You've picked your destination and chosen your ship, but now there's another decision to be made, which cabin to go for?
The biggest ships can have over 1,000 cabins in up to 20 different categories, which can make looking at deck plans confusing to say the least. Is it better to be located at the front (bow) of the ship, or at the back (stern)? Should you opt for the lower decks or higher up? How much space will you need? Is having a balcony important, or will a window or porthole do?
Price, of course, is often the deciding factor and choosing a cabin inevitably involves a careful weighing up of benefits against costs.
Start by asking yourself some simple questions. How long are you likely to spend in your cabin? If it's a short cruise, the answer may be not long at all. If, on the other hand, you're going on a longer cruise, travelling with children, planning a romantic escape or simply looking forward to enjoying some peace and quiet in the privacy of your own room, it's worth paying more attention to cabin comforts.
Maybe you want a more spacious seating area, a bath as well as a shower, a large picture window from which to watch those dazzling sunsets, or a balcony on which to sit and feel the sea breeze on your face. The options after the balcony are the Juniour Suite Master, Royal or Owner's suite.
Here you'll find king-size beds, expansive sitting rooms, marble bathrooms, Jacuzzis, spacious balcony areas and, for the ultimate in luxury, the services of a private butler, or perhaps even an invite to spend an evening dining at the Captain's table.
The location of your cabin is also important and will be reflected in the price. The upper decks are undoubtedly the most prestigious, although experienced cruisers will often head lower down on what could be a potentially rougher cruise (like a transatlantic) where the movement of the ship makes itself felt a little less. Right at the bottom, though, and you're in danger of being too far away from other facilities
A cabin by the lift shafts, over the disco or under the jogging track may turn out to be noisy and those at the stern may have a little vibration. All this makes midship a good, safe, option, and explains why this area of the vessel is always highly sought after and booked quickly.
Having said this, suites are often a long way forward or aft. Look for big picture windows forward and a side balcony - sitting on a balcony straight into the wind is no fun at all. Aft cabins and suites are very popular as they often have deeper balconies and a romantic view of the ocean.