I often receive messages via Instagram from first-time cruisers asking what’s the best deck to choose on a cruise ship. The answer is far from straightforward, so I’ve written this guide to help you to decide what’s the best deck to stay on a cruise ship, based on the pros and cons.
Avoiding seasickness is often the main concern when it comes to choosing the best cruise ship deck. And it’s true that some decks are much better for avoiding motion sickness. However, there are some other things you’ll want to think about too, such as the views, the number of stairs and the potential for noise.
How are decks numbered on a cruise ship?
Before we start, it’s important to understand how the decks are numbered on a cruise ship.
On cruise ships, decks are numbered from bottom to top, starting from Deck 1 and going up at high as 20 or more. On most cruise ships, the lowest decks aren’t accessible to passengers, and you board the ship on Deck 4 or Deck 5.
Many cruise ships give the decks names as well as numbers.For example, on MSC Grandiosa, the decks are named after famous artists such as Monet and Van Gogh, whereas on Costa Deliziosa the decks are named after ornamental flowers such as Petunia and Azalea.
Some cruise ships have letters as well as numbers for the decks. On P&O Ventura, for example, Deck 12 is called A Deck, Deck 11 is called B Deck, and so on.
There are also some words used to describe particular decks on a cruise ship:
- Sports Deck – Often at the top of the ship, here you’ll find sports facilities such as basketball courts or golf nets
- Sun Deck – This deck is usually a sunbathing area with lots of loungers. It has a hollow centre to look down over the pool
- Lido Deck – The deck with the main outdoor swimming pool, this is usually located beneath the Sun Deck
- Promenade Deck – A mid-ship deck that enables you to walk all around the edge of the ship
- Landing Deck – The deck where you will get on and off the ship. This is often the lowest deck that’s accessible to passengers
Where is Deck 1 on a cruise ship?
On some cruise ships, Deck 1 is the lowest deck on the ship. On others, it’s simply the lowest deck that’s accessible to passengers. On Carnival and Disney cruise ships, you can book a cabin on Deck 1. On other cruise ships, the lowest passenger cabins are on Deck 3 or 4.
Below the passenger cabins, there are the crew cabins, the engine room and other facilities such as the laundry, jail and medical centre. On some cruise ships, these areas are on Decks 1 and 2. On ships with passenger cabins on Deck 1, the decks beneath have names such as Deck A, Deck B and Deck C.
The best cruise deck for motion sickness
So, now we know how cruise ship decks work, let’s get straight to the question I get asked the most – Which is the best deck for seasickness?
The best deck on a cruise ship to avoid seasickness is the lowest passenger deck. This is because the top of a ship sways from side to side much more than the bottom. To avoid motion sickness, choose a cabin close to the waterline.
If you’re really worried about seasickness, you should consider booking a cabin with a balcony. If you’re able to sit on the balcony and look out to sea, you’ll feel much better than if you lie down in bed in a windowless inside cabin.
The lowest cruise ship decks don’t have balconies as they’re too close to the water. The balcony staterooms usually start on the third or fourth deck up.
If you don’t have the budget for a balcony stateroom, consider a room with a window. There are available on the lowest decks and being able to look at the horizon will help your brain to cope with the motion, so you’ll feel less queasy in rough seas.
The best cruise deck for views
If you’re cruising to somewhere with stunning scenery, then it’s wise to go for a balcony stateroom on a higher deck. The higher up the ship you go, the better the view.
It’s not that the view from the lower decks is bad. Far from it. It’s just that you’ll be able to see further from higher up. If you don’t have a balcony in your cabin, you can head up to the top deck and enjoy the views from there as you sail away.
The best cruise deck for people who hate elevators
Around 12.5% of people suffer from claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces) and a further 1% suffer from agoraphobia (the fear of not being able to escape). Many of these sufferers will want to avoid elevators (or lifts, as they’re known in the UK).
While most able-bodied people can walk up a few flights of stairs comfortably, only the fittest could manage to walk up ten flights or more without breaking a sweat. I’ve climbed about fifteen decks on a cruise ship before and let me tell you, it’s pretty tiring!
In 2021 and beyond, social distancing requirements mean that cruise ship lifts will have a much-reduced capacity. Rather than having around 15 people in each elevator, the capacity may be reduced to just four. This can mean longer waiting times for those people who need to take the lift.
If you prefer to avoid taking the elevator on a cruise ship, you should choose a cabin on a mid-level deck. That way, you won’t have too many floors to climb in one go, whether you’re going up to the pool or down to the dining room.
