet adapter: Newer ships are better, but many older ships have limited outlet space (sometimes just a single plug). That’s why bringing an outlet adapter is ideal. They plug in one spot and provide multiple outlets for all your electronics. Just be sure to pack one that doesn’t have a surge protector as they aren’t allowed on ships.

Small fan: If staying in a balcony room, you have some access to a breeze, but cruise cabins don’t have ceiling fans. Bringing on a small portable fan can give you some air circulation and also provide white noise while you sleep to drown out any sounds of the ship.

Nightlight: No, we don’t think you’re scared of the dark, but if you are staying in an interior room you might not realize it can be pitch black at night. Even rooms with windows or balconies can be pretty dark with the curtains closed. A small nightlight can make it easier to see for those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.

Bring a Door Decoration (Even a Post-It) to Easily Recognize Your Cabin

Cruise cabins typically line hallways that can stretch the entire length of the ship. For hundreds of feet the décor, carpet, and non-descript doors can seem to simply repeat over and over.

That means finding your cabin can be hard, especially on the first couple of days of the cruise when you are still figuring your way around.

You’ll see many people decorate their doors to help them stand out. If you don’t want to do all that, then just put a bright-colored Post-It note on the door. It will be enough to catch your eye in the sea of blank doors.

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