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What is a Cabin Cruiser?

By Celie Rhodes
Updated May 23, 2024
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A cabin cruiser is a type of large motorboat that includes basic living accommodations on the boat itself. Modern versions include extravagant amenities as well. The cabin in the name refers to the enclosure for these living accommodations. This boat is different and smaller than a cruise ship, which generally holds thousands of passengers.

Generally, cabin cruisers are somewhere between 25 feet (7.6 meters) and 45 feet (13.7 meters) long. As for their amenities, cruisers usually at least have a toilet (known as a head in the boating world), a kitchen (galley), and sleeping quarters (berth). Most also have a small dining area and what's known as an aft cabin, or a second sleeping area in the back of the cabin. Newer boats will also have additional amenities such as heaters, air conditioners, and power generators.

The design of cabin cruisers have improved over time, making them faster while continuing to offer a stable, comfortable ride in spite of their relatively large size. The cockpit (seating area) is usually quite spacious. Traditionally, these boats have combined the horsepower and running speed of a runabout with overnight accommodations. This is still true, but modern versions are often referred to as simply "cruisers," "express cruisers," "pleasure boats," "pleasure crafts," or "sedans," with less emphasis on the "cabin" or "houseboat" aspects, and more on the entertaining aspect that the cabin cruiser affords.

During the last few years, a quiet revolution in cabin cruiser design has taken place, including subtle changes in hull design that have produced performance benefits for the newer boats. When they first became available, the idea behind them was to be a "room with a view" if ever there was one. Today's cabin cruiser may look quite different from that of previous generations, but the basic idea is still the same. Modern European styling is beginning to replace the old, basic box-on-a-hull design and is transforming these boats into fashionable floating condominiums. Newer models boast a smoother, more impressive ride, and flatter turns.

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Discussion Comments
By jlodolce — On Nov 15, 2007

I am 60 years old, in good health, and have powerboated for all 60 both on salt water and the great lakes, from 8 footers to 50 footers. I sailed a 14 foot Blue Jay as a teen, otherwise have not great experience with sailing. I am an experienced navigator, and have had the experience of losing at least one boat to the sea, so I am not naive. It is time for my wife and I to move into sailing. We do a lot of overnight cruising and anchoring on Lake Ontario, and am trying to learn what I need to facilitate choosing and being trained to operate a sailboat. I am leaning toward a 37' - 40' boat, and would like advice on what I should be thinking about in selecting a boat as well as learning how to safely operate it. I am looking for a used boat no more than 10 years old. I think I should be looking for a shoal draft boat, at least a jib furler, possibly a main sail in mast furler. Electronic equipment should be at least GPS, autopilot, radar, but they can always be added after purchase. Two cabin model rather than three. I would always have any boat surveyed prior to purchase. I have a good marina with deep water slips. I want to be I am contacting dealers, and will go to the Miami boat show in Feb. Any suggestions of reading, thought process, planning, etc would be appreciated.

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