5 cruise ship decks to avoid
Even if you never get seasick, there are some other things that you should consider when choosing a cruise ship deck. Are you a light sleeper who likes to go to bed early or sleep in late? Do you want to avoid long journeys in the elevator? Or maybe you just don’t want to see other cruisers peering into your room!
1. The deck below the Lido Deck
Many of the noise problems that cause complaints on cruise ships come from the pool deck. Here, you might have deck parties with live music until late in the evening, followed by people scraping their sunloungers across the deck at the crack of dawn.
If you prefer not to be disturbed, you should avoid the deck below the Lido Deck and go down a level where it will almost certainly be quieter. If you really want to stay in one of the highest cabins, study the deck plan carefully to see exactly what’s above your room.
2. The lowest deck
The cabins on the lowest passenger deck are usually the cheapest and there’s a good reason for that. In the lowest part of a cruise ship, there’s a whole lot of noisy stuff so you may hear the hum of the engine, the blast of the bow thrusters and the clanging of the anchor chain. Depending on the ship, you may also feel vibrations that could make the hangers in your wardrobe rattle!
Of course, I’m not saying that low decks are always noisy. But at certain times of day, and especially when a ship is manoeuvring into and out of a port, you will hear more noise here than you would on a higher deck.
I’ve booked a cabin on the lowest deck for my future cruises on Iona and also on Arvia. I’ll let you know how I get on!
3. The landing deck
Some people believe that having a cabin on the landing deck can be a good thing as you can leave the ship quickly at each port. However, in reality, you’re probably going to go all the way up to the buffet at the top of the ship for breakfast first, aren’t you?
If your cabin is close to the exit door, you may have people crowding around and making noise as they leave the ship. If you’re an early riser, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, on some cruises guests can disembark at ports as early as 6 am. Plus, if you have an overnight stay, people could be coming back on board at all hours of the night.
4. The promenade deck
Strolling around the Prom Deck is a wonderful activity to enjoy early in the morning, after dinner or before bed. But as lovely as the promenade deck is, it can be one of the worst locations for a cruise cabin.
The problem with cabins on the promenade deck is that people can often see straight into your room. On P&O Cruises’ Iona, the promenade deck even has hot tubs on it. That means that some cabins will have a Jacuzzi blocking their view of the ocean.
At the time of writing, nobody has been on Iona to see how much of a problem this is, but I’ll aim to update this post when I have some more info.
Some promenade deck cabins have windows rather than balconies. These have special one-way glass that looks like a mirror from the outside. However, if someone were to put their face right up the glass, they could almost certainly see right into your room.
5. The deck above an interior promenade
Some Royal Caribbean ships have an interior promenade featuring bars and restaurants. Cabins on the deck above often have windows that look down over the promenade.
While these cabins may be great for people watching, people can also look up and see you, so you’ll want to remember to close your curtains when changing. This can also be a noisy location, especially if your cabin is right above the sports bar or another loud venue.
Which deck is the best on a cruise ship?
The best deck on a cruise ship depends very much on the ship and what’s important for you, so there’s no single answer to the question of which deck is best.
The best cruise ship deck for many people is a lower deck because less movement will be felt here. However, for the best views, you should choose a higher deck. If you want to avoid taking the elevator, a mid-level deck would be best.
Of course, as well as the deck you’ll want to think about whether your cabin is towards the front (forward) or rear (aft) of the ship. There are a few locations that you’ll certainly want to steer clear of if you want to be sure of a good night’s sleep!
To make sure you avoid any dodgy cabins on your next cruise, I’ve created a checklist that will make sure you get it right…
What about guarantee cabins?
Sometimes, you can save money on your cruise by allowing the cruise line to select your cabin for you. This is known as a ‘guarantee’ stateroom because you’re guaranteed to get a room in the grade that you choose, or higher.
So, if you book an inside cabin and they sell out, you could be upgraded to an outside cabin with a window. Free upgrades can happen regardless of whether you choose your cabin number yourself or not.
Guarantee cabins aren’t usually in the most desirable locations. This is because these are the rooms that are left over after everyone who’s picked their choice of room. So you’re unlikely to get a midship cabin when you book the guarantee rate.
You may decide that you don’t really care what deck your cruise cabin is on. If you’re fit enough to walk the length of a cruise ship and climb a few flights of stairs, then spending a few extra minutes walking to and from your room each day could be well worth the saving.
Personally, I always go for the guarantee cabin, unless there are some other free perks that come with the higher rate.