What’s the Best Deck on a Cruise Ship? How to Choose a Cabin or Stateroom
With seemingly bigger and better cruise ships setting sail each year, you have many, many options when booking a cruise. However, beyond just getting your pick of a range of cruise ships and cruising itineraries when you book your next vacation, once you narrow down which ship you want to sail on, you’re faced with even more options. What deck do you want to stay on? More specifically, what kind of cabin or stateroom do you want to stay in?
Most modern cruise ships offer around 12–15 passenger decks. While not all of these contain cabins or staterooms, many do. Which deck you stay on will heavily influence your cruising experience, as will the cabin you stay in. Of course, depending on your travel preferences, you may prefer one deck or cabin over another. There are no hard or fast rules as to which deck or cabin type is “best.” It’s all about what’s best for you.
That said, until you take a few cruises and have stayed in different areas of a ship and different cabins, you may not have a good idea of what you’d prefer. That’s why we’re here to help.
Here’s everything you need to know about your deck and cabin options on most cruise ships, and which are best for various concerns, from getting those perfect ocean views to having enough space for the family.
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Table of Contents
The Best Deck Options on a Cruise Ship
Across the majority of cruise ships, a few decks primarily feature staterooms. Think of these decks as the ship’s hotel floors. Then, a few decks primarily house entertainment and dining. Finally, some decks feature a mixture of both.
The main things you need to remember are…
- Decks that are dedicated to staterooms only are going to be quieter, but aren’t going to give you much access to amenities
- Decks that feature a mix of staterooms and public areas aren’t typically as quiet and peaceful but do allow you easy access to all the ship’s venues
That said, which deck you choose out of these myriad options will depend on a few other factors, too — factors specific to your preferences and needs.
Further Reading: Are Cruises Worth It?
The Best Deck for…
Let’s say you want to know the best deck for an ocean view, seasickness, or other concern. Here’s what to choose.
The best deck for views
This should probably be obvious, but the best deck for views will be the highest. Book a cabin on a deck as high as possible for the furthest, prettiest, most unobstructed views on the ship.
The best deck for seasickness
If you suffer from seasickness but still have your heart set on taking a cruise, you’ll want to stay on the lowest deck possible. The lower you are, the less rolling and waves you’ll feel. Along these lines, pick a cabin in the lowest deck’s center part. In short, try to get as close to the ship’s belly as possible. The further outward you travel on the ship, the more movement you’ll feel.
The best deck for sleeping
If you’re the type who desperately needs sleep during a vacation (or maybe you just want to catch up on some much-needed sleep during your vacation), book a cabin on one of the decks filled with other cabins only. This will give you a quieter atmosphere, less foot traffic, and less general commotion.
The best deck for mobility issues or disabilities
For those with mobility issues, it’s wise to pick a cabin on a deck near the amenities you most want to take advantage of during your trip. Cruise ships are enormous, and getting around them can be exhausting and frustrating as you deal with crowds and sometimes limited elevators.
So, cut down on all that exhausting cruise ship navigation that you might have to endure. If you want to be near the pools, stay on a deck nearest the pools. Pick a deck near the restaurants and bars if you want to be near the restaurants and bars.
There is one caveat to this, though. If you need more room (for example, for a motorized wheelchair or other aid), you may need to consider booking a spot on a lower deck, where there’s generally more floor space.
The best deck for families
If you’re cruising as a family and your primary concerns during the trip include (a) making wrangling the kiddos as easy as possible, (b) keeping the kids entertained, and (c) keeping the peace, you’ll want to consider booking a cabin in one of two spots on the ship.
If you want less kid-wrangling and more kid-entertaining, book a cabin toward the top of the ship and the kid-favorited areas like the pool deck. You’ll be able to get the entire family settled for a day of fun fast, and since it’s already noisy, you won’t need to worry as much about bothering your fellow travelers.
You could, likewise, book a cabin near the ship’s kid venues. However, you might want to think twice if you don’t anticipate your children spending loads of time at these venues. Often, they’re situated on a lower deck, where others might be trying to sleep or enjoy quiet time. (Plus, staying on one of these lower decks puts you further away from all the action up top.)
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The Best Cabin or Stateroom Options on a Cruise Ship
Every major cruise line will offer a range of cabin and stateroom options, and, typically, these cabins can be sorted into four main categories: interior, oceanview, balcony, or suites. Some ships additionally offer VIP staterooms, which we’ll also cover below.
Do note that if you book a cruise with an all-inclusive cruise line, you may have fewer cabin options. Often, these cruise lines only offer suites or balcony staterooms, as they’re considered the most desirable options. However, as you read below, you’ll see why this might not appeal to every traveler.
