What is the best location for a cabin on a cruise ship?
As a cruise writer for over 20 years, I’ve heard this question a lot, and it’s not easy to answer. Indeed, on a given ship, the best cabin location for one person may not be the best choice for another.
The ideal cabin for a light sleeper on a particular ship, for example, might be a room tucked away in the quietest corner of the ship. But another passenger on the same ship who cares more about the view might be happier with a completely different location.
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On a typical cruise ship, cabins are spread all over the place, top and bottom, bow, middle and aft. Not that this is always the case.
Some cruise ships – especially river ships – have cabins grouped aft with public spaces forward. Other ships, such as those operated by luxury lines Seabourn and Silversea Cruises, have cabins grouped forward with public spaces aft.
Cruise cabins also come in all shapes and sizes, and with a variety of amenities and perks. Some lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line offer a wide range of room options, from tiny windowless “inside” staterooms to lavish suites, in all sorts of locations on their ships.
Indeed, there is such a variety of not only cabin locations, but also cabin types on ships, that the best way to narrow down the accommodation choices on any given ship might be to compile a list of cabins. that you not want to choose.
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As it happens, we’ve already done that here at TPG in our guide to the 8 cabins to absolutely avoid.
Yet, there are large categories of cabin locations on cruise ships that are always in high demand due to their prime locations.
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These are the cabins you should seek out if you are particularly prone to seasickness.
The great appeal of a cabin amidships is its stability. You won’t feel the rocking of the sea as much in a cabin amidships as you would in a cabin forward or aft of a ship. This is because ships are like seesaws. They tilt back and forth around a central axis that barely moves.
If you are in the center of a ship, you are the equivalent of the center of a seesaw. Even in very rough seas, you won’t move as much as the ship moves up and down in the waves as someone at one end of the ship.
Note that it’s also helpful to be low to the water if you’re worried about seasickness.
On very large ships, where the activity areas are very far from each other, the middle cabins also offer the advantage of being in the center of everything. The main pool deck, for example, is likely to be right above you when you’re in a cabin amidships – a short walk away. Ditto for the central interior spaces.
Cabins all aft
There is something fascinating about being at the back of a ship overlooking its wake. When you’re in the open sea, you can see the long streak of choppy water behind you, stretching seemingly forever like a road into the sea. It’s tangible proof of your journey. When you sail away from a port, you have the best view in the house.
I admit I could stay at the back of a ship for hours, looking over the water, and I’m a big fan of aft-facing cabins – as long as they have a balcony. The aft-facing balcony staterooms are among the best balcony staterooms on any ship. Often their balconies are larger than the balconies of the side cabins and they also feel quiet. There are far fewer balcony cabins on the back of a ship than on the sides of a ship, so you don’t hear much noise from your neighbors.
If your stateroom is in the aft corner of a ship, you might even have a balcony that wraps around both sides of the ship. These sorts of balconies are the ultimate in cool.
Note that on some ships all or most of the aft-facing staterooms are large, expensive suites. But it’s not always the case. Carnival Cruise Line ships, for example, typically have a number of non-suite accommodations aft.
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I confess that I am not a big fan of forward-facing cabins. For starters, there is nowhere on a ship more prone to movement than the front of a ship. Forward-facing cabins also often lack balconies, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. But, that said, many cruisers love forward-facing cabins. They love them because the view can be spectacular, especially when you arrive in a new port. Also, some people love the idea of being at the front of a ship and being able to see where they are going.
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Forward-facing cabins also sometimes have extra space. Indeed, they sometimes incorporate the oddly angled interior spaces that exist at the front of ships, which often have angled facades. As mentioned above, forward-facing cabins will often not have a balcony, as the wind on the bow of a ship under way is such that a balcony is impractical. Instead, they’ll have large windows — sometimes floor-to-ceiling windows — that offer stellar views.
Cabins surrounded by other cabins
Advice to light sleepers: the best place to stay if you want the best chance of not being disturbed by noise is a cabin surrounded by other cabins. This means a cabin that has a cabin directly above and a cabin directly below, as well as cabins on both sides.
Finding such a cabin is harder than you think. On the typical ship, the upper cabin deck is directly below the pool and activity decks, which can be noisy during the day and even at night (yes, the noise will sometimes come through your ceiling). The cabin deck just below the upper cabin deck may be a good choice. But descend a few more decks and you’re often just above the interior entertainment decks that house music lounges, theaters, and other loud venues.
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If the ultimate in quietness is your goal, you’ll also want to avoid cabins near elevators, passenger laundries, and other areas that attract foot traffic. It may take a little study of deck plans, but as seasoned cruisers know, it’s worth the wait for a cabin away from anything that might keep you awake at night.
Cabins near the spa
If you’re a big spa fan — the kind who can spend hours on vacation getting pampered — you’ll want to have a cabin right next to your ship’s spa. Trust us. Walking long distances through a bustling ship in your bathrobe and slippers for a spa appointment can be a little weird.
Cruise lines are increasingly catering to spa-goers with special spa cabins that are not only close to the spa, but are also equipped with special spa amenities, including fluffy bathrobes and slippers, upgraded toiletries, scrub kits, aromatherapy diffusers and even yoga mats. Cabins sometimes get spa discounts, unlimited spa salon access, and other perks.
Companies that have designated spa cabins on some or all ships include Celebrity Cruises, Carnival, Holland America, Azamara and MSC Cruises.
On Celebrity, spa cabins – called AquaClass cabins – offer exclusive access to a special spa restaurant called Blu.
If you are interested in a spa cabin, be sure to book well in advance. They often sell out early.
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