Most cruise "experts" have never actually set foot on the ship that they are selling you. With over 100 major ships spread across the map, the majority with over 1,000 cabins each, it is impossible for anyone to gain the firsthand knowledge of which cabins are better than others. This article let's you in on the secrets that cruise experts have learned over the years to help overcome the fact that they have not seen every cabin on every ship.
Location Influences the Price of the Cabin
Within each category (Penthouse, Balcony, Outside, Inside), the cabin's physical dimensions and amenities are generally the same. However, the location of the cabin is generally what drives the price differential. For example, one "Balcony" category cabin may be more desirable than another "Balcony" category cabin because the lower-priced balcony cabin has a blocked / obstructed view. Or, the higher-priced balcony cabin is in a quieter location onboard the ship. Hence, the grading within a cabin category (4a, 4b, 4c thru 4g) enables a premium to be charged on the identical cabin in a slightly better location.
Pay Attention To Deck Plan Symbols
What cruise "experts" learn is that there are general characteristics that define a great cabin vs. a lousy cabin. Also, they learn how to read the deck plan – the map of where the cabins are – to look for the telltale characteristics. On a deck plan, there are symbols that indicate the unique features of that cabin. Study the deck plan carefully and look for indicators of special features of the cabin (ie- door to an adjoining cabin – great for families, odd shaped cabins, obstructed view cabin, oversized cabin, under-sized cabins, handicap-accessible cabins, oversized balcony, pull-down bunk bed, etc.).
Find A Cabin in a Good Neighborhood
There are two secrets for a great cabin that inexperienced travel agents tend not to know. First, cabins on decks with cabins above and below tend to be quieter than decks having a public space above or below. Second, the Penthouse Suite deck typically has a mix of cabins category types adjoining the Penthouse cabins. While cruise lines advertise that "everyone receives the same service", the reality is that the best cabin staff (housekeepers, cabin stewards) are assigned to the Penthouse decks while the less-experienced, lower-rated staff are assigned to the lower decks. So, if you can't afford a suite, booking the cabin near the suite just might get you a better level of personalized.
Do You Get Seasick?
If you are sensitive to motion or are likely to get seasick, pick a cabin on a lower deck towards the middle of the ship to minimize the amount of motion you experience. Cabins located on lower decks tend to be lower priced than cabins on upper decks. So if you do experience motion sickness, you may be able to get a great deal on an inside or ocean view room located on a lower deck. Cabins on higher decks and towards the front of the ship tend to experience more motion. Also, get a cabin with a window, or, better yet, a balcony. Cures for seasickness include staring out on the horizon, and, getting some fresh air.
Noise is Not Your Friend
The number one thing to look for in a cabin is whether there will be an unusual amount of noise at an inconvenient hour.
The first sources of noise to beware of is engine and anchor chain noise. The lower deck cabins in the rear of the ship will hear or feel some form of engine noise or propeller vibration when the ship is under way. If you are a light sleeper, this could be a problem. The lower deck cabins in the front of the ship will hear the anchor chain when the ship is in the anchoring process (instead of docking). However, most ships dock at port rather than anchor, and, the anchoring process lasts no more than 30-45 minutes. Generally, noise from the anchor chain is rarely a concern. However, given the potential for noise issues, these cabins on the lower decks tend to be some of the least expensive on the ship.
The second form of noise to be wary of is noise generated by passengers or crew members, including, the thumping bass beat of the disco, the sound of the kitchen and the scraping of deck chairs. Before selecting a cabin, study the deck plan to be aware of what areas are above and below your cabin. You should think about what sort of noise they may generate during the hours you are likely to be in the cabin (i.e. – a cabin below or above the disco is fine if you plan on staying in the disco until closing). Also, cabins right below sunbathing areas (where there are deck chairs) can hear the scraping sounds of the rearranging of deck chairs after 4 AM as the decks get washed-down on a nightly basis. Finally, cabins right underneath the main kitchen may notice an increased level of noise from chefs moving around in the early AM hours as they prepare the day's meals. However, ships are usually reasonably well insulated enough that kitchen noise is not a problem. If you are a heavy sleeper, you might be fine with one of these cabins.
The third major source of noise is cabins with significant amounts of foot-traffic in the corridor adjoing the cabin. Cabins in the far ends of the ship tend to have less foot-traffic versus centrally located cabins – that can impact the amount of noise that bleeds into your cabin. Cabins that are near the pool areas can be subject to significant amounts of foot traffic as well as ambient noise (music, loudspeakers, etc.). The same is true of cabins that are close to the elevator banks – this is a major traffic hub for the deck and may be a source of noise. And, like any hotel, being next to the elevator means that you could be a risk of hearing elevator motor noises at all hours.
Tip: Some people bring a noise generator / wave machine that they turn on while they are sleeping. The noise from these devices can help drown-out some ambient noises.
