Travelers who require wheelchairs or struggle with mobility issues can be apprehensive about their first cruise.
Cruise cabins pack a lot into a small space, but sometimes they fall short of meeting all your needs. Keeping your cruise room organized can especially be a challenge.
You don’t need to sail on a small, stuffy luxury cruise ship to indulge in an over-the-top cruise ship suite. If you’re looking for two-story staterooms, ginormous balconies, and VIP privileges, you can certainly find them on mega-ships that also boast Broadway musicals, waterslides, ropes courses, and expansive kids clubs.
The biggest and best suites on mainstream cruise ships don’t come cheap, but you might find you get more bang for your buck than on a luxury ship. You definitely have more choice: choice of itineraries on a line with 25 rather than six ships, choice of onboard activities for adults and kids, and choice of where to eat each night with plentiful free and extra-fee eateries. On luxury ships, everyone is treated equally to included drinks and stellar service; on a big ship, you will feel like a true VIP, receiving perks and priority over your shipmates.
Whether you want to stretch out in the nicest and biggest room on the cruise ship or need a two-bedroom cruise cabin for your family, indulge in a daydream and consider booking one of these seven best suites on big-ship cruises.
1. Royal Caribbean’s Royal Loft Suite
Forget suite – Royal Caribbean’s Royal Loft Suite is like a luxury apartment. Found on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships, these enormous suites measure between 1,600 and 1,800 square feet and feature two separate bedrooms, a distinct living and dining area, and multiple balconies.
Depending on the ship, the main floor of the suite will feature a sofa and comfy seating, giant TV, dining table, and dry bar. Some come with pianos! Two-story floor-to-ceiling windows let in tons of light.
All Royal Loft Suites feature a main-floor bedroom with balcony access; some have media rooms with sofabeds for extra guests. Off the living area is a huge balcony with a dining table, lounge chairs and patio seating, a bar, and a hot tub. A telescope is provided for stargazing or getting a closer look at port.
Upstairs is the open-plan master bedroom that overlooks the living room. Tucked behind the sleeping area with its king-sized bed is a huge, luxurious bathroom with a soaking tub and shower, as well as a walk-in closet and dressing area.
The Royal Loft Suite receives all of the Star Class perks. (Star Class is Royal Caribbean’s highest level of Suite Class.) These include freebies such as internet, tips, Deluxe Beverage Package, and specialty dining, and exclusive access to the Coastal Kitchen restaurant and Suite Lounge or Concierge Club. Best of all, the Royal Loft Suite comes with the services of a Royal Genie – your personal butler for the entire cruise.
2. Norwegian’s Three-Bedroom Garden Villa
Want to live it up with your besties or extended family? Norwegian Cruise Line has an amazing suite for you. Its Three-Bedroom Garden Villa can sleep eight guests across three separate bedrooms with indoor and outdoor living spaces to die for. These suites are found on Norwegian’s Star- and Jewel-class ships.
Each of the villa’s three bedrooms comes with an en-suite bathroom, some of which are extra-large with soaking tubs. The enormous living areas feature a wall of windows, dining and bar areas, and a comfortable seating area complete with a grand piano.
But the showstopper is the two-story sun deck. The expansive private outdoor space comes with a roofed hot tub, dining table, and lounge seating. Some even have small saunas. Combining indoor and outdoor spaces, the Three-Bedroom Garden Villa offers a whopping 6,700 square feet of living space. Suites on luxury ships can barely beat that.
VIP perks for villa guests include access to the Haven sun deck (when available), butler and concierge service, invitations to exclusive meals and parties, and all of the line’s Free at Sea offers, including complimentary beverage package, Wi-Fi, extra guests, restaurant meals, and shore excursion credits.
3. Carnival Excel Presidential Suite
Carnival’s oldest ships barely have any suites; the top suite on Carnival Ecstasy, its Grand Suite, would be called a junior or mini suite on today’s newer ships. However, the Carnival Excel Presidential Suite, currently found only on Mardi Gras, is truly a luxurious suite, worthy of the suite designation.
The one-bedroom suite has a 474-square-foot interior with a bedroom separated from a living area with dining table and wet bar. The living room can sleep additional guests with a pullout sofa and a pulldown bunk above it. The split bath is perfect for entertaining, with a toilet and sink separate from a shower room with dual vanities.
