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Showing posts with label Staterooms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Staterooms. Show all posts

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Stateroom Selection

Cruise Ship Stateroom Selection OR How to Find the Smoothest Ride and Figuring Out Pricing

When trying to make a determination as to where to stay onboard a cruise ship, there are two main considerations to make – what kind of stateroom (the category) that you would like, and where the stateroom is located on the ship.  Both of these factors come in to play when looking to find the best price and the overall smoothness of the ride throughout your voyage.  In order to fully examine finding the best price and the smoothness factor, first we must look at the four basic types of staterooms found on nearly all cruise ships. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream: Inside Stateroom
  • Inside – Inside staterooms are typically found on the inner side of the hallways, across from the outside of the ship. Inside staterooms tend to be the least expensive category onboard as they will be pitch black when you shut the door and turn out the lights as they do not have any windows, or any way to see the outside world at all.  Most modern ships offer them, but there aren’t as many onboard as there once were, as many ships utilize the majority of that space for crew space or other needs such as Kids Clubs, Business Facilities such as Conference Rooms, guest laundry spaces or other functions.  There is one line, however, who offers Inside Staterooms WITH a view to the outside world.  With the introduction of the Disney Dream in 2011 and the Disney Fantasy in 2012, Disney Cruise Line introduced the innovative “virtual portholes” to its inside staterooms.  These “windows” are actually round video screens that look like porthole windows, and feature a live feed from cameras facing out from the sides of the ship.  These staterooms, while still the most inexpensive onboard, have quickly become the most popular too on Disney Cruise Line. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream:  Oceanview Stateroom
  • Outside or Oceanview – Outside staterooms are called "Outside” or “Oceanview" because they have windows where you can see outside to the ocean, but the windows do not open. The windows are typically very heavy glass portholes closer to the surface of the water, often on decks 2 and 3.  The windows themselves are designed to be almost as strong as the hull itself, and usually have heavy steel covers that can be closed and tightly screwed down in case of very strong weather conditions. Some Outside or Oceanview rooms will offer just one porthole, others offer two, and still others might offer one large porthole that might be the equivalent size of three in one.  Each line designs their ships differently, so we cannot make blanket statements that cover them all, since that’s just not possible. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream:   Oceanview with Verandah Stateroom
  • Balcony – Balcony staterooms have a verandah, or balcony, with a door that opens.  On the balcony, guests will find deck chairs, often a small table and a strong railing that must be at least 42 inches high.  Balconies vary in size, as well as the separation device between them.  Some offer a full wall for a higher degree of privacy in between neighboring rooms, while others offer less than a full wall.  
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream: One-Bedroom Suite
  • Suites – Suites are extra-large staterooms, but it is a mistake to assume that all suites offer a separate bedroom space, because many do not.  Keep in mind that cruise staterooms are not hotel rooms in the same manner as on land, and are never as large as a traditional hotel room.  Suites are the closest approximation, however. There are "Junior” or “Mini-Suites," "Family Suites," as well as "Owner's Suites" and “Penthouse Suites” and so many other name variations specific to each cruise line.  The overall look and feel varies by cruise line, but most of them have bathtubs, mini refrigerators, extra closet space and larger seating areas. Some include whirlpool tubs, or dining areas, or are even multi-level with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. 

When looking at the various ships in each cruise line’s fleet, it can be said that the newest ships tend to have far more balcony cabins than the older ships do.  Simply stated, this is because balcony cabins are the most popular category across all lines.  Nearly 80% of the staterooms on the newest ships (within the past five years) offer a balcony; some luxury ships are 100% balcony staterooms.

When looking to see what location to secure a stateroom in onboard the ship, the location and category not only affect the price that you’ll pay, but also how smooth your voyage might be.  When it comes to location, the smoothest ride is going to be experienced in the mid-section of the ship, or "mid-ship,” located about half-way between the front (forward) and the back (aft).  To understand why the smoothest ride is at mid-ship, think of your childhood and playing on the equipment at the playground, specifically the teeter-totters, and the up and down motion that they make.  A ship acts very much like a teeter-totter as it glides through the ocean’s waters.  The middle of the ship is essentially the axis for the entire ship, as it goes up and down, called “pitching”, which refers to the front of the ship moving up while the back moves down. Good captains will face their ship into the waves because it is less dangerous than taking a large wave from the side, so pitch is more common than “rolling”, which refers to the motion moving from side to side, which happens when a ship takes waves from the side versus the front.  Still imagining that teeter-totter, the ship’s fulcrum is the water line.  The closer to the water line, in the mid-ship section, the less motion is felt, while more motion is felt in the forward and the aft.  So, the “best” stateroom location for movement purposes is on a lower deck in the mid-ship. Of course the size of the individual ship comes into play as well, with the larger ships pitching and rolling a lot less than smaller ships do, as the smaller ships are more prone to respond to every wave than the larger ships.

The pitching and rolling effect experienced during your voyage is what may cause trouble for you, if you are prone to sea sickness.  The rougher the seas, the more difference it can make.  If you ARE prone to sea sickness, do anything you can to stay away from the forward staterooms, as this section will experience the most nauseating motion, thanks to that teeter-totter affect.  Aft staterooms also can experience some of it as well, though nowhere as much as the forward. 

Now that you’ve considered the various stateroom categories, and the locations of the ship, why are some stateroom sub-categories higher than others, price wise?  Each basic category is often broken down even further into sub-categories, which can have very different price points just within the main category.  And pricing all comes down a couple of primary factors:  location on the ship, and supply and demand. 

·         Many categories might be available on multiple decks, while some might only be available on specific decks.  Within those category sub-sets, location onboard comes into play as well.  Oftentimes the lower priced staterooms within a category sub-set might be in the highest “traffic” areas, or be balcony rooms with an “obstructed” view (either obstructed by lifeboats, of structural aspects of the ship itself or something else).

·         As individual categories sell out, the price for remaining stateroom inventory within a specific category or sub-category goes up, and once inventory at specific price-points is gone, it’s gone.  So be warned if you are looking to cruise in the future and you want a specific stateroom category (or even a specific stateroom), book early as the closer you get to the sailing date, the less likely you are to be able to secure exactly what you want. The old adage “the early bird gets the worm” certainly applies in the cruise industry as well, of course, here it’s the “the early booking gets the prime locations and prices.”  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Cabins

All cabins are created the same, right?  Not so fast, world traveler.  Experienced cruisers have learned a few secrets about determining the best stateroom choices.  It’s true that most  contemporary and premium class ships being built today offer “cookie cutter” cabins that are very similar in dimension and layout.  But even if they all appear to be the same according to the deck plan, there are some things you can do to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.  The prime consideration is location, location, location.

Carefully view the deck plan to check for elevator, lobbies, and high traffic areas like buffet entrances.  Staterooms in this area can be a little more lively (read noisy) than others.  And also take note if the cabin is under an active public area.  A few years ago, I was in a beautiful balcony cabin that was directly beneath an upper outside deck storage locker.  Every morning, my traveling mate and I were summoned from our dream-filled sleep not by the sound of gentle waves slapping against the hull but by not-so-gentle deck hands dragging things on their “floor” which also happened to be our ceiling.

You can do a lot of this research yourself, but here’s a hint.  Your cruise specialist likely knows a lot of these tricks of the trade and can assist you in the search for that perfect hideaway.  Of course, if you are an early riser and long for the old military style wake up call, then my former balcony stateroom is probably available!