Locations of the Best Cruise Cabins
Knowing where to stay and which cabins, staterooms or suites to choose from on a cruise ship is a challenge. The choice becomes even more complicated when selecting a new cruise ship or cruise line for the first time.
There are some basic principles which, if used correctly, will improve your experience and enjoyment of your cruise. This article looks at our suggestions for choosing the best stateroom for you on a cruise ship.
The Top things to watch out for
Whilst, not a comprehensive list, this is a good starting point covering some essential things to consider when choosing the best cruise cabins or staterooms.
Everyone will have a slightly different view and, over time, will develop personal preferences based on their experiences and budget.
Understanding how to identify the dud cabins or staterooms can be hard for first time cruisers, who can be overwhelmed by the amount of information that is available. Follow our simple guidelines and you should be fine. At least you will know what to expect!
Cabin or Stateroom Category
The first decision is to choose the category or grade of accommodation which can be an Inside, Oceanview, Verandah or Suite. Most guests will select the category based on their budget or the cruise itinerary.
We almost always choose a Balcony or Veranda because you generally get more space, natural light and personal space to relax.
Say No to Guarantee Fares
Once you have chosen your preferred category, you need to decide what to do if a “Guarantee” offer is available. Usually, when you have chosen your category, you pick a cabin number from the deck plan—this way, you know exactly where you will be on the ship.
The Guarantee fare means you are assured of a place somewhere on the ship in a similar (or sometimes higher grade than you booked). If a Guarantee fare is available, this will generally be at a lower cost, but the downside is that you don’t get to choose your stateroom or cabin. Your allocated stateroom is down to pure luck!
Close to the departure date, the cruise line is the one who decides which cabin you get based on what inventory they have left to fill. These are usually the leftovers that the cruise line couldn’t sell in the usual way.
We have had some bad experiences with Guarantee fares, the worst being allocated a stateroom at the front of the ship close to the anchor, which banged every night for seven nights on a Mediterranean cruise. Never Again!
We now always choose a fare that allows us to select our cabin with an allocated stateroom or suite number and say a big No to Guarantee Fares.
You might like to read this publication which details almost everything you need to know about cruising.
We continuously study the ship’s deck plan when choosing our stateroom. to ensure there is nothing above, below or on either side of us that can interfere with our comfort. This way, you avoid being below or above, near noisy spots, laundries, crew doorways, elevators or busy venues on the ship.
There are sometimes different versions of the deck plan because layouts can change when ships go into dry dock for upgrades. Periodically, restaurants and venues are added or even disappear!
Be sure to use an up-to-date deck plan for the ship you and the specific cruise dates of the cruise you are looking to book, as these sometimes change.
Also, check the deck plans to see if your chosen stateroom has interconnecting doors and avoid these if possible.
Avoid Being Under to Pool Deck
A perfect location midships
Port or Starboard?
Another consideration is which side of the ship you should choose.
Your decision depends on various factors, including stateroom type and cruise itinerary.
The options are either Port – the left side of the ship or Starboard – the right side of the side. On some vessels, you also have the opportunity to have a stateroom at the back (stern) of the ship. Why do we use the terms Port & Starboard.
If you are doing a port-intensive, shortish cruise, then either side of the ship is fine. But if you are doing a transatlantic or repositioning cruise, it is worth checking where the sun will be for most of the day, particularly if you have a balcony stateroom.
For Alaska cruises, northbound routes sail through the Inside Passage, up the coastline and along the Hubbard Glacier. In this case, your best views of Alaska’s dramatic scenery are likely on the ship’s starboard side.
Southbound Alaska cruises are the opposite. They sail down the coast, so the ship’s port side will face the coastline, and the starboard side will face the Gulf of Alaska.
Remember that the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Once you know what direction your itinerary is sailing can impact whether you choose the Starboard or port side on your vacation.
Here’s the general advice for seeing sunrises and sunsets on a cruise:
Are you headed north or west? For Sunrises, choose Starboard staterooms.
Headed south or east? Choose a port-side stateroom for sunsets. The port side is best for sunrises and Starboard for the sunset.
Related Article: Cruise Ship Terminology and Jargon Explained
Say NO to auto-upgrades
Having been burnt by the auto-upgrade option before, we avoid this option at all costs. After selecting our perfect stateroom, we don’t want to lose it by being automatically upgraded to a worse cabin location, albeit a higher grade.
It is essential to be aware of this option which most cruise lines offer, and be sure to deselect it during the booking process.
The problem is that you cannot accept or reject your newly allocated stateroom if you have agreed to auto-upgrade. Generally, once the cruise line has moved you, it is almost impossible to reverse it.
Understanding The Decks
Another essential element when choosing your stateroom is selecting the best dck on a cruise ship. Several considerations include the best decks to avoid motion sickness and those with the best views.
These days, cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes, from small, intimate vessels to mega-ships with many decks.