The enormous 646-square-foot party balcony is larger than the suite itself. It features a dining table, Jacuzzi soaking tub, and a variety of lounge furniture from circular pod daybeds to reclining lounge chairs.
Suite guests also have full run of the ship, with complimentary access to the spa’s thermal suite, Havana Pool, and exclusive Excel Suites-only sun deck, Loft 19. They get priority reservations of Loft 19’s private cabanas, as well as guaranteed reservations at most onboard restaurants. The suite comes with complimentary room service, on-demand movies, laundry, and the Bottomless Bubbles soft drink package.
4. Disney Cruise Line’s Concierge Royal Suite
The best suites on Disney Cruise Line ships are the Concierge Royal Suites. The individual suite sizes and layouts vary by ship, but all will wow you with their space and upscale style.
On Disney Magic and Wonder, the suites are smaller (1,029 square feet including the balcony), but sleep seven with two separate bedrooms and 2.5 baths; on Disney Dream and Fantasy, the suites are larger (1,781 square feet) but only sleep five with one bedroom and two bathrooms. Disney Wish will have Royal Suites in one- and two-level versions, and each will have two bedrooms and sleep six.
No matter which suite you choose, original artwork and an art deco design will ensure you don’t feel like you’re living in a theme park. You can put your feet up in a large living space with comfortable seating, dining table, pantry, and wet bar. Two or four flat-screen TVs (depending on whether your suite comes with a media room) will keep you up to date on all the latest Disney flicks.
At night, sink into a plush Euro-top mattress covered in 300-thread-count Frette cotton linens and topped with a down duvet and your choice of pillows from a menu of feather, foam, and hypoallergenic styles.
All Royal Suites have over-sized balconies. The verandas on Disney Dream, Fantasy and Wish feature private hot tubs, as well as an array of patio furniture.
Perks include free Wi-Fi, concierge services, in-suite dining from a special menu, and access to the Concierge Lounge and its private sun deck.
5. MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club Royal Suite
It’s not surprising that three of the top suites on our list are dubbed “royal” because you’ll feel like the king or queen of the ship when you sail in these decadent digs. MSC Cruises’ version, the Yacht Club Royal Suite, will pamper up to five guests with approximately 667 square feet of space plus a 355-square-foot balcony.
You want a separate master bedroom with plenty of room to stretch out, a living room with enough seating to throw a small party, and a luxurious bathroom with jetted tub and glassed-in shower? MSC’s Royal Suite has you covered. You don’t get one balcony, but two – a smaller veranda off the bedroom, and a larger balcony with hot tub off the living room. (Some Royal Suites have dining tables, as well.)
The real benefit of this suite, however, might be its Yacht Club perks. Guests have access to a ship-within-a-ship private enclave with an exclusive restaurant, lounge, sun deck, and pool. They also get free entrance to the Aurea Spa’s thermal suite. Throughout the ship, enjoy complimentary drinks, Wi-Fi, and room service. A butler will take care of your every whim (well, within reason).
6. Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Family Suite
If you’re looking for that over-the-top, expensive cruise ship suite and happen to be traveling with young kids, you cannot overlook Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Family Suite, found on Symphony of the Seas and (coming soon) Wonder of the Seas. It’s a version of the Royal Loft Suite tricked out into a wonderland for kids.
The two-bedroom duplex can sleep eight – that is, if your kids can stop playing long enough to go to bed. That’s because the suite features a cinema and game room, a foosball table, Lego wall, climbing maze, tube slide from the second story down to the living room, balcony hot tub, and flat-screen TVs everywhere, including two in the kids’ bedroom.
The décor is bright and garish, so the suite will not be your Zen-inspired retreat from the outside world. But if you want to throw your kids an epic birthday trip, the Ultimate Family Suite is the one to book.
7. Disney’s Concierge Wish Tower Suite
When Disney Wish launches in summer 2022, its Concierge Wish Tower Suite will be one of the most sought-after cabins afloat. Why? Because it’s housed in the ship’s iconic red funnel.
(Fun fact: All Disney Cruise Line ships have two funnels, but only one is functional. The other is decorative. On Disney’s older ships, the faux funnel houses a teen or tween club and an adult lounge.)
