by Pete Petersen, Cruise Specialist
Tips for picking the right stateroom
The location of your stateroom can have a big impact on your overall cruise experience
If you’re a seasoned cruiser, you already know what style of stateroom layout you want and where you want it to be located on the ship. But for new cruisers, the location of your stateroom can have a big impact on your experience and your overall enjoyment of your cruise, so it’s important to consider all of the things mentioned here.
I have seen too many new cruisers who are more worried about the price than how they will handle any rough seas or noise. They’ll book through an online travel site or a cruise line direct line where they do not get a chance to ask a lot of important questions about the differences a cabin location can make. While this is essentially a simple topic there are still some important things to consider. Hopefully, the information provided here will help you in making that decision.
First of all, the easy part is that there are a few typical cabin layout choices:
The inside cabin. This stateroom has no windows at all. It is usually located across the hall from the staterooms with windows of balconies. These are the least expensive cabins, but also the least commodious due to the darkness, and usually smaller size. These are mostly utilitarian, just for sleeping and changing clothes, and are good for people who spend most of their time in public rooms on the ship.
- The “ocean-view” cabin has a window but it does not open for fresh air. The window can be large, like a picture window, or it might be just a tiny porthole if it is on a very low deck. These are the next step up in price.
- The “veranda” or balcony stateroom (they are the same thing). These are by far the most popular and common style of staterooms on ships today. On newer ships they can often represent as much as 80% of all the stateroom inventory.
- Suites are just larger staterooms, always with verandas, and usually with separate rooms for sleeping and “living” and even full dining facilities.
The main thing to know is that most staterooms of a given style are essentially identical – so it does not make sense to pay more for a stateroom just because it is on a higher deck. However, there are other factors – such as concierge services, or access to private lounges or spa facilities, that may be offered along with certain staterooms on higher decks.
But mostly we want to talk about how the location of a cabin affects your physical cruise experience, because of the dynamics of a ship and the way it moves through the water. The absolute best ride on any ship is as low as possible and as close to “amidships” – the area of equal distance from the fore and aft ends (front and back) of the ship, as possible. Of course, if you want a balcony stateroom or a suite you must be on a somewhat higher deck.
As far as how location affects how much you will feel the movement of the ship this is what you need to know: there are two types of movement in a ship depending on the direction of the waves. The front of the ship is generally the rockiest location for a stateroom, because it gets the most movement in high seas. Ideally, captains want to approach waves from the front, rather than letting them hit the side of the ship, but this means that in high seas the captain will point the ship to rise up and go over any waves, but in very high seas the ship will then come crashing down as soon as the waves passes under the ships center of gravity. This type of movement is known as “pitching,” and it is felt more in the front, less in the back, and the least amount in the middle (the center axis for the ship). This only happens in fairly rough sea conditions, and you may not feel it at all if you are midships.
Rocking motion is the side to side motion of a ship caused by the waves hitting the ship from the side. The higher up you are on a ship, the more apt you are to feel this type of motion and the lower you are, the less this motion is felt. Sometimes you can get both rocking and pitching motions at the same time, especially if it’s a fairly bad storm with high winds! But in most cases rocking will be at a minimum because the captain avoids it, and there devices called stabilizers to minimize the effect (more on those later).
With the exception of some small dining venues, this is why all the main dining rooms on ships are located in the middle or the back of a ship, which provides a more comfortable dining experience.
On our 46 cruises on 11 different cruise lines encompassing all sizes and ages of ships to many parts of the world, we’ve stayed in all types of staterooms just about anywhere on the ship you can imagine – from the very front of the ship, to the very aft of the ship looking straight backwards from our balcony, and everywhere in between.
We were once on a cruise in the very front of the ship – in fact, we were so far forward, the only thing on the other side of the wall was water! We were sailing in the Atlantic, doing a Canada/New England cruise and encountered some rather rough seas. The ship was rolling so much we were actually falling out of our beds! We had a blast, but others were very green at the gills. Needless to say, it helps to be prepared with adequate medication for motion sickness.
As for being in the aft (at the very end of the ship), you have a different concern depending upon the ship’s method of propulsion. Sometimes you can feel vibrations from the shaft driven propellers, although newer “azipod” systems which are more like outboard motors create much less vibration. Of course, the higher up you are on any back of the ship the less you feel any vibrations. Also, many newer ships (built since 2000) have shaft driven propellers, but with new computerized synchronization technology to alleviate vibrations issues.
Now, all modern cruise ships have some type of stabilizers to help provide a smoother ride and a more comfortable experience for the passengers. For those who don’t know about stabilizers; they are basically like wings on an airplane. They are put out under the water when required and retracted into the ship when not needed. The newest stabilizers are computerized systems combined with complex ballast systems which add water into special tanks in the bottom of the ship to make it ride lower in the water, also adding stability.
Obviously, big ships will not be affected by smaller waves, whereas smaller ships will be much more affected, so the size of the ship as well as the style of stabilizers and propulsion systems it has are the main factors in determining how much movement a ship might incur. A very small ship (100 passengers, 10,000-tons) is much more likely to give you a rough ride than a big mainstream cruise ship (3000 passengers and over 100,000-tons).
As we all know, supply and demand drive prices. Because of the effect of movement, people prefer to purchase staterooms in the middle of the ship, which is why those cabins can be priced higher and sell faster than staterooms in the front or back.
Cruising Regions and Weather
The next thing you need to think about is where and when in the world you’ll be cruising. Some regions in various times of year are more prone to rough seas than others.
For example, cruising out of places like Boston, New York, or Baltimore can often encounter rougher seas due to the nature of the Atlantic Ocean. The same can be said about cruising in the north Atlantic near Europe, the South China Sea or the Baltic Sea. While cruising in the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico will normally have much calmer seas all year except sometimes during short spells in hurricane season which technically lasts from June to November, but peaks in October. But these storms are usually confined to a small region and are avoidable by the captain changing the itinerary.
Another thing to consider about the location of your stateroom is what public rooms may be above you, below you, or across the hall from you. For example, there are certain areas you never want to be on a ship because of the noise. We were right below the pool area on a 2-week cruise and it was horrible! There was a hardwood floor and the noise was constant! But we’ve also been below a galley, below the buffet area, across from the elevators, under the main show lounge stage, across from the self-serve laundry, next to the anchor, etc. These places can be less than ideal if noise is an issue to you.
In summation, it’s always best to talk with a Cruise Specialist travel agent as their help can be invaluable when understanding all the good and bad things when looking at a particular ship and itinerary. They can be very helpful in selecting the best stateroom based on your needs, lifestyle, budget, special needs, and cruising experiences.
Land & Cruise Specialist
Special Needs & Mobility Issues Specialist