Discover The Best Place To Stay On A Cruise Ship. And Why!
The Best Place To Stay On A Cruise Ship
I’m changing the way I choose my cabin on a cruise ship. After realising I had not properly considered a factor that could have improved the experience and enjoyment of my trips, things needed to change.
I want to tell you about this to help you up your cruise enjoyment, too.
I’m not changing the basics I use to find a cabin. Just adding to them. I’m now convinced there is a best place to be on cruise ship. There is a best deck.
These are the five things I do right now.
Cabin grades and location
First, I decide which grade. Inside, Oceanview, Verandah or Suite. Everything I am going to talk about from here on applies to all those grades. I almost always go for a balcony. Reasons why, I’ve covered in another video.
Second, I choose a fare that allows me to choose my own cabin. So, not a “guaranteed fare” where the cruise line chooses the cabin. One where I can choose the cabin.
Third, I make sure that the cabin I’m picking is surrounded by other cabins. This means above, below, either side and ideally, opposite. Doing this, I avoid being above, next to or near noisy venues, or busy spots on the ship.
Fourth, I make sure there is no interconnecting door. So, the television, arguing or noisy neighbours will not be heard in my cabin.
Say NO to auto-upgrades
And then, I tick the box saying no to an auto-upgrade. Once I’ve chosen a cruise ship cabin that meets these things, I don’t want to lose it by being upgraded to a cabin which is worse.
I was reminded how key that last step is recently. I received a message from a channel follower, June, and she had forgotten to tick the refuse auto-upgrade button. She was then upgraded to a cabin which she really didn’t want or like.
The problem is, you have no chance to accept or reject the new cabin if you have agreed to auto-upgrade. And, once the line has moved you it is almost impossible to get them to reverse it.
However, even going through those 5 things, it leaves me with hundreds of cabins based on the ship. And not all get me in the best place, as I found out on my last four cruises.
Understand The Decks
Ships, as we know, can be huge with many decks. For example, of the four ships I was on recently, Sky Princess and Regal Princess had 19 decks, P&O Britannia had 18 and Celebrity Silhouette had 16.
However, ships don’t have as many decks as they say they do, because most ships skip a deck.
On most US and UK ships, they leave out deck 13. So, Sky Princess and Regal have 18 not 19 decks. MSC, the Italian line, leaves out Deck 17 not 13 because that is the number Italians are superstitious about.
So, if you are on Deck 12 and you want to go to Deck 14, it’s only one deck up, not two. This becomes important when we start looking at which of the decks you should be on.
Also, when you look at the deck plans, you will see there are other missing decks. For example, on Sky Princess the plans only start from Deck 5. On Celebrity Silhouette at Deck 3, and so on.
The missing decks are mostly for crew quarters and ship operation facilities. We will have limited access to those. For example, the medical centre is often on the lower “missing” decks, or we pass through them disembarking in some ports, or if going on ships tenders.
Some decks are given specific names, and these tend to be those that don’t have passenger cabins.
There’s the Promenade Deck or Main Deck, as it’s sometimes called. This tends to be – and the decks above or below on big ships – where many bars, the main dining rooms, theatre, casino and lot of the entertainment venues are.
There’s also a Lido deck. Here the pool, buffet restaurant, and usually fitness centre and Crow’s Nest bar overlooking the bow are found.
You’ll find a Sun Deck at the top of the ship for sunbathing, and a Sports Deck with things like basketball courts or crazy golf.
Why am I telling you this? What difference does it make to finding the best place and deck on a cruise ship?
Because I found by knowing the quirks and layout of the ship makes sure I find my perfect spot.
The Middle Ground
I’ve learnt that the key is to make cruise ship deck plans your friend. And most importantly, to ignore the interactive deck plans the lines have on their websites. In my view, they hide and make it harder to spot issues. Instead, I download a PDF copy of the deck plans or use the one in the brochure.
Make sure it covers the date of your cruise on your chosen cruise ship. There are often different versions because when ships go into dry dock for tweaks, there are sometimes changes made to layouts. Sometimes, venues are also added or moved.
With that mind, and deck plan in hand, here’s my tips around which of the decks you should be on. First, as a general principle, but then also for some specific destinations. In some cases, the deck you should be on changes based on itinerary.
First, there’s decks that I make sure my cabin is not on.
Decks to avoid
I avoid the deck below the Lido Deck.
This is where you can be affected by noise and disruptions for much of the day. Whether it be from pool parties, scraping of chairs early morning and throughout the day.
