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8 cabin locations on cruise ships you should definitely avoid

Jan. 17, 2023
10 min read
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I still can remember the worst cruise ship cabin I ever had.

It was on a Carnival Cruise Line ship — I can’t remember which one — and it was right in the middle of what I have come to call the “Bermuda Triangle of Bad Cabins” on Carnival ships.

This is the area on those ships around the aft elevator bank on the cabin deck that sits just above the main entertainment deck. If you’re in a cabin in this area, particularly one on the starboard side, you are dealing with not only the noise of the Carnival rowdies emerging from the elevators late into the night but also — on many vessels — the sounds of the piano bar and nightclub emanating up the stairway from right below you.

Related: Why a windowless ‘inside’ cabin might be just fine

It isn’t much better in the cabins around the forward elevator bank and stairway on the same deck, which on many Carnival ships are right above the bustling central atrium and adjacent casino. That’s not exactly a quiet area.

Is it obvious I go to bed early?

Picking the perfect cabin location on a cruise ship can be a subjective exercise. Some people want to be on a high deck for the views. Others want to be on a low deck for stability. Some want to be near the kids clubs or the spa or some other venue they know they’ll visit often. Some really couldn’t care less. Instead, they’ll book “guarantee” cabins, which is where you tell the cruise line to just pick any old cabin for you, as long as you get a deal.

Still, after testing hundreds of cabins and cabin types over the years on more than 160 ships, I’ve determined a few hard-and-fast rules about cabins you should usually avoid.

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Cabins near elevators

IVAN SARFATTI/MSC CRUISES

The areas around elevator banks and stairways on cruise ships can be noisy, just like they can be at land-based resorts and hotels. You’ll get people milling around talking as they wait for an elevator car. On some ships, you’ll also hear a distinctive chime every time an elevator arrives.

The situation varies from ship to ship and line to line. Some ships have elevator banks set off a bit from cabin hallways. On other ships, there is little separation between elevators and the closest cabins. Also, some ships have cabins that are more soundproof than others.

One of the great flaws of the basic cabin design on many Carnival ships — in my opinion, at least — is that there are air vents built into the cabin doors. This is meant to improve airflow — but, unfortunately, it also allows sounds from the hallway to drift right into the room.

Related: This over-the-top cruise ship cabin is bigger than a house

Cabins above nightclubs (and other late-night venues)

Getting to sleep early in a cabin just above a nightclub, piano bar, music hall or theater can be a challenge depending on the soundproofing of the venue and your room. Ditto for cabins just below such a venue. I always recommend looking hard at deck plans before choosing a particular cabin to see what is just above and below the room. If it looks like it could be noisy, give it a wide berth.

Cabins in the vicinity of all-night restaurants also are worth flagging, as they can be bustling late into the night.

Related: The 5 best cabin locations on any cruise ship

Cabins above the casino

The issue with being near a casino on a ship goes beyond just noise — and they definitely can be noisy. There’s the smoke factor, too. On many cruise ships, the casino is the only interior place where smoking is allowed, and it thus draws a steady flow of people lighting up.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Some lines — Celebrity Cruises and Oceania Cruises, for instance — ban smoking in casinos. But plenty of vessels still permit it.

While cruise lines that allow smoking in casinos try to contain it with ventilation systems, they’re not always completely successful. I’ve been on plenty of ships where a cloud of smoke wafts out from the casino and up stairwells to nearby cabins.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean cabins and suites

Cabins below the pool deck

Carnival Ecstasy Lido Pool. CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

You might think that pool decks on cruise ships are pretty quiet at night and into the morning, so staying in a cabin just below one is no big deal. But in the case of quite a few ships, you’d be wrong.

Pool decks sometimes can be the scene of late-night revelry that’s loud enough to carry down to the deck below. Then when morning arrives, sometimes at a very early hour, it’s common for crew members to drag lounge chairs around as they get everything shipshape for the coming day. This top-deck organizing can result in a sleep-ruining period of screeching sounds radiating from your ceiling.

