So you’ve chosen which category of cabin – now where do you want to be on the ship: low or high deck; forward, midship or aft?
The closer to the middle and the lower the deck, the less movement there is on the ship. With stabilizers, today’s cruise ships really don’t roll that much, but if you are concerned about movement, then lower is better.
Cruise lines price cabins in subgroups within each of the larger categories based on location – more for mid ship and more for higher decks. So for every $40 or $50 more, you move slightly more toward midship or from midship on one deck to more forward or aft on the next higher deck.
I generally check where the elevator banks are and then look for a cabin not too many doors away. That keeps me toward the middle, but still able to come and go fairly quickly. And because I book cruises rather late (not a year ahead like some people), I don’t always have much choice. The deck doesn’t matter as much to me as being in the middle half of the ship.
Look at a cruise ship and you will see that most have a couple of cabin decks above the water line, then two or three public decks (restaurants, shops, etc.), then several more cabin decks (these are where the balconies are) and finally a few public decks (pools, restaurants, lounges). My ideal is in the group of cabin decks between the two public deck groups, because it seems more central. But I don’t mind being in the lower section for a good price savings.
I do like to avoid the most forward and aft cabins because of movement or noise. Twice I have been in the most very forward cabin on the lowest level of the ship. When the ship anchored early in the morning, it sounded like the anchor chain was going through my cabin. I have sometimes noticed vibrations from the ship’s engines in aft cabins, particularly at the lower levels. But aft balcony cabins can have balconies almost as big as the cabins themselves, so they are usually pretty popular.
Another consideration is what is above and below your cabin. If you are on the highest level of cabins under the pool deck, you may hear the staff sliding around the deck chairs in the early morning. Some people in cabins under the galley (kitchen) report hearing the rolling of food carts starting in the wee hours of the night. I like to find a cabin with cabins above and below if possible. Sometimes the cruise lines’ online deck plans don’t tell you where the kitchen is – it’s just an unidentified area.
I’ll put in a plug here for a website called Cruise Critic. Not only does it carry lots of cruise news, but also it has forums on each cruise line, and you can learn a lot of about which cabins are most and least desired. In fact, in the Holland America section, the “stickies” always have a link to a cruiser’s website that carries photos of every cabin type, by ship, and many individual cabins. People email her photos to post. It’s a great resource.
One final note: If you like the cabin you choose, consider telling the booking agent that you do not want an upgrade. Sometimes the cruise lines will upgrade passengers to a higher level of cabin, either within the general category or beyond it. I think they figure the cheap cabins sell better at the last minute, so they move people up and drop the prices of the cheapest cabins. If you are in the middle of the ship, you might find yourself with an upgrade that moves you to the front or back, or under the pool deck. Or you might get a wonder upgrade. It’s a roll of the dice, so something to think about. I usually request no upgrade. It’s not like you get them very frequently, anyway.
I’m sure you have preferences on how you pick a cruise ship cabin – leave a comment and share for the rest of us!