St. Thomas - As Seen Aboard the Serenade of the Seas
St. Thomas - As Seen Aboard the Serenade of the Seas

Cruising With an Oceanview, Big Mistake

Now that our second cruise is in the books I’m compelled to report that we made a rookie mistake. We didn’t heed the past warnings of other cruisers and instead spotted a deal and went with it.

Now we must forever suffer the consequences of booking an Oceanview Room.

What’s the Big Deal?

When cruising with Royal Caribbean (our cruiseline of choice) you’re offered room options ranging from an inside room all the way to a suite with a balcony.

Of course, as you work your way up the ladder of choices you’re also working your way up the price scale so on our first cruise we were confident that we needed nothing more than an interior room.

Being on the interior of the ship means that there’s, obviously, no window to the outside and it’s also quite small. A gentleman on one of our tours affectionately referred to interior rooms as closets. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not a big stretch.

The thing is, in theory, and in practice for new cruisers, the interior room is a wise choice. With the wide variety of on-ship activities, aside from sleeping and getting ready you really shouldn’t be spending all that much time in your stateroom.

While cruising you can easily fill every minute of every day with an activity. And that’s even without leaving the boat at a port of call. A cruise is like a fire hose of activity, don’t worry about missing the bulk of the events happening because there’s no way you could possibly drink them all in.

So our expectations about an interior room fitting our needs was spot on for our first cruise. This time around however we spotted a last minute cruise deal and were afforded the opportunity to get an Oceanview Stateroom for less than an Interior.

This is where we shot ourselves in the foot. Having a view is nothing short of spectacular. Back when we were in an interior room on the Voyager of the Seas we had no idea what we were missing. We were blissfully ignorant and I’m sorry to say that we’ve now been enlightened. Now that we’ve experienced the upgraded room first hand, I don’t know if there’ll be any turning back.

Now honestly we’ll still start all of our searches at the interior room level to find what the rates are, but I imagine it’s going to be quite a bit more challenging to actually revert back to our pre-roomwithaview days on future cruises.

Cruise Hacking?

There is a glimmer of hope when it comes to our newfound need to upgrade. There’s a Royal Caribbean Credit Card.

I’ve talked before about how we’ve earned a lot of Frequent Flyer Miles by signing up for and using credit cards with high mileage bonuses, well the Royal Caribbean card is much the same, albeit not as major of a signup bonus as we’re used to.

While on the cruise Marla signed up for the card and got the meager 10,000 point bonus. Even though we’ve gotten spoiled with much larger mileage bonuses lately our thought with this card is that whenever we cruise or book a cruise we’ll use this card to make all the purchases. This earns us 2 points (aka miles) per dollar spent with Royal Caribbean. While it will take quite a bit of spending to reach subsequent upgrades, the Interior to Oceanview upgrade is currently set at 15,000 points, which is only 5,000 points away. Yes $2500 is nothing to sneeze at, but we never look at earning miles as a goal, but an added bonus when we’re already spending the money.

Earning miles for free travel is excellent, but spending money just to earn miles, or in this case points, completely defeats the purpose.

Instead of waiting until the next cruise to earn the necessary points we could also look at it a different way. Say we know that we want to take a cruise next year, or in 2 years. We can simply shift a bit of our normal spending over to that card until we reach the needed 5,000 points to enjoy the upgrade.

Now I don’t know if I’d actually call it Cruise Hacking as we’re (so far) just sticking to the normal path to earning points on the card, but whether we end up using the card now in preparation for our next cruise, or waiting and earning more points on our cruise, the card will definitely be put to good use on an upcoming trip.

Sticking With Royal Caribbean

As I’ve said before, both of our cruises have been with Royal Caribbean. After a nice long chat with our travel agent prior to our first cruise we came to the conclusion that Royal Caribbean was the cruiseline for us. While I’m sure that others are quite good as well, we don’t have any plans to venture on to another brand of ships, which will play right into our use of the RC credit card.

One more (minor) benefit of sticking with Royal Caribbean is that with each cruise we’re racking up Crown and Anchor Society points. After a little digging it appears as though Crown and Anchor points are more of a personal goal than something that you can cash in, but still there are a few perks.

It does still require a bit of digging to figure out if the Crown and Anchor Society is in anything more than a fluff program, but I know of one guy who would know for sure.

At the Crown and Anchor Society reception (free appetizers and champagne <- at least one benefit) they called out the different membership levels. We’re Gold level members with more than 1, but less than 10 cruises. During that time they announced a new level, the Pinnacle level. There was a gentleman on our cruise that is the first Pinnacle member ever. I believe they created the level just for him. He’s been on 135 cruises with over 951 total days at sea.

That’s an astonishing number. He’s been on a Royal Caribbean ship for over two and a half years of his life. Granted it wasn’t consecutive, but that’s dedication to Royal Caribbean and to traveling.

We chatted a bit about this at our formal dinner that evening and a good point was brought up. For someone who may be typically living in an old folks’ home (this guy was not), a “permanent” cruise may actually be more cost effective than typical assisted living. Assuming the person can somewhat care for themself, there’s the same level of personal service, what amounts to a personal maid and “free” meals (including room service) on a cruise ship. That sounds like a great idea to me! :)

So we’re 2 cruises into our cruising experience. Allow me to reinforce the one travel tip that we unfortunately failed to follow. If you’re new to cruising, book an Interior room and avoid the Oceanview rooms at all cost. Once you upgrade, there’s no going back :)

Have you cruised before? What type of room did you have and what was your take on the experience? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. For our first cruise which was with Royal Caribbean we had an outside room but with one small circular window. I had to have a window because I needed to always be able to tell that the ship was still upright (I’m a little paranoid about the Poseidon Adventure!). For our 2nd cruise which was with Carnival we got the balcony with sliding door, which was AWESOME!!! We were able to sit on our balcony in 2 chairs, and watch the ocean go by, by ourselves, or read, or jsut do whatever we like, we LOVED it!

    • Yeah that’s exactly the reason why we should probably never go with a balcony room…now that you’ve had that experience you’ll probably never want to go back to the outside room :)

  2. I’m sure you’re right about that. But then why not get the full best experience you can, even if it means a little more money for the better room! Of course, I honestly think our balcony room was hardly much more then the first room we had, but I suppose that could have to do with the different cruise lines, or maybe time we went. First cruise was September, 2nd cruise February.

    • Ya it’s definitely hit or miss on the price difference. I’m sure sometimes they’re closer, but on our latest cruise the the balcony was over $800 more per person. So ya, that’s not happening! :)

  3. HOLY COW! That’s a lot! Yeah ours DEFINITELY was not that much! LOL! We would never have been able to afford it, but of course our flight to get to the cruise was with free airfaire miles, so that helped too!

  4. Hi Jeff,

    I found this site via a link in your Twitter profile and while my original goal was just to contact you regarding this error I keep getting with your tweetstimonials plugin I really love the site and this post! The wife and I have been looking into taking a cruise so the info was helpful for sure!

  5. Funny how people react differently to the same set of circumstances. We’ve been on over 25 cruises. 3 or 4 of them we had balcony cabins. While we would take exterior/balcony cabins if the price was only a few dollars difference we do not by any stretch of the imagination feel that we have been spoiled. The vast majority of our cruises continue to be with interior cabins.

    There are a few things in life that I have felt spoiled by taking the luxury alternative but balcony cabins are certainly not one of them.

    If I were to rate the factors that I believe impacted the quality of our cruises, the whole outside/inside cabin issue would probably be the least important factor.

    • Oh ya I hear ya, and it’s great to get input from a cruise veteran! (we’re still noobs) :) We’re definitely by no means going to completely avoid the interior rooms and this wasn’t even a balcony, just an exterior, but I was quite surprised by how much more comfortable it was for me. It just felt right. But then again I am 6’4″ and not the biggest fan of confined spaces so that may have had a little to do with it ;)

      That said, you’re completely right. I wouldn’t rate our overall experiences on the cruises based on our rooms, they’re such a minor part of the experience. Given the choice in the future though I will definitely be leaning towards another exterior vs an interior, although the price will be the determining factor there for sure.

      Thanks for your input! :)

  6. One thing to add here for those interested in upgrading rooms at the cheapest possible rate. This advice is somewhat cruise line specific, so I’ll give two sets of recommendations: First, for Princess cruises I booked an Interior Guarantee stateroom for a 7 night Caribbean cruise in March of last year with the hopes of being upgraded to an oceanview. When it got closer to our sail date we did recieve minor upgrades to other interior cabins but no “category” upgrade, so I kept calling Princess and requesting them to put me back into the the original “Guaranteed stateroom” category since I did not want to be committed to simply a better interior room (a higher deck on the ship generally) with the hope that I will get a better assignment later (as cheaper staterooms filled up – which they did). The idea worked and after only two phone calls of doing this I eventually got upgraded to a Balcony stateroom for no added cost (499 per person total) about 2 weeks prior to cruising – pretty easy. Secondly, for people who don’t enjoy trying to “jig the system” in the manner in which I described above – for Royal Caribbean cruises, they typically are more stringent on booking, so it is harder to “hope for an upgrade” since they pretty much try to assign you one and keep you committed to it. Nevertheless, the best system for them is to research prices a few months ahead of time and try to get the absolute cheapest interior rate that you can (wait if you have to, prices will fluctuate – especially around holidays, etc.) – then once booked, since you have your ticket to ride and can then finalize the rest of your reservations, such as flights, cars, hotels, etc., just keep periodically researching prices for higher level rooms (oceanview and balcony). Depending on how the cruise fills up you can typically get steals on prices in the days/weeks leading up to your sail date, to which you can upgrade your room for the difference in price (if any – sometimes the upgrades end up going cheaper than what you originally paid = free transition). Just make sure you book through the cruise line and not a travel agent if you want to go this route. Hope this helps! – Justin

  7. Just got back from a 7 night eastern Mediterranean cruise on RC that departed out of Venice—our 8th cruise. We booked a junior suite and had a marvelous vacation–our first at the Platinum level. We’ve never booked a cruise with anything less than a balcony because, for us, part of the cruise experience is being able to relax either early morning or later in the afternoon / evening on the balcony with a nice cup of hot tea in the morning or some wine in the evening. Yeah, it’s a bit pricier, but very much worth it to us.

    Our next trip is probably going to be southern Carib out of Puerto Rico / Miami, or western Carib (Mexico, Honduras, Belize) out of Galveston in a suite, as well. We’ve been on each class of ship and, by far, Oasis was the very best, in our opinion. Hope you get to experience that one!