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So, you’ve chosen the dates you want to travel, the river, the itinerary, and maybe even have a ship preference but now it’s time to decide where to put your hard-earned money when it comes to choosing a stateroom or cabin for your river cruise. Of course, you know that the higher the category, the higher the price so finding that balance is one of the decisions you need to make to be sure your trip meets your expectations. And don’t get me wrong, you can still have a great time in the lowest category stateroom but you don’t want to feel like you missed out either. With special offers and promotions, the differences in cost can often be minimized.

If you’ve chosen a cabin on an ocean cruise before you will be familiar with this process and while the choices on river cruises are fewer, there are quite a few differentiators across ships and brands. Of note, there are no “inside” (windowless) staterooms on river cruise vessels, so you can rest assured you’ll at least have a view to the outside.

Here are some terms that you’ll want to be familiar with as you make your choice:


Most river cruises offer a variety of suites, which can range from slightly expanded space to full sitting areas, although not always with separate rooms which can vary by the cruise line. Some lines offer all-suite or mostly-suite ships. Sizes can range quite a bit also but in general, suites tend to be 50% or more larger than standard staterooms and include extra amenities such as free laundry, wine, and even butlers. Sizes for average suites start from 220 square feet to around 750 square feet. There are two-bedroom suites of 880 square feet or specialty suites on some ships that go all the way up to 1440 square feet which include multiple rooms and wrap-around balconies.


This might seem self-explanatory but this is a balcony or veranda with outside space for standing or being seated. Note that on river cruises that travel in all seasons and are often docked next to other ships, this may not be a huge bonus in cool weather and can also remove some square footage from the stateroom. Some cruise lines offer wrap-around balconies on their largest suites and there is a cruise line that features full-size balconies that can convert into enclosed balconies by raising a glass enclosure with the touch of a button.

French Balcony

This is typically a floor-to-ceiling glass door or wall-to-wall window that has sliding doors that open. A small table and chairs are often placed near the opening. This feature has become very popular since it lends itself well to seasonal changes and allows for more square footage in the cabin itself. Many cruisers who’ve experienced both often prefer the French Balcony for the extra cabin space it affords them.

Twin Balcony

Some cruise lines feature a stateroom with both a small true balcony as well as a French Balcony, a nice alternative if you aren’t sure you can do without a balcony and are sailing in prime weather.

Fixed Window

This is a window that doesn’t open. Typically these types of windows are featured in the smallest and lowest level cabins. They do offer a view of the outside and let in natural light, but are generally high in the wall to stay above the waterline, so you’ll need to stand up to see the view in most cases, although there are some luxury lines that place the cabins higher in the ship to offer larger windows. These staterooms usually start at about 150 square feet in Europe.

Connecting Staterooms

These are available on many river cruise vessels (but not all). Be sure to be clear if this is a requirement. “Adjoining” staterooms simply mean they are next door to each other but not necessarily with a door in between. Some suites offer a pullout couch which are a nice option for families.

Exotic River Cruise Vessels

For cruises on the Mekong and the Nile, staterooms tend to run between 250-450 square feet with 50-60 total staterooms. For the Chobe in Africa, and the Amazon, there may be as few as 14 staterooms since these are specially designed river cruise ships for the areas they serve. We’ll be exploring these cruises and features in future articles.

For now, hopefully, you feel a bit more informed about the choices. River cruise ships have a lot to offer and the stateroom is only a portion of the terrific amenities to be considered. Keep in mind it pays to book early to get the first choice cabin. I’ll be here to help you navigate the offerings when you’re ready to start planning.

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