Best and Worst Cabins on Cruise Ships

   November 26, 2015 ,   Ships and Lines

What are the best and worst cabins on cruise ships - and why? Where and what are the best cabins on a cruise ship is a question about location (cruise deck plans), fares and price-inclusive amenities. Where and what are the best and worst staterooms are among the general questions for first-timer cruisers.

Staterooms are like tiny homes at sea, and choosing your "best" is kinda personal. Your choice also will depend on the company, vessel, room size, type/view, deck location, amenities. Not to forget the special offers with super low-priced promo deals that could change everything you know on the subject. Find out more secrets at our stateroom tips and tricks.

Best and Worst Cabins on Cruise Ships - CruiseMapper

Types of cabins on cruise ships

Cruise ship cabins are often referred to as "staterooms" or "cruise accommodations". Their furnishings can range from "comfy" to "luxurious". The cheapest tend to be smaller than an ordinary budget hotel room. The largest staterooms (suites) rival many land-based luxury resort accommodations  - both as sizes and amenities, but mostly as prices. Cabin rates are per person and usually based on double occupancy (excepting studios). Prices range widely by cabin types, sizes, deck location, amenities, company's and vessel's ratings, also by destination, season, itinerary, travel agency, inclusions, and bonuses, promotion deals, etc.

  • Inside cabins are the cheapest, located in the ship's interior (an inside corridor), no window, capacity up to 4 guests.
  • Oceanview/Outside cabins - about 15-20% more expensive, with windows which don't open or porthole, the cheapest of this type may have a partially (or substantially) obstructed view.
  • Balcony cabins (also called Veranda) - 30-40% more expensive than Inside; have outside chairs and a table, often with 4-star amenities.
  • Mini-suite and full Suites (multi-room accommodations) - some of the most expensive, with a private veranda, bathtub (hot tub), a large sitting area, 2 closets. Suites and Interior cabins tend to sell out first (partly because there are fewer of them, partly because they offer, respectively, extremely good value and the cheapest fares).
  • Grand Suite and all Penthouse, Owner's, Presidential and the like suites - the most expensive and the largest cruise staterooms at sea (separate living and sleeping areas, a wide variety of bonus amenities and perks). Sizes vary according to line and ship, reaching up to 5,000 ft2 in the case of NCL's Garden Villa suites. At the modest price of only US $30,000 per week you'll enjoy a private sauna and open-air Jacuzzi, your very own kitchen, a private elevator entrance, the best butler service money can buy and the best luxury available on a cruise ship.

On big ships, you'll find a number of cabin categories within each cabin type. This is according to location, size, features, quality of view, etc. Cabin rates vary not only by type and size but also by category. For a particular cabin type, brochure/online prices usually apply to the lowest category. In your cabin, every square inch is usable since the price of ships is generally determined by the number of their beds/berths. So luggage fits under the bed, while the items you unpack will be stored in closets and drawers.

Which cruise ship cabins to avoid?

After analyzing their deck plans, we'll list here the most famous ships and their "worst" cabins. The "bad cruise cabins" issue is not about amenities, but about location - and noise. Cabins located nearby the ships' elevators or with some public areas above (restaurants, bars/clubs, kids areas), or near public bathrooms may present some noise concern during the day or late at night.

what does a cruise ship cabin look like (details/amenities)

  • All cabins have twin beds, usually convertible to create a queen bed, while suites may have king-sized beds. Family cabins may also have pull-down or bunk-beds (loft beds attached to the wall), sleeper sofa or an additional twin bed.
  • All have a small safe to lock in it all valuables while onboard (passports, credit cards and cash, fine jewelry, iPads), at least 1 large wall-mounted mirror, individually controlled air conditioning.
  • All have private bathrooms with showers, basic bathroom amenities (typical for a motel, including a hairdryer), ship toilets operate by power suction.
  • All have a phone (wake-up call option, synchronized to ship's time). Nowadays all ship cabins also feature a flat TV and a DVD player, a mini-bar and a small refrigerator (cans and bottles for sale; if you bring your own drinks, ask the steward to empty it first).
  • All have a reach-in closet, a shelf for life-vests, storage drawers (suites usually have walk-in closets with several shelves). Higher categories cabins also have a desk with a chair.
  • Power outlets are minimized to avoid fire risk. Near the bed (and the desk) there are  1 or 2 low-wattage (120V 60Hz) outlets for laptops.

A good cruise travel agent could be of great assistance to you (using agency services is highly recommended for first-timers) guiding you through all the grades and deckplan codes for the nuances of features, best locations and the best-worst staterooms on a particular boat.

