Cabin LocationsLocation is the third major factor in cruise category other than size and type. Sometimes cruise ships will offer passengers a "guarantee" cabin, which means you are paying for a category rather than a specific cabin. A guarantee cabin can be less expensive than choosing a specific cabin, but it might not give you the location you desire. You are taking a chance and leaving it up to the cruise line to assign you a cabin in a given category. Be sure to do your research before you book a "guarantee" cabin (or any cabin). You might be delighted in the value for get for your dollar, but you might also be disappointed if other cabins in the same category are in much better locations. When reviewing deck plans be sure to check out what is above, below, or next to your cabin. I know from personal experience how noisy a cabin can be that is located under a dance floor! Also, an ocean view cabin on a promenade deck will have lots of foot traffic passing by.
Lower Deck CabinsThe inside cabins on the lowest decks are usually the least expensive cruise ship cabins. Although the lower deck cabins will give you a smoother ride in rough seas, they are also the furthest from the common areas such as the pool and lounges. You will be hiking the stairs or riding the elevators more from a lower deck, but you can also work off some of those extra calories. Therefore, even though standard inside cabins might be are all the same size and layout on a ship, you can save a few hundred dollars by choosing to be on a lower deck. The same applies for standard ocean view cabins, but you might want to inquire about the size of the window, since the lower deck ocean views might only have portholes or a smaller window. Two problems that you might experience with cabins on the lower decks are engine noise and anchor noise. If your cabin is near the front of the ship, it can sound like the ship has hit a coral reef when the anchor is dropped. The racket will wake anyone up, so the only good thing about the noise is it can serve as an alarm. Newer ships tend to have less engine noise and their stabilizers suppress the ship's motion, but you will still get that anchor noise a couple of times a day!
Higher Deck CabinsCabins on the upper decks usually cost more than those on the lower decks. Since these cabins are nearer the pool and sun decks, they are more desirable for those on warm weather cruises who plan to use these amenities. However, you will get more rocking motion up high, so on smaller ships those who are seasick prone might want to avoid a higher deck cabin.
Midship CabinsSometimes midship standard cabins are a good choice due to their central location and less motion. They are excellent for those who have mobility problems or who are seasick prone. However, a midship cabin can have more traffic outside in the hallways since other passengers will often be passing by. Some cruise ships charge slightly more for midship cabins or even have them in a separate category. If you are thinking of a midship cabin, be sure to check out the location of the tenders or lifeboats. They can block your view and be noisy when raised or lowered. Most cruise lines will tell you if a cabin has a blocked or limited view, but it is wise to check for yourself.
Bow (Forward) CabinsCabins on the front of the ship get the most motion and appeal to those who feel they are "real" sailors. You will get more wind and spray on the front. In rough seas, a bow cabin can definitely be exciting! Note that the windows on cabins on the front are sometimes smaller and slanted or recessed, meaning you can't see as much as you might on the side or rear of the ship. Cruise ships often put suites on the front of the ships to take advantage of the unusual shape and opportunity to provide the passengers with larger balconies.
Aft (Rear) CabinsIf you want a large balcony with your cabin, look to the rear of the ship. These cabins also provide a panoramic view of where you have sailed. Cabins in the aft of the ship have more motion than centrally located cabins, but less than those forward. One disadvantage--depending on the shape of the ship, sometimes passengers in the lounges or restaurants can look down on the balconies of the aft cabins. Not much privacy! Once we had a wonderful aft balcony cabin directly below the buffet restaurant. Each day we found all sorts of surprises--lettuce, napkins, etc. that had blown off the deck above. The balcony was quite large however, with plenty of room for two lounge chairs.
If all of this information is confusing, it just demonstrates how much diversity there is among cruise ship cabins. When planning your next cruise, study the layout and architecture of the ship's deck plans before selecting your cabin. Query your travel agent and others who have sailed the ship. Think about what is important to you and consider the cost differential. If your vacation time is limited, you might want to spend a few more dollars for a better cabin.