As if choosing the correct cabin on a cruise wasn't difficult enough, now the lines have made verandahs the latest variable to be concerned about.
All cabins on all ships are not created equally - not even close. And the news gets worse because there are not many qualified resources to really help you with this dilemma either.
Recently I called a travel agent to ask about the design and size of verandahs on a ship she was booking a group on. She stated that the brochure was incorrect.
If someone has not sailed on a ship, chances are they do not know much about the ship - especially if it is the only one in its class.
Ship Tip: Do not take anything for granted when choosing a cabin with a verandah. Qualify your information thoroughly.
I studied the deck layout of my ship, along with the various prices quoted to us from our TA. If I were to invest in my first room with more than a view, than I wanted to make sure it was correct. As I studied the color brochure, the cabins on the lower decks appeared to have larger cabins - which would go against the grain of "the higher your cabin is, the more money you shell out" theory.
So to be sure, I did pick up the telephone and have my TA pull out the same page and she proceeded to tell me that the line must be incorrect with their drawings and that the ship's layout is not to scale. I found this strange, very strange indeed that a company could pour over $400 million into a beautiful ship and NOT be able to draw a picture of it to scale.
Ship Tip: Study the floor plan and go with YOUR instincts. Floor plans do not generally lie.
I went against the advice of my TA and chose a cabin on the back of the ship. The verandah seemed larger on the aft cabin and while I was going down another level and paying the same, I had to go with my instincts.
I sailed on the brand new Grand Princess and was lucky enough to have grabbed a picture of the back of her in a travel magazine. I could tell that the verandahs were private - and this is what I wanted - even if it meant being on the first deck!
What does Private mean? For me, it means that no one, unless they are really trying, can peak into your verandah. And that includes looking down on you whilst they stand in their robes with coffee in hand pondering the size of the ocean.
Ship tip: Private means just that, no one can see in.
After studying the ship's layout thoroughly, it appeared to me that the lower cabins on the Port and Starboard sides of the ship might not be private. I heard several people complain about this during the cruise. And with the ship's design, more than the neighbors above could see in - as there are lookout points both aft and forward on the ship that give excellent views into the lower verandahs. If I was sunning on my verandah and people were looking down on me as if I were the last pickle in the jar, I might feel a bit uncomfortable.
On several ships that I have sailed, the upper cabins have less than ideal verandah set-ups. The ones that seem to be the most vulnerable are at the extreme front or back of a ship. This is where you often find open-air stairs leading passengers aimlessly in front of your cabin and 'private' verandah.
Ship Tip: Do not expect the verandahs to be private - afterall, you are only assuming they are - the ship never states they are!!
Some of the passengers on the Grand Princess were satisfied with the configuration of the verandahs because they were able to sunbathe outside their cabin and not have to take the long journey to the pool. Verandahs with no roofs do offer some advantages, so find out ahead of time if yours does or does not have a roof.
Ship Tip: Not having a roof allows you to sunbathe close to home.
The other distraction that you should be aware of is partially 'obstructed' views. Heck, that might mean that a 100-person lifeboat is double-parked in front of your deck. That is not an obstruction, that is complete blockage!
Ship Tip: "Partially Obstructed" can be a good bargain, but in some cabins, you won't need your camera.
Another danger with verandahs reared itself on my Grand Princess cruise. My roommate retired to the cabin at 6:15 PM one evening after our rum punch snorkeling tour in St Thomas. I returned around 7:30 and immediately heard a muffled banging repetitive thud and a cry for help. I looked around and saw outside that the older couple next to us were leaning over the verandah divider.
I proceeded outside and found that my next door neighbors had come outside on their balcony around 5 PM and the door locked behind them. I believe they wanted to ask if my friend was deaf or inebriated, but they were just happy that they were going to be rescued and still make it to the late seating dinner. I found our Room Steward and he let the people in. This was my only encounter with my neighbors, so I was appreciative of the opportunity to meet them, but certainly they wish it had been under different circumstances!
Ship Tip: CAUTION! Your sliding glass doors may lock behind you.
After numerous cruises, I am glad that I can say that I have sailed the Caribbean with a nice, large, private verandah. But with the ships offering so much private deck space and keeping up with a busy 7-day schedule, I am not sure that I will secure a cabin with a verandah on ensuing vacations. Been there, done that.
Verandahs can cost an additional 20 - 40% per person for a comparable cabin without a view. Unless you really plan to stay in your cabin and or sit on the verandah, you may want to consider if you can live with an inside cabin for the duration of the cruise. Perhaps you can take the savings and buy your spouse that new riding vacuum cleaner...
Doug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. He recently began his monthly "Ship Tips" columns.
Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Sensation's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.
Doug can be reached at: Doug@sealetter.com.
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