Special types of staterooms (crew, single, family, Spa, accessible)

  • Crew cabins are located on one of the crew decks (on some ships located below the waterline/under the water), while cruise ship staff cabins are in the passenger areas.
  • Single cabins (aka Solo cabins) are generally difficult to find. The world's best ships with single cabins belong to the fleets of such famous operators, like Fred Olsen and P&O on the UK market and NCL Norwegian Lines. The best of all ships with single-occupancy cabins is the NCL Norwegian Epic, boasting 128 of its 100 square foot (9,3 m2) "Epic Studios" - specifically designed for solo travelers, and features a full-size bed and a large round window looking out into the corridor.
  • Family cabins - many of a standard size for its category, but with more beds and bathrooms, providing more privacy for parents. The best lines with family cabins are Carnival, Disney, Celebrity, Princess, and NCL.
  • Accessible/Disabled cabins are special accommodations for passengers with mobility challenges. These rooms have wheelchair access, wide doors (doors are even automatic on some ships), a bathtub with grab bars, roll-in showers, portable ADA kits for guests with hearing impairments, closed-captioned televisions.
  • SPA cabins - Spa-deck staterooms with direct access to the ship's Spa and Fitness complex.

What are the best cabins on cruise ships (amenities)?

In a concise manner, the best luxury cruise cabins are to be found on Regent Seven Seas and NCL ships, while the cheapest cruise cabins are offered by all HAL and Carnival ships (honored also with the "best standard cabins" reward). NCL (Norwegian Lines) is well appreciated for offering a great variety of staterooms. NCL offers even garden and courtyard suites, and some of the best family cruise suites at sea featuring a separate living and dining area and exclusive access to a private courtyard with a pool and Jacuzzi. The Regent Seven Seas line is praised for its all-outside all-suite ships and best luxury.

The largest (by category) and absolutely affordable to most cheap cruise cabins are always "the deal" on Carnival ships. The Carnival's standard cabins are the industry's largest and very well-equipped (even the lowest Small Inside category). As for Holland America cabins, they are 25% larger than those of other premium brands.

Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean are well known for having more than decent interior cabins - the Carnival's being most spacious, and those of Disney - most family-friendly. The Disney Deluxe Inside Stateroom accommodates 4 persons with a convertible sofa and a pull-down bed and also features a split bath. The Royal Caribbean ships of Freedom and Voyager class are honored for their unique inside cabins with windows looking out on the Royal Promenade (a tip - if traveling with kids, choose the most affordable Promenade Family Stateroom - an interior accommodation 300 ft2 /28 m2 in size and capacity of 6 guests).

  • The best BEDS on ships. The Oceania line is the winner when it comes to beds - its Tranquility Beds feature Euro-Top mattresses, plush duvets, deluxe pillows, even Egyptian cotton linens. If you like to make the best budget ship vacation deals without sacrificing comfort, then Carnival is your game with the line's world-famous Comfort Bed System.
  • The best BATHROOMS on ships. The Crystal ship's suites have separate tubs, multi-head massage showers, double vanities, and of course - the marble tiling. For standard cabins, NCL leads by having 3-sectioned bathrooms - the sink is in the middle, while a separate toilet and shower section are positioned on either side. Disney ships are also ranked for their family-friendly split bathrooms.
  • The largest CLOSETS on ships. Regent and Silversea lines get the 1st prize for having the largest walk-in closets. The storage spaces include a hanging section, numerous drawers and shelves, and places for shoes. The best cheap option is Carnival with its faux walk-in closets.

Where are the best cabins on a cruise ship (location)?

Choosing the best cruise cabin location on your ship is a matter of personal choice. Generally, your cabin will be located either on lower (higher) deck, mid-ship, forward or aft (rear), with some pros and cons to all these locations. Booking a "guarantee" cabin is an open deal - you pay for a cabin category (not a specific stateroom) - best prices are guaranteed, but not necessarily the best location.

  • Lower Deck cabins - cheapest. The cheapest are the lower deck Interior staterooms. The main advantage (besides the price) is a smoother ride. Main disadvantages - you're using constantly elevators/stairs, more engine noise/vibrations, the sound of the anchor dropping (if you're near the ship's front).
  • Higher Deck cabins - more expensive. You'll feel more motion (not suitable if you're prone to seasickness). But you're closer to the best ship amenities - entertainment and dining venues, onboard pools, Spa, bars and lounges, etc.
  • Midship cabins - less motion and a central location. The main disadvantage - more traffic outside. Also, check the lifeboat locations (lifeboats may significantly obstruct your view).
  • Forward cabins - the most motion, wind and spray, smaller windows (often recessed or slanted). Forward located suites provide larger than average balconies.
  • Rear (Aft) cabins - more motion than the midship cabins, but less than the front ones.

