In the early days of cruising, your cabin choices were limited to inside, outside or – on a really fancy ship – a balcony. Not anymore. Now there can be more than 30 cabin types available on a single ship, catering for singles, couples or families and ranging from budget-friendly basic to over the top designer penthouses. They are loaded with the latest high-tech features to make for seriously smooth sailing. But with a lexicon of terms that only the cognoscenti can understand, make sure you look at the dimensions and layout online before deciding. These are some of the latest and greatest cabin innovations to look out for on your next cruise.
By definition, an inside cabin means no windows. This can be great for sleeping but not so great if you enjoy watching the ocean go by. Enter the virtual balcony, introduced on a number of ships across Royal Caribbean’s fleet in recent years. These huge screens are more than two metres tall with 4K resolution and broadcast a live feed from cameras set up outside the ship that relay the footage in real time. Now, if only they could pump in that fresh sea breeze…
You won’t need a virtual balcony on the rivers. New river ships have panoramic, floor to ceiling windows that open (either by sliding back or dropping down) to transform the entire cabin into one indoor/outdoor space. The new design makes the most of the space and means it’s useable in all weather. Look out for these on APT, Avalon Waterways, Evergreen and Scenic ships.
As with most types of travel, singles generally have to fork out double or be willing to sleep in a broom cupboard. But cruise lines are starting to take notice of solo travellers and creating small but stylish spaces for them. Norwegian Escape is launching in October with 82 studios in a keycard-access area with a private lounge. P&O’s new Britannia has 27 solo cabins, including 15 with balconies. Cunard’s Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth liners have been retrofitted with single staterooms and the flagship Queen Mary 2 will get the same treatment early next year. Royal Caribbean’s mammoth Quantum class ships all have 28 single cabins (around half with balconies and the rest with virtual balconies) and Holland America’s Koningsdam, launching in 2016, will have 12 ocean view single cabins that are some of the most spacious on the seas.
Cruising is hugely popular with multigenerational families and these groups want more space, flexible layouts and a little privacy. Clever cabin design allows for more beds, curtained off living areas, extra bathrooms and plenty of storage space for a reasonable price. All the lines will have some variation of adjoining cabins that work for families, but Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises are stand-outs.
At the top end of town, cruise lines are going all out to create the most lavish and luxurious suites and penthouses for their premium passengers. They feature sprawling floor plans, multiple bathrooms, walk in wardrobes, gyms, libraries, media rooms, hot tubs, private gardens and, of course, the baby grand piano. Passengers living the suite life will also have 24-hour butler service and access to a host of special extras reserved just for them.
Plush cabins are now going up instead of out with the introduction of duplex suites. Found on Cunard and Royal Caribbean ships, the suites will have a bedroom and bathroom upstairs with the dining and living areas (and another bathroom or two) downstairs. Two levels also means two balconies plus huge windows for sweeping ocean views.