You’ll also want to steer clear of cabins just below basketball courts (there’s nothing like a ball bouncing on your ceiling to drive you bonkers), jogging tracks and other deck-top sports areas.

Cabins near the anchor

It’s not always clear where the anchor is located on a ship when looking at a deck plan. But assume it’s at a low level near the front. Depending on how the ship is configured, there may not be any cabins close enough to the anchor for the sound of its deployment to be a bother. But I’ve been in cabins at the front of vessels where I was jolted awake at the crack of dawn on multiple days by several minutes of what sounded like a freight train rumbling by.

Being in a cabin near the anchor is a particular issue when sailing on an itinerary with a lot of “tender ports” — ports where the ship anchors offshore and the crew “tenders” passengers to land via small boats (in recent years, some lines have taken to calling these "water shuttles"). It’s less of an issue if your ship will be docking for most of its port calls (not that the docking process doesn’t come with its own set of noises).

Related: 6 reasons why a balcony cabin is your best choice

Cabins anywhere close to the bow

Anchor noise issues aside, the big reason you might want to steer clear of the front of a ship is that you’ll likely feel the motion of the waves more distinctly. The front of a ship can be the most uncomfortable place to be in big waves.

This is because the front of a ship pitches a lot more in waves than the center of a ship or even the back.

Think of the teeter-totter you played on as a kid. Every ship has an equilibrium point around its center (often skewed a bit to the back) that, just like the equilibrium point of a teeter-totter, moves the least as the ship bobs up and down in the waves. The closer to the front that you go, the more you are extending out on the teeter-totter, and the more you’ll feel the motion.

This is more of an issue on certain ships, and in some parts of the world, than others. If you’re on a giant megaship in the relatively calm Caribbean (and there isn’t a tropical storm blowing nearby), you might barely feel the movement of the ocean in any cabin, no matter where it’s located. But if you’re on a smaller vessel in rougher seas, it can be an issue.

It also depends a lot on your tolerance for motion. After years of cruising every few weeks, I’m used to the waves. The chance of getting seasick generally never factors into my choice of cabin location. That said, if I’m booking a cabin on a small vessel on an itinerary that’ll include passage through an area known for rough seas, such as the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica, even I will push for something closer to a ship’s equilibrium point.

Related: 15 ways first-time cruisers waste money

Obstructed-view cabins

Lifeboats on the exterior of a cruise ship, docked beyond the Muelle Sur terminal, operated by APM Terminals, at the Port of Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain. ANGEL GARCIA/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

There are certain cabins on ships that, despite having a window, don’t exactly offer the best views. Sometimes they don’t offer any view at all. On some ships, there are cabins where the view from the window is partially or even completely obstructed by a lifeboat. On other ships, windows will look out over machinery — a lifeboat winch, for instance — or a structural element of the vessel such as a steel overhang.

This can be the case even for cabins with balconies. Sure, you can sit outside. But you’ll be sitting in front of a big clunky lifeboat.

Normally, such cabins are marked on cruise ship deck plans with some sort of symbol denoting an obstructed view. It pays to look closely at such deck plans and, if an obstructed view is going to bother you, steer clear of the cabins that are so marked. On the positive side, obstructed-view cabins generally are priced at a lower rate than similar cabins with a complete view.

Related: 5 reasons to turn down a cabin upgrade

Adjoining cabins

Some cruise ship cabins are designed with doors that open to an adjacent cabin. This is a feature that appeals to families that book multiple cabins. They can book two cabins side-by-side and open up the door to create a larger complex. But such cabins can bring a downside if the people in the cabin next to you are strangers: You might hear more of them than you wish, as these doors sometimes aren’t very soundproof.

If you end up next to a loud couple or kids in an adjacent cabin with a door, you might find it bothersome. I’ve experienced this myself over the years.

Related: 7 reasons you should splurge for a suite on a cruise

Bottom line

Not every cabin on a cruise ship is ideal. It pays to do your homework before booking a specific cabin — and that means poring over ship deck plans to make sure that you’re not above, below or next to a noisy venue or in another location that could be troublesome.

More stories to help you plan your next cruise:

Featured image by CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees