No two people have the same experience on the world’s largest cruise ship, and the differences start with which cabin you book.
Wonder of the Seas has a variety of accommodation types, from 172-square-foot windowless inside cabins to the 1,524-square-foot, two-floor Royal Loft Suite with its humongous 843-square-foot balcony. You can find standard balcony cabins that look out to sea, Central Park balcony cabins that gaze down on live trees and plants or Boardwalk balcony cabins that put you above all the carnivalesque action. You can book a room on Deck 3 or Deck 18, with views forward, aft and off either side of the ship.
If you’ve never sailed on an Oasis-class ship, you might be overwhelmed by all the choices. How do you find the best cabin type and location for your travel party?
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The Points Guy sent three writers to cover Wonder of the Seas’ debut sailing, and we booked three different cabin types — from basic to deluxe — to test out how the room you choose affects your experience on board.
At least two of us would happily stay in our chosen cabin types on a future sailing – and I bet you won’t be surprised who will be looking for an upgraded room the next time around.
Social media manager Colby Kirkpatrick drew the short straw and spent the week in a windowless room. Here’s his report:
I stayed in an interior cabin, room 10671 on Deck 10 aft.
The stateroom cost $2,286 for one person, including taxes, fees and gratuities.
I am a terrible sleeper. A symphony of honks and sirens typically keeps me awake all hours of the night. In order to catch any shut-eye at all, I require a nightly dose of melatonin gummies.
But not in my windowless, interior stateroom. The combination of total darkness and the gentle rock of a 7,000-passenger ship on the high seas resulted in eight blissful hours of full REM sleep each night. By night three, I was skipping the melatonin step in my bedtime ritual and jumping straight into my delightfully comfortable queen bed with the cabin’s AC on full blast.
Related: It’s not as bad as you think: 6 reasons I’m happy booking a windowless ‘inside’ cabin on a cruise ship
The aforementioned lack of windows feels like a reasonable place to start.
As a New Yorker wrapping up my first winter in the city, I am accustomed to long periods of time indoors. However, the importance of a window cannot be understated. It’s truly the difference between a lazy day indoors and self-inflicted captivity.
Several times during the cruise, I had to take three flights of stairs to discover whether we had arrived in port. When I started to get a bit motion sick during a rough patch of weather, I was met with a well-intentioned “It helps if you look out your cabin window at the horizon,” to which I shed a single tear. I found myself envious of the LED “window” solution found in interior staterooms aboard other Royal Caribbean ships.
The absence of a view into the outside world was intensified by the low ceiling, which made the accommodation feel significantly more claustrophobic than square footage alone might otherwise suggest. I am of proudly average height (5 feet 9 inches tall) and could place my palms flat against my stateroom’s ceiling.
My incompatibility with interior cabins is likely universal and not specific to Wonder of the Seas. However, I was personally offended by Royal Caribbean’s Sea Breeze 2-in-1 shampoo. I believe combination hair products are the beginning of the unraveling of society as we know it, and my hair still hasn’t recovered from being subjected to that chemical atrocity.
My standard day aboard Wonder of the Seas involved three to four hours of work in my cabin in the mornings with a handful of guest appearances in the afternoons for work meetings. I would return to my cabin every night around 9 or 10 p.m. to wind down, crawl into bed and watch an overpriced movie.
Because of a busier-than-usual work schedule and difficulty in finding any other quiet place to work on board, I spent a fair amount of time in my cabin — on Zoom, editing video and making slide decks. These are certainly not your typical cruise activities, but even in my small stateroom, there was a suitable WFS (work from ship) setup.
Bring your own shampoo, conditioner and body wash. This is probably obvious to regular cruisers, but the 2-in-1 shampoo was an unwelcome surprise for me.
Brace yourself for all the extra charges. Room service incurs a delivery fee on everything except continental breakfast, and on-demand entertainment offerings are nearly as expensive as the cinemas. (Whenever I travel I bring an HDMI cord so I can play movies and shows from my laptop through the TV, but Royal Caribbean has disabled the “input” feature on its devices, making this hack impossible.)
My advice to anyone staying in this type of room is to get out of the cabin and do things — all of them. Booking this level of accommodation ensures that you keep your days active and outdoors, making it much easier to check everything off the Wonder of the Seas bucket list. If there’s one silver lining to a windowless stateroom, it’s that it combats cruise complacency.
Though I am regretfully back to my melatonin gummy routine, I do not believe that the pros outweigh the cons on the matter of the inside cabin. This setup might be more ideal for those who plan on spending every waking second above deck and maxing out shore excursions, but for me, it all comes back to the window … or lack thereof.
Cruise writer Ashley Kosciolek stayed in the most popular cabin type, a room with a private verandah. Here’s her report:
I stayed in a standard balcony cabin, room 8322 on Deck 8 aft.
The stateroom cost $2,868 for one person, including taxes, fees and gratuities.
Overall, there was nothing groundbreaking about my balcony stateroom, but it’s obvious that details mattered to Royal Caribbean when they designed the accommodations on Wonder of the Seas.
Some of the little things I loved included the large number of outlets. There are two European and two North American outlets plus two USB ports on the desk/vanity. There is also another North American outlet and USB port on each of the two nightstands, so two people sharing a cabin can each charge their phones bedside. (Older ships typically have one, maybe two, North American outlets by the desk, and that’s it.)
I also adored the five wall pegs found just under the TV. They’re such simple additions but they provided a ton of extra space for me to hang wet bathing suits and sweaty gym clothes to dry before packing them in my laundry bag.
Related: 6 reasons you’ll want to book a balcony cabin on your next cruise
Another fantastic feature is that the large closet came with a removable lower bar, which allowed plenty of height for me to hang the floor-length ballgown I brought for formal night.
The room offers a ton of drawer and shelf space, and the bathroom’s shower has a glass door instead of a clingy curtain.
I have very few complaints, and they’re so minor they’re almost too trivial to mention.
My first tiny gripe is that the TV in the cabin doesn’t pull out from the wall or swivel in any way, meaning that you can’t watch television from anywhere in the cabin except the bed. Sometimes I wished I could watch from the sofa or from the desk while I was working.
Another niggle is that the gaps between the bars of the in-shower soap dish in the bathroom are too far apart. My travel-size toiletries frequently fell over because they were too small to straddle the space between the metal.
Oddly, the pants hangers in my closets had extra-tiny hooks that barely fit around the closet bars. That meant the hangers sometimes stuck out at odd angles, smashing clothing up against the doors and making the closet cumbersome to close.
Finally, my mini-fridge was so loud it woke me up a couple of nights when it started humming. It was fine on the first and second nights of the voyage, but it started buzzing like crazy a few days in. The kicker? It was empty.
To be honest, I didn’t spend much time in my cabin at all. Usually I make an effort to utilize the veranda for reading, a cocktail or simply enjoying a relaxing ocean view with a breeze. This time, I barely stepped out there for 15 minutes the entire voyage.
When I was in my room, I was working, showering or sleeping, but I spent most of the voyage running around trying to cram in as many onboard activities as humanly possible.
I booked this sailing through United Cruises (which charged me a $25 fee) and paid with The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earned me both United miles and Amex points. Be creative when you book by considering some of these lesser-known methods, or call a travel agent who can walk you through finding the best deal.
I didn’t specifically request a particular location on the ship, but I’m glad I ended up toward the back of the vessel. It meant that I could make my way up or down a few decks to get to the Boardwalk and Windjammer buffet without having to walk the entire length of the ship to get there.
My location on Deck 8 also put me close to Central Park, which is a great place to get fresh air without blinding sunlight by day and to enjoy live music and drinks by night.
I would absolutely book this cabin again. It was a great value for the money, particularly given that it’s a brand-new ship, and it was only about $600 more to book for a weeklong cruise than Colby’s inside room.
Overall, it was comfortable and elegant, and it had tons of space, along with great storage. My room attendant, Violeta, was also superb.