Interior staterooms sit within the center of the ship and do not touch any of the ship’s sides. There’s no window, no natural light.
These staterooms are the smallest and typically only really comfortable for singles or couples. You get fewer amenities with an interior stateroom, and it’s often less luxurious than your other options. However, they do come with a few perks. They’re cheaper and often quiet.
(Do note: On some cruise ships, you can find cabins classified as porthole or walkway window interior staterooms; these staterooms are a unique option because they come with some extra light via a window, but the view is obstructed, tiny, or of a walkway or interior part of the ship.)
Oceanview staterooms will differ from ship to ship. Some cruise lines feature oceanview staterooms with humongous windows that offer gorgeous, nearly wall-to-wall views. Others, however, don’t provide you with quite the same view. Some put the ocean view window behind the bed, so enjoying that ocean view isn’t exactly easy. Sometimes, the view is obstructed. Other times, the view is virtual — so not even real, just a screen showing you, in real-time, what’s passing by the ship.
Before you book any oceanview stateroom, be sure to do your thorough research to determine whether or not the ocean view is truly the grand ocean view you’re imagining waking up to.
Balcony staterooms are typically slightly larger than oceanview staterooms and might feature more furnishings (like a sitting area). They also come with a balcony that’s usually equipped with two or three chairs and a table.
Suites differ from ship to ship but are your most luxurious options. The biggest and best suites might offer amenities such as…
- Multiple separate bedrooms and bathrooms
- A dining area or room
- Larger balconies with more furnishings, sometimes with hot tubs or another dining area
- Both a soaking tub and a standing shower in the bathroom
- Walk-in closets
- Seated vanities
Select cruise lines build out VIP areas on their ships that contain both staterooms and suites, and that are, together, considered a separate class of cabins.
For example, on Carnival’s Vista-class cruise ships, the Havana Cabanas category of cabins and suites features more space and upgraded furnishings decor. Additionally, guests in these cabins also enjoy particular perks that other cruisers won’t have access to. They get their own pool, hot tubs, and a bar, to start.
On some cruise lines, the VIP area of the ship will include a separate, private restaurant, and guests might enjoy complimentary extra dining throughout the day.
So, while these staterooms are often more expensive than others you could book, they come with extra perks that might be desirable if you want to avoid the cruise ship’s main crowds.
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The Best Cruise Ship Cabins for…
Have a specific concern regarding your upcoming cruise experience? Here are the best cabins for particular types of travelers or worries.
The best cruise ship cabins for views
As we already mentioned, the best decks for views are the uppermost decks. However, if you want views with little interruption and lesser crowd noise on those upper decks, go for a balcony stateroom (or better, such as a suite or VIP stateroom) toward the ship’s rear.
The best cruise ship cabins for seasickness
The best staterooms for seasickness are interior staterooms (which is something to consider before you book a cruise with an all-inclusive cruise line that only offers balcony or suite rooms).
Why is this? Well, the closer you are to the ship’s edges, the more movement you’ll feel. Balcony and oceanview staterooms have to be on the sides of the ship to give you those views and outdoor living space, so if you want to avoid seasickness at all costs, you’ll want an interior room that’s as deep into the ship as you can get.
The best cruise ship cabins for sleeping
Similarly, the best staterooms for sleeping are also interior staterooms. You’ll get less noise and no sunlight — which can be particularly handy during specific itineraries that dock earlier than you’d like to wake up.
That said, not all interior staterooms are ideal for sleeping. As you book, look at a cruise ship map and see if you can identify (a) where the engine room is and (b) where any family suites or adjoining rooms are available. These areas come with lots of noise from either the ship itself or families/groups of travelers. Avoid excess noise by booking interior staterooms further away.
The best cruise ship cabins for mobility issues or disabilities
Luckily, cruise ships will always offer a selection of accessible staterooms that provide features such as wider doorways, more floor space for mobility aids, and accessible bathrooms.
The best cruise ship cabins for families
A lot of cruise ships offer a handful of suites or cabins that are branded as family-specific. They might include more space, but some also provide family-oriented amenities, such as a playroom and games for the kids.
If your cruise ship does not offer these (or you’re cruising on a budget and don’t want to pay for one of them), consider booking adjoining rooms for more space, or at least a balcony room, which offers the most space before upgrading to a suite. (Keep in mind — a small cabin begins to feel incredibly small after a few days with the entire family.)
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A Perfect Fit for Every Cruiser
Given how big today’s cruise ships are (many easily fit 4–6,000 cruisers at a time), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find a suitable cabin and deck fit on your next cruise. Whether you need a cabin where you can get in a few winks, or you want something close to all the action, you can get it — and often without paying a premium. Need more cruising tips? Check out our guide to cruising without a passport, as well as our guide to cruise ship tendering.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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