Cabin Size Can Vary
Carnival boasts one of the largest average cabin sizes in the cruise industry at 185 square feet for the beds, sitting area, vanity and bathroom. Most of Carnival's Balcony cabins are 185 square feet, including the 35-30 square feet devoted to the balcony. Therefore, the actual cabin area, less the balcony, might be closer to 150 square feet. However, some balcony cabins are larger, and, the actual cabin area, less the balcony, is still 185 square feet. The cabin size for suites onboard Carnival averages between 245 and 300 square feet.
Always be on the lookout for cabins with unique features that would impact the size of the cabin. There are a handful of balcony cabins that have oversized balconies due to their position on the ship – they are often graded and marketed as a "Premium Balcony". Additionally, there are some cabins that are smaller than others as the cruise line tried to squeeze in one extra cabin. Unfortunately, these are usually not given any special markings / identifier on the deck plan. To identify them, study the deck plan and verify that the size of the cabin as indicated on the deck plan is similar to the same category cabins around it.
One of the greatest trends in cruising in the past decade is a substantial increase in the number of balcony cabins incorporated into ships. Even older ships have been retrofitted with additional balconies. Getting a balcony makes a lot of sense on cruises that are rich in scenery – Alaska, Caribbean, and Canada and New England cruises. On shorter cruises, the value of a balcony is questionable given the short duration of the cruise. But, regardless of cruise length, one of the most wonderful ways to pass time on a cruise is to sit on your private balcony and watch the world sail by.
Generally, balcony cabins feature a 45-inch high glass railing and a safety lock on the balcony door. On most balconies, two upright chairs (no recline) and a side table are provided. The railings are glass allowing for an unobstructed view when looking from the cabin. The balcony door features a safety lock positioned 65 inches above the floor. For more information, read our article on Carnival Cruise Ship Balcony Safety.
One drawback to many balcony staterooms is that the 40 square feet of balcony space would have otherwise been part of the cabin. On Carnival, the average cabin size is 185 square feet. However, on balcony cabins, 40 square feet are dedicated to the balcony making the interior cabin space 145 square feet. Whereas on outside cabins with a picture window, the full 185 square feet is usable cabin space. So, what you gain in a balcony, you lose in interior cabin space. A minor drawback, but, worth highlighting.
There is an offsetting positive to the aforementioned drawback – is the balcony door tends to be well-insulated. If someone wants to step-out on to the balcony and have a conversation, it is likely that those sleeping in the cabin will be unlikely to hear anything from the balcony.
The majority of balconies are along the two sides of the ship. Generally, one side of the ship is as good as the other, some itineraries are an exception. The main thing to be aware of is whether there are any obstructions that diminish the view from your balcony – such as a piece of the ship's superstructure, or, the storage area for a lifeboat. While modern ship design has minimized, and even eliminated, many of these obstructions, you should pay attention to the deck plan and to the cabin category you are selecting to ensure that you are not in an "obstructed-view" cabin. Beyond the obstructions, there are not many drawbacks to balconies along the side of the ship. Unless the wind is blowing at an unusual angle, you will typically not feel much more than a gentle breeze when sitting outside on your balcony when the ship is under-way. The slipstream of the ship usually keeps the harsh winds out of your balcony area.
On larger ships, there may be forward-facing (front of the ship) balconies as well as rearward-facing balconies (back of the ship). If choosing between a rearward-facing balcony and a forward-facing balcony, the rearward-facing balcony is more desirable.
On forward-facing balconies when the ship is sailing, you might be faced with a 20+ mile per hour wind as the ship moves forward. Forward facing balconies tend to be unusable for any length of time when the ship is underway. There are exceptions to this rule – a strong tailwind can make the forward balcony more desirable and the rearward-facing balcony less so. Also, rearward-facing balconies may not get the cooling benefit of the wind and may, on occasion, be a little warm to sit on. Of course, this all depends on the direction and the velocity of the wind juxtaposed against the heading of the ship relative to the wind.
Finally, a consideration that many have about balconies is with respect to safety. Unfortunately, there is one to two news stories a year about someone falling overboard on a cruise ship. All too often, excess amounts of alcohol leading to acts of stupidity are determined to be a contributing factor. We have prepared an article on Cruise Ship Balcony Safety that provides information about the safety measures on balcony cabins on Carnival Cruises, and, the height of the railing on balconies and where they fall on average adults and children.
Helpful Resources: Best and Worst Cabins by Carnival Cruise Lines Ship
Get deck-by-deck advice on which are the best cabins on each Carnival Cruise ship. The advice below gives you actual cabin numbers of cabins that people tend to prefer, and, let's you know which cabin numbers are less desirable. In some cases, the advice given tells you which cabins to stay away from!
Carnival Conquest Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Dream Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Destiny Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Ecstasy Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Elation Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Fantasy Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Fascination Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Freedom Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Glory Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Imagination Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Inspiration Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Legend Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Liberty Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Magic Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Miracle Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Paradise Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Pride Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Sensation Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Splendor Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Spirit Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Triumph Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Valor Best and Worst Cabins
Carnival Victory Best and Worst Cabins