The 1,966-square-foot Tower Suite on Disney Wish is a two-story suite with four bedrooms (two master bedrooms, a children’s room with bunkbeds, and a library that can convert to a bedroom) and 4.5 baths, including two masters with tub, double sinks, and glassed-in rain shower.
The living room has a sitting area and dining space, pantry and wet bar with a wine fridge, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The décor is inspired by the Disney movie “Moana,” but maintains a sophisticated style. The suite comes with all the perks: 1,000-thread-count Frette cotton linens, pillow menu, free Wi-Fi, concierge service, priority boarding and tendering, and access to the Concierge Lounge and VIP sun deck.
What don’t you get with this enormous cruise ship suite? A balcony. The funnel location is unique, but it doesn’t allow for private outdoor space.
Bonus: Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Regent Suite
If you’re truly seeking the world’s most expensive cruise ship cabin, and want the most luxurious, most enormous suite afloat, you’ll need to skip the big ships for a smaller one and book Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Regent Suite. It’s found exclusively on the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Explorer.
The 4,443-square-foot suite has everything you could imagine: sophisticated and expansive living room with dining table, full bar area and Steinway grand piano; two bedrooms that sleep up to six; and two private balconies, one with a mini hot tub. But it’s notable for the ultra-luxe amenities you never would have dreamed to include: a huge gold bathroom with two heated loungers; private spa with sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi tub and unlimited, complimentary in-suite spa treatments; original lithographs by Pablo Picasso; and a $200,000 handcrafted Vividus bed made with horsetail hair.
Of course, suite guests get nearly everything included once they’ve paid the multi-thousand-dollar price tag. First- or business-class airfare, private airport transfers, private car and driver in port, pre-cruise luxury hotel, butler service, in-room dining from specialty restaurants, and in-suite cocktail party for eight all come standard with the Regent Suite. All guests on Regent Seven Seas’ all-inclusive ships receive complimentary drinks, tips, Wi-Fi, and shore excursions.
Need more help picking the perfect cruise room? Learn more about how to choose a cruise ship cabin.
In this week’s cruise news, two ships make their 2021 return to cruise, Royal Caribbean announces an epic itinerary swap, and the future of Alaska cruises hangs in the balance. Read on for the latest happenings in the world of cruising.
Two ships return to cruise
This weekend, the number of ships sailing with actual passengers will increase by two.
Two Carnival ships will make their debuts on Sunday, September 19. Carnival Glory will finally set sail from New Orleans, after its planned restart was delayed by Hurricane Ida. Its September 5 cruise was canceled to give the city time to recover from the storm, and its September 12 sailing was also scrapped so the ship could temporarily house first responders. Finally, the ship will get to welcome cruise guests this weekend. The weeklong itinerary will visit Bimini, Freeport, and Nassau.
Across the Gulf, Carnival Dream will embark passengers in Galveston, also on Sunday. The ship will be sporting a new red-white-and-blue livery, showing off Carnival’s updated look that will ultimately be rolled out fleetwide. The third Carnival cruise ship to sail from Texas, Dream will head to the Western Caribbean to visit Mexico and Belize.
Get all the details about ship launches with Cruise.blog’s master list of 2021-2022 debut sailings.
Liberty of the Seas sets sail on test cruise
Yes, test cruises are still happening, though not as frequently as they were this summer. Liberty of the Seas departed today on a four-night simulated voyage from Galveston. The goal is to gain CDC approval to welcome larger number of unvaccinated guests -- mainly children -- onboard its fall sailings.
The ship is scheduled to cruise with paying passengers beginning October 3. Its alternating Western Caribbean itineraries will visit either Roatan, Costa Maya, and Cozumel, or Grand Cayman, Falmouth (Jamaica), and Cozumel.
Alaska senator unveils new bill to extend PVSA exemption
It’s no secret that Alaska’s tourism industry has been suffering during the pandemic. When Canada first announced its cruise ports would not open in 2021, Alaska business owners braced themselves for a second straight year without the revenue brought in by cruise tourists. They were saved by an act of Congress allowing foreign-flagged cruise ships to bypass the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) and sail from Seattle to Alaska, skipping the otherwise mandatory call in a Canadian port.
