Everything you want to know about cabins and suites on Royal Caribbean ships
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Picking a cabin on a Royal Caribbean ship can be a daunting exercise.
For starters, there are an eye-popping number of cabins available on many Royal Caribbean ships. The line is known for operating the world’s biggest cruise vessels — ships so big that some have nearly 3,000 cabins a piece.
But it’s not just the sheer volume of cabins that makes picking a room on a Royal Caribbean ship a challenge. It’s also the number of cabin categories.
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On some Royal Caribbean ships, there are as many as 34 different types of cabins — each a little different from the last.
The backstory here is that Royal Caribbean ships are designed to appeal to a wide demographic, including travelers willing to spend at a wide range of price points. That’s prompted Royal Caribbean to offer a wide mix of cabin types.
The room choices the line offers on its ships range from relatively low-cost, windowless “inside” cabins measuring just 149 square feet (perfect for the budget traveler) to massive, multiroom suites that can be more than 10 times that size.
A Royal Caribbean cabin primer
As is typical for many cruise ships, Royal Caribbean vessels offer cabins in four broad categories: Windowless “inside” cabins; ocean-view cabins; balcony cabins; and suites.
On the newer Royal Caribbean ships, the vast majority of the cabins are balcony cabins. Cruise lines over the years have discovered that cruisers will pay a significant premium to have a balcony with their cabin, and that’s prompted a rush to add more balcony cabins to ships.
On Royal Caribbean’s 2-year-old Symphony of the Seas, for instance, 65% of the 2,759 cabins are balcony cabins, followed by inside cabins, ocean-view cabins and suites:
- Inside cabins: 599 (22%)
- Ocean-view cabins: 176 (6%)
- Balcony cabins: 1,796 (65%)
- Suites: 188 (7%)
On older Royal Caribbean ships (and, in general, all older cruise ships), there are far fewer balcony cabins. Only 12% of the cabins on Royal Caribbean’s oldest vessel, the 1996-built Grandeur of the Seas, are balcony cabins.
Inside cabins and ocean-view cabins make up the majority (78% in total), and suites account for 9% of the cabins:
- Inside cabins: 399 (40%)
- Ocean-view cabins: 381 (38%)
- Balcony cabins: 122 (12%)
- Suites: 94 (9%)
The takeaway here is that you’ll have a tougher time locking down a balcony cabin on an older Royal Caribbean ship than on a newer vessel. If you’re planning a cruise on one of the line’s older vessels and a balcony cabin is a must, you’ll want to book early to make sure you get one.
You’ll also want to book early if you’re aiming for a suite. An old saw in the cruise industry is that “ships sell from the top and the bottom.” That is, the first cabins on any vessel to sell out are the most expensive cabins, which are the suites, and the least expensive cabins, which typically are the inside cabins. The “middle” sells last.
Within each of the four broad categories of cabins on Royal Caribbean ships, you’ll find multiple subcategories. Symphony of the Seas, for instance, has 15 different types of suites alone, from a Junior Suite with Balcony (Category J3) that measures 287 square feet to a Royal Loft Suite (Category RL) that measures five times that amount.
If you count two types of Symphony of the Seas suites that come in two versions — a standard version and a slightly altered “accessible” version — there actually are 17 different categories of suites on the vessel.
In general, Royal Caribbean cabins have a modern look with clean lines and contemporary furniture, plus lots of storage cleverly worked into the design.
Inside cabins on Royal Caribbean ships
These are the cabins you stay in when you’re on a tight budget. On any Royal Caribbean ship, they almost always are the least-expensive option when you’re booking a cabin, and you often can save considerable money by booking an inside cabin versus an ocean-view or higher-level cabin.
What you’ll give up, of course, is that ocean view. Your room will have four walls and no windows offering a glimpse of the outside world (at least, not a traditional window — more on that in a moment).
You’ll also be in a very small room. Inside cabins on Symphony of the Seas measure just 149 square feet, quite a bit less than the typical ocean-view cabin on the vessel (they range from 179 to 272 square feet). The typical balcony cabin on Symphony of the Seas is 182 square feet, not including a 50-square-foot balcony.
As I hinted at above, there is one way to get a glimpse of the outside world from an inside cabin on a Royal Caribbean ship. In one of the great cruising innovations, Royal Caribbean has created some inside cabins that have a “virtual balcony” that offers a view of the outside.
The virtual balcony is a high-definition screen built into one end of the windowless room that projects a real-time view of the ocean outside. It’s designed to make you think that you’re actually in a balcony cabin with a view, and it is quite realistic-looking.
Just don’t try to walk through the faux balcony opening.
