Choosing A Family Stateroom
Frugal travelers often recommend the least expensive cabin possible. Since they aren’t planning to do anything but sleep in their cabins, they figure everything else about the cruise is available to them regardless of where they bunk.
That strategy may still work for some, but the obvious exceptions would be families — families who need more berths, bigger bathrooms, extra storage and, perhaps most essential for parental sanity, more space and quiet.
Many of the ships that have come on line during the last decade, and especially those that cater to families, have staterooms that comfortably sleep three, four and sometimes five people.
And as cruising is an increasingly popular family vacation, more and more new ships offer “family accommodations,” although these certainly do vary from line to line and even from ship to ship. These are often suites with a separate room for the kids, sometimes a small alcove with bunk beds, sometimes an entire adjoining cabin. Choosing the one that’s right for your needs depends on the size of your family, the amount you want to spend and the ship you are choosing for your vacation.
Just five or 10 years ago, the cruise lines were inviting families aboard, but they really weren’t prepared to accommodate them if they had more than two children, preferably small ones. But that’s been changing as the cruise lines have been building more cabins with more berths.
Disney’s two ships, the Wonder and the Magic, feature family staterooms that can sleep up to five; suites that sleep up to seven; and connecting staterooms. And all Disney staterooms have split bathrooms — one room has a toilet and a sink, and the other has a tub/shower and a sink — which makes sharing a little less stressful.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas features loft suites and a slew of other family friendly accommodations.
Third- and fourth-berth rates vary by line as well as by the age of the children, but you often pay less by sharing a stateroom with your kids.
If the budget allows, opt for a balcony stateroom for the parents and an inside cabin across the hall for the kids. The stateroom with the balcony serves as group headquarters where everyone can enjoy the view, and the inside cabin provides the needed extra beds and storage space. While third and fourth passengers in a single, larger cabin often pay lower rates, the two-cabin strategy affords more space, keeps the natural bickering of siblings from driving the adults crazy and provides a quiet nap space in one cabin or the other, as needed. Families that have cruised in two cabins frequently say the extra cost was more than justified by the extra comfort and space, including a second full bathroom. If the balcony stateroom kills the budget, two adjoining inside cabins are the least expensive way to go for a family of five or more.
Some ships have even more options for larger families. Royal Caribbean’s newest ships have a variety of staterooms to fit larger families. Family staterooms on Voyager and Radiance-class ships and some Vision-class ships can accommodate up to six people, but with only one bathroom. Larger, family suites on the same ships sleep eight with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area. On the new Freedom-class ships, the selection of staterooms and suites is even more commodious, including one suite that sleeps 14. Royal Caribbean’s new ships also have inside family staterooms that will sleep six.