Now Alaska’s U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski wants to make that arrangement more permanent. This week, she announced new legislation that would exempt foreign built and owned cruises ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the PVSA requirements. If passed, cruise ships could continue to skip stops in Vancouver or Victoria, Canada – at least until a U.S. company builds a 1,000-passenger cruise ship and begins to operate it in Alaska.
Says Murkowski in a statement on her website, “I want to make sure Alaskans do not have to worry about another government shutting down their business.”
Carnival won’t offer Covid tests at homeports
Carnival previously announced that it was going to add on-site Covid-19 testing to its cruise homeport terminals, in order to assist passengers who need to show a negative Covid-19 test taken just two days before their ship departs.
However, the line’s president, Christine Duffy, stated this week that due to logistical challenges, the plan was not feasible. Cruise guests will need to find their own Covid testing spot prior to arriving at the pier for their sailing.
Wonder of the Seas trades China for Florida
Wonder of the Seas, soon to be Royal Caribbean’s and the world’s largest cruise ship, will not make its grand entrance in China and sail with Asian passengers as originally planned. Instead, the cruise line announced that the ship will head to the U.S. and debut in Fort Lauderdale on March 4, 2022. Wonder will then head to Barcelona in May 2022 for a summer season of Western Mediterranean cruises.
The 6,800-passenger ship will be Royal Caribbean’s fifth Oasis-class ship and will feature 100 more cabins than the reigning world’s largest ship, Symphony of the Seas.
Travelers who require wheelchairs or struggle with mobility issues can be apprehensive about their first cruise. They wonder if a cruise ship can accommodate their needs, especially when it comes to onboard accommodations. After all, the ship is going to be their home for the duration of their vacation.
Never fear! Cruises are a top choice for disabled vacationers for a reason, and with the right ship, you can have a successful and satisfying trip. Here, we answer all your questions about accessible cabins on cruise ships.
Do cruise ships have wheelchair accessible staterooms?
Yes, all modern cruise ships offer handicap accessible rooms. The number of accessible cabins on a ship will vary based on the size and age of the ship. For example, Royal Caribbean’s new ship Odyssey of the Seas offers 41 wheelchair-friendly rooms, while Vision of the Seas, one of its oldest and smallest ships, has 14.
Are there accessible suites and balcony cabins?
Cruise ships offer wheelchair-accessible cabins in multiple categories and price points. For example, Carnival’s Mardi Gras offers a mix of fully accessible and ambulatory accessible cabins in inside, outside, balcony, Havana Cabana, Premium Suite, and Ocean Suite categories.
Are handicapped rooms bigger than standard rooms?
Rooms designed for wheelchair or scooter users typically are larger than the standard cabins in the same category, as they provide extra clear floor space for mobility scooters to maneuver or for passengers to position a wheelchair by the bed to get in and out. They also have larger bathrooms in order to support roll-in showers.
Are cruise ship cabins compliant with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)?
All ships that operate in U.S. waters must be ADA compliant.
What amenities do accessible cruise cabins offer?
Disabled cabins on cruise ships typically feature wider stateroom, bathroom, and balcony doors to accommodate the size of a wheelchair or motorized scooter. Doorways offer either a ramped entry or a smooth threshold, so wheels can roll right through and passengers using canes or walkers don’t have to navigate a raised doorstep.
Inside the cabin, closet rods and safes are positioned lower for easy access from a chair. The desk/vanity is set up to accommodate a wheelchair. Cabins and bathrooms are spaced out to offer a full five feet of turning radius for a wheelchair or cruise mobility scooter.
You’ll find the most noticeable amenities in the bathrooms, which have roll-in showers with fold-down benches and hand-held shower heads, lowered sinks, raised toilet seats, and grab bars.
Many accessible cabins also come with emergency call buttons. Because accessible cabins may be set up for multiple types of disabilities, you may find amenities for hearing or vision-impaired guests, such as braille instructions and lights that blink when the doorbell rings.
What amenities do handicapped rooms on cruise ships not offer?
Details matter when it comes to wheelchair-accessible cruise cabins, as we learned from Debra Kerper, an accessible travel specialist with Cruise Planners and a member of Royal Caribbean’s Disability Advisory Board. A double amputee who has been on more than 100 cruises, she’s experienced the disconnect between a cabin’s description and the reality of living in it.
