Front vs. Back Cabins on a Cruise Ship: Which is Right for You?

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Embarking on a cruise is an exhilarating experience, but picking the perfect cabin can be quite the conundrum. Do you go for a cabin at the front of the ship, or do you choose one at the back?

The image features a side-by-side comparison of two cruise ships, with the left side showing the front view of a P&O cruise ship adorned with a blue and red livery, and the right side displaying the stern of P&O Britannia docked at a port. The "vs" symbol in red divides the two images, emphasizing the contrast between the bow and the aft of these large, multi-deck cruise ships.

I’ve cruised in cabins all over the ship, including right at the front and right at the back. In this post, I’ll explain the pros and cons of both options to help you choose the best cabin on your next cruise.

The Best Cabins

The best cabins on cruise ships are actually in a midship location. These are usually more expensive than cabins at the front or the back?

Why? Well, cruise ships are generally pretty big, and it can take ten minutes or more to walk from the front to the back of the ship. Mid-ship rooms are the most convenient, as you’ll never have too far to walk to get to your cabin.

The image presents a clear day at the harbor with two imposing cruise ships in view. The closest ship, prominently displaying the Union Jack flag design on its hull, is identified as the P&O Arvia, a testament to its British heritage. In the background, another large cruise ship with a blue funnel is visible, both dwarfing the person strolling along the pebble beach in the foreground, showcasing the grand scale of these luxurious vessels.

Cruise ships have either two or three banks of elevators. If your room is towards the front or back, then you’ll need to find the correct elevator. Otherwise, you face a long walk along a corridor with nothing but rooms. This is never pleasant.

With a mid-ship cabin, you can choose any elevator to get back to your cabin, and you’ll never have too far to walk when you get out.

Another advantage of mid-ship cabins is that you’ll feel the movement the least here. When cruise ships rock, the front and the back tend to sway much more than the middle. This makes mid-ship staterooms ideal for those who suffer from seasickness.

What To Know About Forward Cabins

There aren’t really any advantages to choosing a forward cabin for most people. But there are some things that may concern you.

Firstly, if you have a balcony cabin underneath the bridge, then the bridge crew will be able to look right down onto it, so it will feel less private.

This image captures a unique perspective from a cruise ship's bridge wing, where passengers are seen enjoying the view. The bridge wing extends over the water, offering an unobstructed vantage point. In the distance, a cargo vessel is passing by, contrasted against the industrial backdrop of a port. A small pilot boat moves closer to the foreground, adding to the maritime activity in this scenic ocean view.

Also, if you happen to be cruising in foggy weather, then you’ll be very close to the ship’s fog horn! This will blast every two minutes, and will probably start early in the morning, waking you up.

The ship’s anchor is located at the front of a cruise ship. When it’s lowered early in the morning, you’re also likely to be woken by a heavy clunking sound if you choose a cabin in this area.

A cruise ship's anchor deployed at sea, with a view of the ship's hull and the ocean waves.

Noise isn’t all you should be concerned about with a cabin at the front. If you have a balcony cabin, you should also know that the further forward you are, the windier it will be. So you may not be able to enjoy your balcony as much as you’d like.

A woman in a striped dress standing on the balcony of the MSC Virtuosa, with her hair blowing in the wind and the ocean in the background.

Some cruise ships have cabins that face forward. These balconies have metal balustrades rather than glass to protect from the wind. A disadvantage of this is that you can’t see the sea when sitting down.

The aft section of the Holland America Line Eurodam cruise ship, with a large red arrow pointing to the steel balcony rails.

You may even find that you’re not allowed to use forward-facing balconies when the ship is moving, as it will be too windy to be safe.

Why choose a cabin at the front?

Given all the negatives, you may be wondering why anyone would choose a room at the front of a cruise ship?

Well, the main reason is that they’re cheaper.

When you see a price advertised for a cruise, it will be based on the cheapest available cabin – usually one at the front. Upgrading to a midship cabin could set you back several hundred pounds or dollars – something that most people don’t think is worth it.

Forward cabins can be handy if they’re close to locations that you visit every day, like the kids club, the theatre or the gym. Be sure to check the deck plan of your chosen ship. If you plan on carrying a sleeping child to bed from the kids’ club each night, then a cabin beneath the kids’ club could be ideal. 

A tender moment as a father carries his tired son in a red shirt, both in the quiet space of a cruise ship elevator, after a day in the kids' club.

What To Know About Aft Cabins

Cabins towards the rear of a cruise ship are known as ‘aft’ cabins. These can be similar in price to forward cabins, given that they have the same issues with being far from the action and you having to find the aft elevator if you want to avoid a long walk along a corridor that’s just cabins.

Aft cabins can also be quite rocky in rough seas, so they’re not ideal for anyone concerned about seasickness. 

The engines are located at the back of a cruise ship, in the mid-aft area. So if you have a cabin on a low deck and towards the back, you’ll be right above them. Cruise ship engines aren’t usually noisy, but during certain manoeuvres, they can create strong vibrations that can be felt in the cabins. If the hangers in your wardrobe are rattling, this can be noisy too.

An engineer in blue coveralls and ear protection standing inside the engine room of Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, surrounded by machinery.

If you have a balcony room, you may sometimes find that soot from the funnel can land on your balcony, although this is quite rare.

Why choose a cabin at the back?

Despite their issues, some cruisers say that cabins at the back of the ship are their favourite. If you’re lucky enough to snag an aft-facing or corner balcony, then you’ll be able to enjoy wonderful views over the ship’s wake.

The aft of a cruise ship showcasing the tiered deck levels with glass balustrades, under a soft blue sky with scattered clouds.

Aft-facing cabins are shaded from the wind, offering a warm and calm place to sit and watch the ocean. These balconies are usually a little larger than those on the side of the ship as well.

Backwards-facing balcony cabins can be quite expensive, and you’ll likely pay quite a bit more than if you choose one on either the port or starboard side.

The P&O Aurora cruise ship docked, with the sun casting a glow over its aft cabins.

Again, you’ll want to take a look at the deck plan for your ship and think about which venues you’ll likely visit every day. On most ships, the buffet is located at the back, which means that you won’t have far to walk for your breakfast in the morning, unless you prefer to eat in the main dining room, that is!

My Recommendation

When it comes to choosing the best cabin for your cruise, there’s no right answer as to which is the best, as it depends very much on your personal preferences. I like to cruise on a budget, and so for me, it’s never worth the extra money to choose a cabin in a midship location.

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I usually opt for a ‘guarantee cabin’. This is when you let the cruise line choose your cabin number for you. Most of the time, these cabins are in the least desirable locations – the front or the back. However, being someone who’s lucky to be able-bodied and doesn’t suffer from seasickness, this doesn’t bother us at all.

Remember, the bigger the ship, the further you may have to walk. When we booked a Christmas cruise on Arvia, we picked the cheapest inside cabin right at the very front of the ship. However, when we boarded, we had a bit of extra spending money so I went straight to guest services to see if any upgrades were available due to last-minute cancellations

We were able to upgrade to a midship balcony for a relatively cheap price, and while it was Christmas, we treated ourselves. I must say, having a midship room on one of the world’s largest cruise ships was very much appreciated! 

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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