Getting a shipboard cabin 'with a view' can often make a world of a difference

January 03, 1993|By Cheryl Blackerby | Cheryl Blackerby,Cox News Service

In cruise line brochures, ship cabins always look like luxury hotel suites.

A glamorous couple in tuxedo and evening gown are shown drinking champagne with a half-dozen new cruise buddies in a living room bigger than in some condominiums.

Adjacent to the living room you can see a king-sized bed with an easy chair or two. And in the background are huge windows offering 180-degree views of the sea.

In real life, of course, you'll get the cabin with no windows, no living room, not even a chair unless you're lucky -- just two bunk beds, a reading light and a shower stall big enough for a very skinny person. Watch your elbows.

The difference between the luxury suite and the closet-sized cabin is generally about $1,000, sometimes as much as $2,000 for "penthouses," on a seven-day cruise. Most people would rather hang on to the money than have the luxury of a sofa and picture windows for a week.

I'm one of those people who asks for the cheapest cabin, mainly because I'm traveling for a newspaper and my editor doesn't care whether I have windows and a sofa.

But I actually got one of those fantasy cabins recently, only because the ship wasn't full and the important-looking man standing in line in front of me at the reception desk asked for an upgrade and got it. And since I happened to overhear the conversation, they gave me an upgrade, too.

The spacious living room was great, but to tell you the truth I never invited my new cruise friends over for champagne. I don't think I even sat on the sofa because I just came in to sleep and change clothes.

The windows, though, were wonderful. I could watch the passing parade of ships and the mesmerizing changing light and weather without having to go on deck.

Which brings me to a question asked by a lot of people contemplating a cruise: Are expensive cabins worth the money?

I would say no to the suite unless you are traveling with children and need the space.

But there is a big difference between inside cabins and outside cabins. And on this point, I would encourage people to spend the extra $150 to $500 (generally the difference on a seven-day cruise) for an outside cabin so you will have a window.

Even if the cabin only has a porthole, it gives the journey another dimension. You can watch the sun come up over the ocean and see land as the ship glides into port without having to go on deck or to a public room.

Also, experts say, and I can personally vouch for this, that a window helps alleviate seasickness. If you're prone to motion sickness, the extra $150 for a window might be worth every penny.

I'm reminded of a closet-sized cabin I had on the Cunard Princess, a nice ship with an exciting Mediterranean itinerary. If we had had decent weather, the tiny cabin would have been fine. But we sailed into a storm and since it was impossible to go out on deck because of the wind and rain, I was trapped in my cave with no window for several days.

The lone picture on the wall swung left and right like a metronome with the ship's rocking and the small space got smaller by the minute. I went to every shipboard activity just to get out of the room.

A porthole would have changed everything.

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