“Some ships make their balconies too small,” she says. “You can get out the door in a powered wheelchair, but you can’t fit all the way onto the veranda.” That makes the balcony useless for the wheelchair user and a waste of money. She notes that some of Norwegian’s accessible cabins in the exclusive Haven area fall into this category.
She has also stayed in disabled cabins on cruise ships where the queen-sized bed could not convert to twins or where room for a wheelchair transfer was only available on one side of the bed. Depending on the needs and preferences of wheelchair-bound travelers, certain bed configurations might be unacceptable.
Fully accessible cabins always come with a shower bench, but sometimes these fold-down seats are too small – especially for an amputee like Kerper. She’s had to request a large transfer bench for the shower so she could have the stability of a larger seat that she could hold onto.
Automatic doors are not standard in wheelchair-accessible cruise rooms, and cruise ship doors can be heavy. Kerper commends Royal Caribbean’s Radiance and Quantum-class ships for featuring these rare auto-opening doors.
Finally, not all handicapped rooms are fully accessible for passengers with little to no mobility. Several of Carnival’s accessible cabins are actually “ambulatory accessible cabins,” meant for people who use a cane or walker, but aren’t full-time wheelchair users. These rooms have grab bars to offer extra stability, but have steps or thresholds between the main room and the bathroom or balcony, and may not have the space to accommodate a wheelchair.
Kerper notes that it's important to find out the exact details of what the accessible cabin can offer and what it does not to know if it will work for you.
Where can I store my walker, wheelchair, or scooter in my cabin?
You must store your assistive device inside your cabin. Most cruise ships do not allow passengers to park their wheelchairs or cruise mobility scooters in the ship’s hallways, where they can obstruct exit routes.
Cruise lines recommend that passengers with mobility impairments bring or rent a wheelchair or scooter that can collapse or fold to fit under the bed or in the cabin’s closet. While this might be necessary if you've booked a regular cabin, most handicapped accessible rooms have plenty of space to store a wheelchair or scooter, as well as outlets by the bed for charging motorized equipment.
Are any solo cruise cabins wheelchair accessible?
Most accessible cruise cabins accommodate two or more travelers. Regular solo cabins are rare in the industry, and the rooms tend to be smaller than standard cabins. So far cruise lines have not deemed it worth their while to devote a room large enough for a wheelchair to just one paying customer.
However, Kerper confirms that disabled travelers are allowed to cruise on their own as long as they do not require assistance with daily living. “You will never ever get any personal help with anything” from cruise ship crew, she says. “If you need help, you must travel with a caregiver.”
Cruise ship staff cannot help travelers transfer from their wheelchair to the bed or toilet, or assist them with other daily tasks. Kerper begs travelers to be honest with themselves and their families about their needs. “People never think they’re as disabled as they are,” she says. If your spouse isn’t able to help you with daily living tasks while on vacation, you’ll need to bring along another family member, friend, or professional caregiver to assist you.
Can anyone book an accessible cruise cabin?
In truth, the answer to this question is yes. Kerper says that when you go to reserve an accessible cabin, the cruise line is supposed to check with you to make sure you need it. Some lines, such as Princess, will make passengers sign an attestation that they are disabled. Carnival often requires that passengers contact the line’s accessibility department in order to reserve a handicapped room.
However, due to medical privacy concerns, a cruise line cannot ask why you need the room or require any kind of proof. Some travelers will take advantage of this loophole in order to book a larger cabin.
How far in advance do I need to book an accessible cruise ship cabin?
“Accessible cabins definitely sell out,” says Kerper, “but how far in advance they sell out varies by ship and itinerary.”
She says Alaska sailings tend to sell out of disabled cabins before Caribbean cruises and recommends booking your Alaska trip a year in advance. You can assume that cruises that are popular with the general public – new ships, hot destinations – will be popular with handicapped travelers, as well.
The higher-end staterooms will also fill up before inside and outside cabins because there are far fewer of them. She uses Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas as an example. The 5,500-passenger ship has only 42 accessible cabins. Of those, only two are junior suites and one a loft suite. Among her clients, she sees a lot of demand for accessible suites, but there simply aren’t enough of these rooms to meet the demand. Book as early as you can if you want to nab one.
Which cruise ships have the best cabins for wheelchair users?
With decades of experience working with disabled travelers and sailing on many ships across multiple cruise lines, Kerper has a good idea of which ships work better than other for travelers in wheelchairs. Both she and her customers give Royal Caribbean top marks for its customer service to disabled people.
