What's in a number? You've chosen your itinerary and ship, and booked your cruise, so does it really matter where your cabin is? The answer depends on your priorities.
There's a two-week fly-cruise to the Caribbean aboard Ventura (0843 374 0111; pandocruises.co.uk) departing on 17 January with a "Getaway" fare of £1,299pp in a cabin to be allocated on arrival. Picking your own balcony cabin on the same cruise starts at £2,149pp. So why pay £850pp more just to choose your cabin? Good reasons could be: fear of seasickness – you feel the motion far less the closer you are to the centre of the ship; the need to avoid long walks; and the convenience of choosing cabins close to your travelling companions. If you are just one couple, have good sea legs, and don't mind a walk, then any cabin could do. But you still need to keep your wits about you when choosing the grade of cabin. While balcony sizes on most ships are pretty much the same for standard cabins, some are better than others. On the American ship Celebrity Eclipse (celebritycruises.co.uk), for example, there are cabins and suites ranging from 17 to 155sq m, 85 per cent of them with balconies. The difference in price between a Category 2C balcony cabin (£1,993pp) and a category 2B balcony cabin (£2,020pp) is only £35pp on a 14-night no-fly Mediterranean cruise sailing from Southampton on 10 May – but that £1.25pp a day could make all the difference – a 2B cabin has a clear view, but that 2C cabin has the view partially obstructed by a lifeboat. These prices (which include $300/£200 on board credit per cabin, and tips) are available through Go Cruise (01952 402301; gocruise.co.uk/ad).
A balcony with a lifeboat in front of it could have one thing in its favour – on many ships it means you won't be overlooked. If your privacy is important, then scrutinise deck plans online or grill your travel agent.
But do you need a balcony at all? If you like to spend hours by the pool or throw yourselves into on-board activities and excursions, a balcony may not matter. A cruise to northern Europe in spring won't be sunbathing weather, and your cabin will be on the shady side of the ship for half the cruise, so losing the balcony makes good economic sense. For example, on Balmoral, sailing from Southampton to the Norwegian fjords for 11 nights on 6 May, an 18sq m balcony junior suite is £2,299pp. The fare in a similar-sized, category-A superior outside cabin with "picture window" is £1,556pp, saving a whopping £743pp. Book with Fred. Olsen (0800 035 5130; fredolsencruises.co.uk).
w Prices are based on two people sharing a cabin.