Ocean-view cabins on Royal Caribbean ships
With an ocean-view cabin, you get a window looking out to the sea but not an attached balcony where you can sit outside and enjoy the fresh air.
Royal Caribbean’s newer ships have relatively few such cabins, as generally cabins that face outwards now are built with balconies.
In general, ocean-view cabins on Royal Caribbean ships are bigger than inside cabins and around the same size as balcony cabins (when comparing their interior space). But you sometimes can find ocean-view cabins that are significantly bigger than what is typical for a balcony cabin. This is sometimes the case for balcony cabins at the front or back of ships where there can be relatively large but odd-shaped rooms with windows but no balconies.
Royal Caribbean has built ocean-view cabins at the front of some ships that incorporate the angled space in the slope of the front part of the superstructure. As a result, they have sloping windows, and a bit more floor space around these windows (see image below).
Royal Caribbean’s Radiance Class ships, notably, have a category of cabin called Ultra Spacious Ocean View that includes cabins at the front and back of the ship that measure 319 square feet — nearly twice as much as the typical ocean-view cabin on the vessels (which measure 170 square feet). Each of these bigger ocean-view cabins has two twin beds that can convert into a royal king bed, one double sofa bed and either one Pullman bed and one twin bed or two Pullman beds.
These bigger cans can hold up to six people, making them popular with families.
Balcony cabins on Royal Caribbean ships
Balcony cabins are what everyone wants these days, and Royal Caribbean is delivering with huge numbers of balcony cabins on all its newest ships. On the line’s four Oasis Class ships, which began debuting in 2009, around 65% of rooms are balcony cabins. On the line’s even newer Quantum Class ships, which began debuting in 2014, the percentage is even higher: around 69%.
The typical Royal Caribbean balcony cabin has a contemporary look with clean lines and relatively minimalist furniture. They’ll typically offer twin beds that can be converted into a royal king bed, a desk and a sofa that often pulls out into an additional bed. They typically measure around 180 square feet, not including the balcony area.
A few Royal Caribbean ships have balcony cabins that face toward the center of the vessel, not toward the outside. If this seems like a paradox, it is. It’s the result of an unusual design feature of one series of Royal Caribbean ships, the Oasis Class.
Related: 6 reasons to book a balcony cabin
The Oasis Class vessels are so wide, they have room for an interior, open-air “boardwalk” amusement area at their backs lined with inward-facing cabins. On Oasis Class ships, you thus can get a balcony cabin that faces the sea but also a balcony cabin that faces inward toward the boardwalk area.
Suites on Royal Caribbean ships
Royal Caribbean is known for having some of the cruise world’s most spectacular suites, including — on some ships — suites that sprawl over two decks.
Royal Caribbean isn’t a luxury cruise line. But the top suites on its vessels offer an experience that’s in keeping with what you’ll find on some of the world’s top luxury ships. Depending on the ship, they can come with such perks as private butlers (called Royal Genies) that attend to your every need; access to a private restaurant, access to a private suite lounge and sun deck; reserved seating in entertainment venues; and priority boarding and disembarkation.
They also come with a much higher price tag than the typical Royal Caribbean cabin. These are rooms that are aimed at well-heeled travelers who, for whatever reason, prefer the sort of mass-market, megaship cruise experience that Royal Caribbean offers over the more intimate, white-glove experienced you’ll find on the small luxury ships that luxury lines operate.
As noted above, there is a wide range of suite categories on some Royal Caribbean ships. Among the most spectacular suites you’ll find at the line are the Royal Loft Suites on some of the newer Royal Caribbean vessels. Two decks high, they offer a soaring living room space framed by a glass wall that offers stunning views.
The Royal Loft Suites on Oasis Class ships measure nearly 1,800 square feet and feature two bedrooms, a large living room with a soaring ceiling and a dining area. The Royal Loft Suites on Quantum Class vessels are nearly 1,640 square feet and also sprawl over two decks.
Royal Caribbean also is famous for its Ultimate Family Suite: a two-deck-high suite complex designed for families with young kids that offers everything from a slide from a second-floor kids’ room to the main level and a foosball table. There only is one Ultimate Family Suite, on the new Symphony of the Seas, and it sells for an astronomical $20,000 a week.
Smaller suites on Royal Caribbean ships include Grand Loft Suites, which can measure around 700 to 850 square feet. That’s a lot smaller than the Royal Loft Suites but still about four times the size of a standard balcony cabin.
Royal Caribbean has something for everyone when it comes to cabins on its ships. You can book a small, inside cabin that will get you on board one of the line’s vessels at a very reasonable cost, or a super suite that will set you back many times more but come with all sorts of perks.
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Featured image of courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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