Related: The best cruise ship balcony cabins for your vacation at sea
Cruise editor Erica Silverstein and her 8-year-old daughter got to live the high life in Wonder of the Seas’s new Suite Neighborhood. Here’s her report:
I stayed in a Grand Suite, room 1752 on Deck 17 aft.
The suite cost $11,454 for two people, including taxes, fees and gratuities.
What’s not to love about a suite? It was huge, with a full-size couch and sitting area in addition to the sleeping area. The large balcony fit a four-person dining table, plus two padded chairs with footrests for comfortable lounging.
The oversized bathroom had great storage and a large shower, plus suites get upgraded toiletries, including individual bottles of nice-smelling shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion — no lousy combination products in this part of the ship.
For a family, the location was ideal. We were a quick walk from the pool deck, sports court and buffet restaurant — all the spots we frequented most. Our suite was located at the back of the ship, so a quick elevator ride took us to all our favorite aft spots, including the Boardwalk and the main dining room.
Perhaps more than the space itself, I adored the perks that came with my suite and its location in Royal Caribbean’s first suite neighborhood. They included free internet for each person on the reservation, concierge service, priority embarkation/disembarkation, a complimentary cocktail party each evening, and access to an exclusive lounge, sun deck and Coastal Kitchen restaurant (where I ate the best gnocchi of my life). On Labadee, we even were entitled to hang out on an exclusive beach with its own lunch venue.
Related: The best cruise ship suites in the world
I hate to complain about an amazing cabin, but my suite lacked drawer space for clothes. The shallow vanity drawers were meant for makeup and jewelry, not socks and underwear, and one of my closet shelves was taken up by a safe.
We had more than enough storage for hanging clothes, toiletries, papers, books, snacks and other travel necessities, so it was odd the designers didn’t add deeper drawers to the vanity area of the suite.
Other than one lazy morning, we did not spend a lot of daytime hours in the suite. Three days we got off the ship in port, and the rest of the time we were at the pool deck or sports court, ice skating in Studio B or playing on the Boardwalk. (Have I mentioned that Wonder of the Seas has a huge number of family-friendly activities?)
My daughter would go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. each night, effectively trapping me in the cabin. During these late evening hours, it was perfect having a suite because I could tuck her into bed, draw the blackout curtains that divided the living and sleeping areas, and get some work done on the couch until I was ready to turn in for the night.
I do regret not spending more time on the balcony. We ate one breakfast out there, but it tended to be windy with the ship sailing, and having continental and full breakfast available across the hall in the Suite Lounge and Coastal Kitchen meant it was silly to order room service in the morning.
Related: 7 reasons you should splurge for a suite on your next cruise
There’s a TV in the ceiling! My room attendant never showed me this fascinating detail and I only discovered it by accident halfway through my cruise. (Not that I ever watched it.)
Skip the main dining room and take your sit-down meals in Coastal Kitchen. The food, service and ambience are better. We ate in the main dining room to meet up with the rest of our travel companions, and sometimes my daughter wanted a quick bite at the buffet rather than a leisurely meal — but I would have loved a few more meals in Coastal Kitchen.
Luxurious cruise suites are not usually in my budget, but if I could swing it financially, I most definitely would book this room again. The perks helped to make a huge ship manageable, and the space was appreciated. However, given how little time I spent in my cabin, I’m sure I could happily make a balcony cabin or minisuite work on Wonder of the Seas — as long as I’m willing to go to sleep when my kids do.
Your travel preferences, budget, favorite areas of the ship and personal reaction to combination hair products all factor in to which cabin is best for you. You can certainly find ways to hack a standard cabin to give it a more luxurious feel, and you can also waste an expensive suite by not taking advantage of all its perks.
Wonder of the Seas offers enough room types that you’ll be sure to find a cabin that works for you. Even if you choose a dud, the rest of the ship is so full of activities and attractions that you don’t need to spend very much time in your room at all.
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Featured image courtesy of The Points Guy.