What I Wish I Knew About My Cruise Cabin Before I Sailed

Your cruise cabin may not be much in terms of size, but it’s your own personal sanctuary on the ship. It’s 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.

But there are some things that you definitely don’t know about your room that can make your stay more comfortable, are fascinating, or are simply nice to know. Any cruise passenger will wish they knew these things before they sail…

Cruise Cabins Are Built to Be Low Maintenance

Apart from furniture and carpets, everything else in the room is designed to be low-maintenance and easy to clean with wipeable surfaces.

Something that you likely wouldn’t notice about the cabin unless it’s pointed out to you? Cruise cabins are designed to be extraordinarily low maintenance.

Any homeowner knows that pain that comes with keeping your house looking good. No imagine that on a cruise ship with thousands of people and luggage. Within weeks the place would be a wreck.

That’s why there’s no paint in a cruise cabin. Painted surfaces get scuffed easily and paint also has issues with moisture. Instead, the walls and ceiling are actually made of metal, as are the doors. All the surfaces except the carpet and furniture are wipeable. Light fixtures are all low profile or recessed. The entire bathroom in many cases could flood and it wouldn’t be an issue unless the water made its way to the carpet.

Next time you’re in the room, appreciate the thought that went into making the cabin withstand constant use with hardly any maintenance.

There Are More Sleeping Spots Than Your Realize

Many cabins are designed for three or four passengers, with two on the bed and spots like this convertible couch that also doubles as a sleeping area.

Walk into your cabin, and you may be struck by the fact that it’s not that big. Plenty of space for a couple, but more people would make it tight. However, in reality, just about all cabins are made to sleep at least three passengers, with some sleeping more.

But with only one bed, where does everyone sleep? It’s a bit of hide and seek that most people don’t realize.

First, the bed is designed to sleep two. But then the spots for more passengers are more hidden. On many ships the cushions for the couch are removed and it becomes a bed. The room steward will put on sheets and blankets in the evening.

In other rooms, there might be beds that drop down from the ceiling but then tuck away to offer more space during the day.

There’s a Whole Other World of Cabins

On the same ship are high-end cabins that look nothing like the traditional staterooms.

I don’t want to make light of your cabin. Sure, it’s nice. It’s just that you may not realize how some other folks on the same exact ship are living.

There’s big money in high-end cabins. While you might pay $2,000 for a balcony room, a suite that’s about double the size could go for $10,000.

And let me tell you — having toured them, they are insanely nice. Often they have views to die for. They can have literal bedrooms, jacuzzi tubs in the bathroom, and hot tubs on the balcony. They come with a lot of perks like drink packages, wi-fi, specialty dining and more.

But don’t feel too bad. Sure these rooms may be nicer, but they also come with a whopping price tag. You could often sail multiple times in a regular cabin before you reach the price of taking a cruise in one of these rooms.

Your Bed Separates (or Joins!)

Zipper on a cruise ship bed
Cruise ship beds are actually two mattresses that are zipped together to make a larger sleeping space.

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.

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. 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.

Do yourself a favor though. Test these out before you use them first thing in the morning. I’ve hit the switch trying to just get a little light and been blinded by turning on every light in the room.

TV Channels Are Very Limited

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 cruise 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

Cabin on Carnival Radiance
Literally hours before you arrive and just hours after you leave, someone else is in your room.

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. I’m talking literally hours earlier. 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 I 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

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.

You’re Unlikely to Use the Balcony Much

Ships railing
Balcony cabins are nice, but honestly you’re unlikely to spend that much time on them during your cruise.

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. I 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 my experience, I 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. 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.

Beware the Wind Tunnel Balcony

Speaking of 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.

That Thermostat May Not Work

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

Every cabin you sail will have a thermostat allowing you to adjust the temperature in the room. What I’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.

I’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, I don’t mess with the thermostat at all, but it’s freezing in the cabin. My impression is that the air is controlled en masse on the older ships, but I have yet to confirm.

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