Best cruise ship staterooms by type and cruise line

Best-view cabins

Best-view cabins are located forward (at the ship's front/bow) or aft (at the ship's stern). These rooms have the largest balconies and widest ocean views. Front staterooms are with oversized floor-ceiling windows. For the best choice of such rooms choose Carnival or Royal Caribbean.

Best "Large Balcony" cabins

Aft balcony cabins have the ship's largest private verandas, and there are just a few (6-10) such rooms per deck. They are lined up along the stern and give more terrace space and privacy. Aft cabins located in the ship's corners are usually with wraparound balconies.

Larger balconies also have the "hump cabins", located where the vessel's superstructure changes from narrower to wider. Most verandas there are angled and with curvy outlines. For more hump cabins search in the fleets of Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises.

Best "Low-Motion" cabins

The "best cabins for seasickness" are located at the ship's edges (top decks, bow, and stern). The worst area in the front section, as the bow is first hit by waves. Higher deck front cabins fell more the up and down motion, while for the aft cabins the motion is less noticeable. The most stable cabins are located midship and on lower decks (closer to the waterline).

Best "Low-Noise" cabins

Quietest staterooms are far away as possible from congested public areas and venues. Light sleepers should avoid staterooms located near pool deck/lido deck, elevators, hallways, laundry facilities, casino, theater, kids clubs, disco nightclub.

  • Avoid cabins located forward on lower decks - where the ship's anchors are located. Lowering and raising the anchors generate a lot of noise.
  • Avoid lower decks aft rooms are near the ship's engine rooms - where diesel generators create a constant hum, all the time of the voyage.
  • Avoid cabins under the Promenade Deck - an outdoor deck space where passengers are often walking and talking (usually loud).

Best Handicap cabins (for passengers with disabilities)

Passengers with mobility impairment must choose near-lift cabins which are easily accessible from the onboard passenger elevators. Special handicap cabins are available on all large cruise liners. A limited number of wheelchair-accessible rooms are available on most ships, including luxury mega-yachts. Search the vessel's deck plans for the best location, type, and size.

Best Spa cabins

Thermal Suite and spa lovers must book staterooms located near the ship's wellness complex. In close proximity, they will find heated loungers, thalassotherapy pool, saunas, and massage rooms.

Most cruise ships have designated "spa staterooms" (inside, oceanview, balcony, and suite) located on the Spa Deck or 1 deck above or below the Spa. Some ships (especially top-luxury) have rooms with direct Spa access (via a staircase in the spa) or via an exclusive elevator. For more Spa cabins search in the fleets of MSC, NCL, Costa, and the luxury lines (Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara).

Where are the best cruise SUITES?

On the Silversea ships Whisper and Shadow - the 1-bedroom "Royal Suite" is 1,352 ft2 or 126 m2 (the 2-bedroom version is 1,697 ft2 (158 m2), the "Grand Suite" is 1,435 ft2 or 133 m2 (2-bedroom is 1,780 ft2 (165 m2) and the "Owner's Suite" is 1,553 ft2 (144 m2). The last category "top luxury cruise suite" prices start from the modest US $850 per person per day!

Suites on the NCL ships Gem, Jade, Jewel and Pearl are the "affordable choice". Norwegian Pearl's "Garden Villa" has a staggering size of 2320 ft2 (216 m2) plus a huge balcony measuring 1035 ft2 (96 m2). Norwegian Jewel's two Garden Villas are combined into an almost 5000 ft2 (465 m2) "cruise mansion". Floor-ceiling windows, plenty of deck furniture, separate bedroom, fabulous private bathroom with hot-tub, 2 additional bedrooms (with their own private bathrooms), living room, dining room.

About the worst cabins on cruise ships / which staterooms to avoid. First of all, there's no such thing as "the worst cabin" - simply because to offer a bad product (even for cheap money) is not the proper way of doing a multibillion-dollar cruise travel vacation business. However, always try to avoid locations near elevators and public spaces, with at least 1 deck between your cabin and any crowded place - pools, dining and bar venues, children areas, lounges, nightclubs.

Find out more secrets at our stateroom tips and tricks.