With well over 400,000 followers on Cruise Fever’s social media accounts, we hear from a lot of cruisers.
One of the biggest issues we hear about is the cruise cabin booking process. The location, type, and payment/bidding methods still cause some confusion for first-timers.
Cruise ships are full again, and more people are interested in cruising than ever before. And while modern cruise ships are full of amazing technology and amenities, not every cruise cabin is created equal.
In fact, the marketing jargon for cruise cabin upgrades, bidding, and automatic upgrades can be confusing. It’s not always as straightforward to find the right cabin at the right price.
When booking a specific cruise cabin, many first-time cruisers are making the same mistakes. They often don’t fully understanding the meaning of terms like “guaranteed cabin” or “single supplement”.
Here are the biggest mistakes that experienced cruisers are avoiding when it comes to booking a cruise cabin.
1. Booking Those “Guaranteed Fares”
The concept of a guaranteed fare on a cruise ship is certainly alluring. You can score the lowest deal on a cabin category that’s a step above standard.
I usually recommend a guaranteed fare if the budget is the biggest priority. But this option can also lead to the biggest disappointments.
When you select a “guaranteed fare” you are allowing the cruise line to pick the cabin for you. In exchange you are getting that lower rate. But this also means you’re getting the least desirable cabin in that category.
These are the “leftovers” if you will.
After all of the best locations are selected by other cruisers, “guaranteed fare” cabins are what’s left.
Experienced cruisers know how important the cabin location is to a great cruise. Extra noise from nightclubs or lounges can carry late into the night. If you’re not looking to stay up well after 1am this could be an issue.
Easy and convenient access to nearby amenities near your cruise cabin can make a big difference too.
Noisy or tucked away locations are avoided by those picking out their own cabin. This means they are the only ones left for those selecting the “guaranteed fare”.
Cruise lines love to sell these “guaranteed fare” cabins. It encourages potential cruisers to “upgrade” to a new category at a discounted rate. It allows for these poorer locations to be filled.
Cabin location is more important than you might think. On my last cruise one of the other passengers commented on how he couldn’t sleep because of the loud music from a nearby nightbclub. But from my cabin I never heard a thing, and I’m a fairly light sleeper.
Instead of going for the “guaranteed fare” option you can use a cruise fare price tracker. This will let you book the exact cabin you want for a price that’s often even cheaper.
2. Automatically Taking that Cabin Upgrade
A cabin upgrade always sounds better, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to have a more exclusive experience in a more spacious or luxurious cruise cabin?
But there are always a few things to watch out for or ask before accepting that upgrade.
First of all, an upgrade usually also requires you give up your power to choose the cabin location. So, this goes back to the last point. You might have a better cabin but in a location you would have wanted to avoid.
Also, an upgrade may have some “hidden” costs that aren’t always so obvious. Things like extra fees and higher gratuities could add to the bottom line. With an upgrade from a regular cabin to a suite you will have higher gratuities to pay for those luxuries.
On some mainstream cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean an upgrade from a standard stateroom to a suite will be an extra $3 or $4 per person per day.
If you have two or more cabins booked in your group you should also note that you may end up on opposite ends of the ship if you’re upgraded. So, if you booked two cabins next to each other you may want to avoid the auto-upgrade. That is, if you want to keep your family or group together.
Before you take that upgrade automatically, make sure it checks all of your boxes first.
3. Overbidding on Upgrades
This is an easy trap to fall into. Some cruisers will end up overbidding for an upgrade in hopes of scoring a good deal. But they could have just booked the upgraded cabin and skipped all of the stress that goes with hoping it will be accepted.
If you bid on an upgraded cabin you could have to wait until a few days before the cruise to find out if it will be accepted or not. Some bids are accepted quickly. But there’s no guarantee that you won’t be stuck in the waiting game for months leading up to your cruise.
I know some that have bragged about getting incredible deals when bidding on upgrades, but there’s something important to remember. Whether those bids get accepted or not all depends on demand.
When demand for cruises is high, like it is right now, those bids tend to get rejected or keep you in the waiting loop.
Bids in the off peak cruise season have a better chance of getting accepted.
As a reminder, bidding is based on double occupancy, so if you bid $500, you are actually committing $1,000 towards the potential cabin upgrade.
Cruise lines like to entice people to upgrade their cabins because it opens up the lower tier cabins that are cheaper and easier to sell. Their goal is to fill up the ship, so just make sure the upgrade is really worth it to you.
Often the bidding prices are almost equal to the amount you would spend if you just booked the next tier outright. This causes some cruisers to overbid to make sure they “win” this cruise cabin auction.
4. Forgetting to Track Prices After Booking
As I already mentioned, tracking a cruise price is something you should just get used to doing if you want to get the most for your cruise money.
I go into greater detail on this point on a recent article on cruise price tracking, but essentially you can set up an automatic alert system, and if you see the price drop you can either contact the cruise line to see if they will match the lower deal.
Sometimes it could make sense to simply rebook.
Each cruise line is different in how they handle price drops, and if you haven’t made final payment you usually have a little more flexibility. You can often get on board credit or even a free cabin upgrade in some cases.
You can set up these alerts for free, and the worse that can happen is the cruise line says no. I use price alerts before I book and after I book.
5. Selecting Interconnecting Adjoining Cabins
Always study a cruise ship’s deck plans before picking out a cabin. One of the things I like to avoid is a cabin with interconnecting doors to the cabin next to me.
While these cabins are great for families wanting to stay connected, I don’t care to be that “connected” to a total stranger.
While the doors are usually pretty “beefy” the noise can still creep around the edges of both doors, and the difference is certainly noticeable.
If you have a quiet cruise neighbor it might not matter much, but any kind of TV noise or extra shuffling around in the morning can disturb the peace and quiet in your cabin.
Related: 10 worst cabins on a cruise ship
6. Assuming Solo Cabins Are Cheaper
More cruise lines are starting to offer solo cruise cabins. Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line spearheading the initial idea of a cruise traveler being able to book a cabin without the single supplement fee, others are starting to add these cabins as well.
But remember, cruise cabin prices are dynamically priced, and as demand for these solo cabins goes up, so do prices. While you don’t have to pay for the second cruiser in the cabin, the total cost for the cabin can be more expensive than booking a regular cabin on the same ship.
We’ve seen this happen before. Sometimes the cost of an ocean view or inside cabin will still be cheaper than a solo cruise cabin. And it’s all based on demand for these staterooms.
If you plan on taking a cruise by yourself, don’t assume the solo cabins will be your cheapest option.
7. Assuming Last-minute Cabin Availability
Veteran cruisers know that last-minute cruises can offer some amazing deals for the more flexible and whimsical travelers. They also know that cabin availability is an issue.
Remember what I said about “cabin leftovers” above? Most of the good cabins in great locations will have been taken by the time a cruise is in its final days before embarkation.
Many newbie cruisers will read about the great last-minute deals people are getting on cruises but then not realize they can’t be too picky about what cabin they end up with.
If you just want to be on the ship and don’t care where you end up, by all means book those last-minute deals.
Avoid these cruise cabin booking mistakes and you’ll have a much better cruise experience. The cabin type and location play such a crucial role, so don’t overlook it.
Many people say, “I’m only going to be sleeping in my cabin so I don’t care where it is or what it feels like.” And while I love this attitude, I’ve heard too many regret their cabin selection process and wish they could do it over again.