“I’m a big fan of Royal Caribbean’s accessibility,” she says. “Celebrity, Norwegian, Holland America, and Princess are also very good. But I’m not a fan of Carnival. The cabins aren’t spacious enough and the pool decks aren’t accessible.”
As a rule of thumb, the newest ships on any line are always the best in terms of accessibility, with the largest variety of wheelchair-friendly cabins.
How can disabled travelers ensure they book the right cabin?
Find a travel agent, like Kerper, who is knowledgeable about cruising with a disability. Not only will these agents have personal knowledge about the nuances of accessible cruise cabins, but they will have contacts at the cruise lines’ accessibility departments who can provide them with answers to questions they don't know. Regular travel agents and cruise line reservation agents don’t always have details beyond what’s printed in the brochure about the set-up of a cruise ship’s handicapped rooms.
“With the right itinerary and ship, 95 percent of disabled travelers have an outstanding experience on a cruise vacation,” says Kerper. “You’re not spending extra money to use a knowledgeable agent.” But having someone help you pick the best ship and cabin for your trip can mean the difference between an okay and an amazing vacation.
Need more help picking the perfect cruise room? Learn more about how to choose a cruise ship cabin.
Cruise cabins pack a lot into a small space, but sometimes they fall short of meeting all your needs. Keeping your cruise room organized can especially be a challenge. That’s when you need to get creative and employ a few smart cruise cabin hacks.
Our top tips focus on items you can bring from home to improve your cabin’s functionality, as well as some savvy strategies for making use of what’s already in your stateroom. Say goodbye to cluttered desks and cabin floors, pitch-dark rooms, and fights over limited outlets and bathroom shelves – and hello to the most tricked-out, space-maximized standard cabin onboard.
Try our top 10 cruise cabin hacks to make your stateroom more livable on your next sailing.
1. Use magnets for cruise cabin organization and décor
One cruise cabin fun fact that never ceases to amaze first-timers is that cabin walls are magnetic. Slap that souvenir fridge magnet on the wall of your stateroom, and it will stick.
Our favorite cruise cabin hack is to pack a variety of magnets to take the clutter off the desk and couch by tacking papers neatly onto the walls. Bring clip magnets to hold papers – your steakhouse dinner reservation, the daily newsletter, your shore excursion tickets – so you can find them more easily.
Pack strong hooks to create hanging spots for hats, jackets, lanyards, and face masks. (We’ve even heard of people using hook magnets and a shower curtain to create a makeshift room divider – useful for kids napping in one half the room.)
You can also use magnets for décor to spiff up your at-sea digs. Arrange destination-themed magnets above your bed or use them to secure “happy birthday” signs. Create magnetic poetry on your cabin door or let the kids make fun scenes on the cabin walls while you get dressed for dinner.
2. Find the hidden outlets or create a charging station
Older cruise ship cabins offer only a couple of wall outlets by the desk area. The charging options are woefully lacking for today’s cruiser who travels with a cellphone, laptop, digital camera, e-reader, and other devices that need their batteries charged. Expand your options by packing an outlet extender (but not one with a surge protector – that’s a cruise ship no-no); look for ones with USB ports as well as 110V outlets.
Or, bring a travel adapter to make use of the European wall outlet, as well as the American one. Make sure your device can handle the additional voltage or bring a converter.
On new and old ships, make sure you know where all the outlets are – not just the obvious ones. For example, some Royal Caribbean ships have a USB outlet hidden on the bedside phone. Sometimes there’s an extra outlet behind the cabin’s TV. On a Regent Seven Seas cruise ship, there was an outlet on the wall underneath the bedside table. If you can’t find the outlets, ask your room steward to show you where they’re located.
3. Keep the lights on with your library card
Newer ships have light switches that require your cruise card to be inserted in a slot before the power and lights come on in your room. While we applaud these ships’ environmental focus, we acknowledge that it’s annoying to leave one card by the door. Hack the system by leaving a different card in the slot. Your library card, business card, and supermarket loyalty card will all do the trick.
With this cruise hack, you will never go crazy hunting for your cruise card only to find it in the light switch, or have to trade cards when your cabinmate needs to leave for her spa appointment but you’re happily reading on the balcony. It also means you can leave your devices charging while you’re out of the cabin – but please do remember to turn off the lights before you go.