Under the buffet there’s often noise. If you’re below the fitness centre, you can be disturbed, as I have been on previous cruises with the dropping of weights and pumping music from the fitness classes. The same with the Sports Deck.
Next, I avoid decks above and below the Promenade or Main Deck. Here, you have the theatre, night music venues, nightclub, bars, main dining room and kitchens.
Then, I avoid any decks where people can walk and stand in front of my cabin. On classic cruise ships this is unusual. Though P&O Iona does have balcony cabins on the Promenade Deck. With these, people can walk past and look into your cabin.
I’ve been on smaller ships and expedition ships with public decks outside my cabin. People congregate there to view the scenery and the wildlife, and it can be disruptive.
Most of those decks I was discounting with my existing 5 steps to find a cabin.
This where the learning I made on those recent trips come into play.
First, I learnt a lesson from my experience on Regal Princess compared to that on Sky Princess, both with the same number of decks.
On Regal, I was on a lower-level deck but found multiple times a day I had a long trek to get up to the buffet, the fitness centre and the pool, and then back down again.
This was made worse because the number of people allowed to use the elevators at that time was restricted. I was on a cruise just after shutdown. So, I found myself having to walk up and down 6 decks multiple times day.
As limits on using elevators eases, I am not sure I, and perhaps you, are comfortable crammed into lifts like we used to be. And, if you have mobility issues, this is a problem. It just added hassle.
Where do you spend most time onboard?
I realised the key is to think about where I spend the most time on a cruise. That is on lower decks like the Promenade/Main Deck going to the main dining room, guest services, theatre, casino and bars. It’s where most of the evening activities take place.
The other place I spend a lot of time is on the upper decks like lido, for the buffet, gym, pools, hot tubs and sail away and other deck parties.
I, and I’m sure you, spend most time at both the top and at the bottom of the ship. So, now I aim to be on the deck midway between those.
And again, remembering there is the missing deck, so checking what the exact middle deck is on the deck plan is key.
So, if I’m heading up from my cabin to the gym or pool, I only have a few decks to go up. If I’m heading down from my cabin in the evening going to the theatre, again I only have a few decks to go down.
Comparing on my phone tracker the number of steps and stairs I walked on Regal Princess on a lower deck, versus Sky Princess, where I was on a middle deck, was dramatically different.
However, being on the right deck is not the only consideration. Where on that deck is also key.
Where To Next?
I used to always choose midships, as it means less movement.
But there’s more to consider, as I found on P&O Britannia where being midships meant I was some distance from the stairs and lifts. They only had one set towards the front and another near the rear of the ship. So, that is a consideration now to ensure I am closer to a set of stairs and lift, as it makes life so much easier.
Some vloggers argue that being at the end of the corridor is advised because there is less traffic, less people walking by, and so it is quieter because there is less footfall.
If you like a view over the bow of the ship or like the view over the wake of the ship at the rear, that’s a reason to do that. I don’t think that foot traffic is a big issue in deciding where you should be on a particular deck.
However, there may be some other considerations than the views in deciding. Being at the rear of the ship means closer and more direct access to the buffet and main dining rooms, as these are usually at or towards the back of the ship.
If you’re very into fitness and the spa, you may want to be at the front of the ship as they tend to be there, and so again easier to access.
If you are worried about sea sickness, the rules on best deck still apply. You can go low, close to the waterline and middle of the ship as per the most common advice. But, they will be inside or ocean view cabins and normally under the Main or the Promenade Deck.
I would though go for balcony cabin in the middle deck and be midship on that deck, because easy access to fresh air and seeing and watching the horizon are great ways of dealing with seasickness.
The only time a low deck may be ideal, and I would go low, is on almost guaranteed rough sea trips like the Drake Passage heading to the Antarctic Peninsula. Or perhaps, on a winter Transatlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2.
Does being on the middle deck mean I am giving up the best views?
In my experience on the scenic cruises, I’ve been on, I can see I would get fantastic views on the middle deck.
In Alaska, it’s more eye level with the glaciers. Going through the Panama Canal it’s closer to the walls and the mules that help guide the ship through.
You’re just perfectly close enough, high enough, to get the views and again you’ve got the convenience of heading up to the activities at the top of the ship, heading down to the bottom of the ship especially when scenic cruising.
Despite this there are still bad cabins are on a ship, watch this video where I start by talking about the worst cabin and what to avoid. See you over there.
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