The number of decks can seem bewildering, with up to 20 on some newer ships. But be aware; on some ships, deck 13 is missed out due to this being a superstitious number in some countries.
Also, not all decks are passenger decks. Generally, the lower decks are crew areas, medical facilities, galleys etc., and passengers are typically accommodated from deck 3 or 4 upwards.
The lowest passenger deck is the best deck on a cruise ship to avoid seasickness. The reason is that the top of a vessel sways from side to side much more than the bottom.
Wind and waves push against the ship and cause it to rock back and forth. Roll is how we describe this tilting motion of the vessel from side to side. Of course, modern ships have stabilisers to combat this movement.
The higher you go, the more potential movement there will be. If you are prone to avoid motion sickness, then it is suggested you choose a stateroom close to the waterline.
Also, if you’re concerned about whether you’ll feel seasick, consider booking a cabin with a balcony. If you can sit out on your balcony look at the horizon, you’ll feel much better than lying in bed in a windowless cabin.
Related : How to Avoid Seasickness on a Cruise
Midships is Best
Over the years, we have learnt that understanding the ship layout and the deck plans works to your advantage. The best travel agents can also guide you here and share their experiences.
It’s always a good idea to have printed copies of the deck plans available by using the cruise line brochure or downloading a pdf file from their website. Don’t simply rely on online versions, which can sometimes hide issues like half-glass balconies, interconnecting doors, service gangways etc.
Sometimes, the deck you select should be on changes based on the itinerary, but based on our experiences, we always book a midship stateroom on one of the middle decks. This way, you have the best of all worlds.
This article wouldn’t be incomplete with a list of the Best Cruises Decks and Decks to Avoid, so here goes.
Cruise Ship Decks To Avoid
Below the Pool Deck.
A high percentage of noise problems reported on cruise ships come from the pool deck. With deck parties and live music until late in the evening, followed by an early morning call by guests and crew scraping their sunloungers across the deck early in the morning, there are better places to be.
The lowest decks. The staterooms on the lower passenger decks are usually the cheapest, with good reason. A lot of noisy stuff is happening here, so you may hear noise from the engine room, the bow thrusters, and the anchor chain rattling. On some ships, you may also feel vibrations. Older vessels are worse.
The Promenade Deck.
A great place for exercise, jogging, or just strolling around the Promenade Deck is something most of us enjoy. However lovely the promenade deck is, it can be one of the worst locations for a cruise cabin.
The problem with cabins on the promenade deck is that other guests can often see straight into your room. On some ships, promenade deck cabins have windows rather than balconies which can be a bit off-putting.
Decks above an interior promenade. Some Royal Caribbean ships have an internal ‘Royal Promenades’ featuring shops, restaurants and bars. The problem is that such cabins face inwards, and the windows look down over the promenade, which is a great feature that lets in the light to those staterooms that would otherwise be pure inside cabins.
These cabins are great for people-watching, folks can also look up and see you in your stateroom, so you need to remember to close your blinds to stop folks from looking in.
Under the buffet.
A high-traffic area where there is constant noise with chairs constantly being rearranged. Trays and Cutlery also get dropped along with food!
Other locations to avoid.
If you’re below the fitness centre, you can be disturbed by dropping weights and pumping music from the fitness classes.
Also, avoid decks above and below the Main deck. Here, you have the theatre, night music venues, nightclub, bars, main dining room and kitchens.
The Best Locations for your Cabin
So, where is the Best Cabin Location? It is really up to you! Remember that there are no ‘bad’ staterooms on a cruise ship. They are all very comfortable and clean and have excellent facilities. They are built to give you the best cruise experience possible and get you to book again. If bad cabins were a thing, no ships would sail at total capacity.
Best Deck on a Cruise Ship to Avoid Seasickness
The lowest passenger deck is the best deck on a cruise ship to avoid seasickness. This is because the top of a ship sways from side to side much more than the bottom. To avoid motion sickness, choose a cabin closer to the waterline.
If you suffer from motion sickness and are worried about being seasick, you should consider booking a cabin with a balcony. If you’re able to sit on the balcony and look out to sea, you’ll feel much better than if you lie in bed in a windowless cabin.
Best Decks on a Cruise Ship for the Best Views
If you’re all about the views, the best cabin location for you is near the top of the ship. Observation lounges on ships are high up for a reason; with an elevated position, you get the best views out to sea.
Unsurprisingly, most cruise ships place their top suites and upmarket cabins on upper decks. You’ll enjoy amazing views of the ocean’s horizon from your upper-deck balcony or walls of windows.
In this post, we covered our thoughts on the 9 things to look out for when it comes to choosing the best cruise cabins.
These are just our thoughts gained through many years of cruising and we are happy to be able to share them with you. This is not an exhaustive list, but a great place to get started.
Let us know what type of cabin you usually choose and if you have any tips that we have missed.
Last update on 2023-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API