4. Bring your own bathtub
Most cruise ship cabins feature showers not bathtubs, yet many small children vastly prefer a bathtub to a shower. What’s a cruise parent to do? Follow this top cruise cabin tip and bring your own tub.
That is, pack a small inflatable kiddie pool and blow it up when you arrive. Voila – instant bathtub! You’ll be able to keep your toddler clean and give her a place to splash on hot days since kids in diapers are not allowed in cruise ship pools.
5. Pack your own lights to set the mood
Candles are a no-go on cruise ships, but if you want to create a more romantic vibe in your cabin, or simply put a little bit of light in the cabin at night, we have a cruise cabin hack for you. Tuck some battery-operated tea lights or flameless candles into your suitcase and arrange them around your cabin. They’re light and small, and they flicker nicely without setting off the smoke detector.
Battery-operated lights can also serve as nightlights for kids who don’t like to sleep in the dark or adults who need a little light to see their way to the bathroom at night. You can bring a plug-in nightlight, too, but it’s less ideal. With so few outlets in your cabin, the nightlight might not be in a helpful location – and you’ll have to choose between creating light and charging your phone at night.
6. Create a virtual window
Speaking of light...Cruisers booked into windowless inside cabins suffer from a lack of natural light. It’s hard to wake up at the right time in a room that’s always pitch dark. Two cruise hacks give you a choice of how to solve this problem.
The cheap and easy option is to turn your in-cabin television to the bow cam channel (which broadcasts the view from the front of the ship 24/7) and turn the sound off. Use the TV screen as a window to determine whether it’s morning or not. This tip’s best for travelers who don’t mind falling asleep with a TV on.
The alternative cabin hack is to pack a sunrise alarm clock, with a light that gradually comes on in the half hour leading up to your pre-set wakeup time, simulating a sunrise. It will wake you up more gently than the loud ringing of your cellphone alarm or wakeup call.
7. Upgrade your bathroom with supplies from home
Standard cruise bathrooms come with minimal amenities, but a few supplies from home can customize the loo to your preference. For example, if you’re not a fan of the ship-provided bar soap, pack liquid hand soap to place in the bathroom for hand washing. Or, bring your own air freshener or bathroom spray to keep your ensuite smelling sweet.
Many cruise fans swear by bringing a clear, plastic over-the-door shoe bag to store extra toiletries, but they’re banned on some cruise lines for scraping the door. If you’re fighting your family for possession of the tiny glass storage shelves in your cabin bathroom, solve the problem with expandable travel toiletry bags you can hang from the hooks on the back of the door.
If you’re tired of knocking toiletries off the teeny shelf in the shower, a suction cup shower caddy can add shampoo and soap storage, if you can get them to stick. Some ladies even bring suction-on footrests for shaving. Hate the clingy shower curtains still found on some older ships? Use magnetic shower curtain weights or binder clips to keep the fabric down and off your legs.
8. Get creative to maximize storage space
Every cruise ship cabin comes with a closet and some shelves or drawers, but there’s often more storage space than you think. Our first cruise cabin organization tip is to ask your room steward to point out any hidden storage options. Is there space inside the ottoman, or pull-down shelves in the closet? You might be surprised to find secret storage in your room.
Don’t hesitate to ask your steward to remove unnecessary cabin amenities to clear out shelves and drawers. Ask him to remove the ice bucket, wine glasses, promotional books, and other items you do not intend to use during your stay onboard; it might gain you a free shelf or drawer. If your cabin comes with a stocked mini-fridge, ask him to empty it, so you can fill it with cartons of milk for the kids or the soda you brought from home.
And don’t forget to look under your bed! Not only is this the ideal place to stow your luggage, but you can create additional drawer space by leaving your suitcase open and pulling it out to grab a few items and then pushing it back under the bed until you need it again.
9. Trick out your closet with packable shelves and hampers
Cruise closets can be a disappointment. We’ve experienced closets that only had hanging space, causing us to unpack underwear into the desk drawers, or had only a few large shelves, so our bathing suits, shorts, and T-shirts ended up in a big jumble. And where’s your dirty laundry supposed to go?
Savvy travelers solve this problem with a few key cruise cabin hacks. Bring a hanging closet organizer that lies flat to fit into your suitcase but then folds out to hang in your closet, creating extra shelf space (often with pockets for small items on the sides). Pick up a cheap laundry bag or pop-up hamper to keep dirty clothes off the floor and make your clothing easier to sort for shipboard laundry or to pack in your suitcase on the way home.
10. Use the walls for messages
Yup, we all struggle with turning our cellphones off once onboard a cruise. How do we communicate with our travel companions if we can’t text onboard? You gotta ditch the technology and go old school (or hope your cruise line app has a texting option).
Post-it notes stuck to the cabin mirror is a great way to leave messages about your whereabouts. Magnetic whiteboards will also do the trick. Just know that if you leave them on the outside of your door, in the hallway, mischievous shipmates might add their own messages...or alter yours!
Not sure which cruise room you want to book? Learn more about how to choose a cruise ship cabin.
School has started and the fall travel shoulder season is upon us, but cruise ship restarts are not slowing down. This week, three cruise ships on three different lines will make their 2021 debut, and more lines are announcing return-to-cruise plans for their remaining ships.
Get all the details about ship launches and simulated voyages with Cruise.blog’s master list of 2021-2022 debut sailings.
Return to Cruise
On Saturday, September 11, Disney Fantasy will become the second Disney cruise ship sailing out of Florida this year. It will offer four-night sailings from Port Canaveral until October 9, when it will return to its planned weeklong cruises.
The following day, Carnival Pride will welcome its first passengers in over a year and mark the reopening of the Baltimore port to cruise ships. Its September 12 and subsequent sailings will be weeklong voyages to the Bahamas. However, Pride’s sojourn in Baltimore will be short-lived. On October 31, it will reposition to Tampa, and Carnival Legend will take its place in Maryland on November 14.
Midweek on September 16, MSC Divina will kick off its three-, four-, and seven-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean and Bahamas. Cruises will include a stop at the line’s private island, Ocean Cay. Sister ship Meraviglia is already sailing from Miami, but will add weeklong sailings to its mix of short sailings on September 18.
Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean began selling take-home Covid test kits to vaccinated passengers booked on its cruises.
The effort is meant to assist travelers who now must show a negative result from a Covid test taken two days before their cruise is to depart.
The tests are the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test, and prices start at $69.99 for a two-pack. Royal Caribbean will only accept at-home Covid tests that are supervised by a telehealth representative.
Carnival: Carnival Glory’s first post-shutdown cruise has been pushed back yet again. Its original September 5 cruise was canceled due to Hurricane Ida, and now its September 12 sailing has been canceled, so Glory can provide housing to first responders assisting with hurricane cleanup.
We hope the third time’s the charm, and Carnival Glory can actually set sail on its new return-to-cruise date of September 19.
Disney: Disney Magic, which has been sailing in the U.K., will return to the U.S. for Bahamas and Mexico cruises beginning October 28, 2021. It will sail four- and five-night cruises from Miami.
In response, Disney Cruise Line has canceled Disney Magic’s scheduled October 21 and October 24 departures. Booked guests who have paid in full will receive their choice of a full refund or a future cruise credit; anyone not paid in full will receive a refund of their deposit and other money paid.
Disney Cruise Line has also modified several Disney Magic itineraries from November through May to replace Key West with Nassau or Castaway Cay, in accordance with the wishes of Key West residents who wish to limit the size of ships and number of cruise visitors.
Holland America: Holland America has announced restart dates for its remaining three ships – Noordam, Oosterdam, and Westerdam – and has canceled their early 2022 scheduled departures. Passengers on canceled cruises will be moved to comparable itineraries or given a full refund.
Noordam will return to cruise on March 14, 2022, sailing round-Japan cruises out of Yokohama (Tokyo). In April, it will reposition to Alaska, where it will sail one-way voyages between Whittier and Vancouver.
Oosterdam will restart on May 1 with Mediterranean cruises out of Rome, Venice, and Barcelona. In November 2022, the ship will head to across the Atlantic and the Panama Canal and sail South America and Antarctica cruises out of Buenos Aires and Santiago.
Finally, Westerdam will make its 2022 debut in Seattle on May 8. It will offer weeklong Alaska sailings before crossing the Pacific in September for two-week cruises in Asia.