I’ve been busy on Quora.com again, thanks to a question about which deck is the best to be on a cruise ship.
I’ve adapted the answer I gave there, because the deck level isn’t the only or even the best criterion when choosing a good cabin.
Once upon a time, the answer to the original question might have been: any deck above the water line. Nowadays passengers are rarely, if ever, in the “bowels” of a cruise ship. (And in fact much less of the the ship is underwater than you probably think.)
So my answer is: it depends on what you can afford and what you prefer. Many regular cruisers, myself included, don’t really care where we are on a ship because the cabin is viewed simply as a place to sleep.
But if you’re travelling as part of a couple, or a family, you might be spending more time in your stateroom, and things like space, view and accessibility are more important.
As far as space goes, the larger cabins tend to be on the upper decks, and they are ones that generally have the better views, too. If you can afford a penthouse, owner’s suite or mini suite, you’d want to be as high up as you can be, and be at the front or the back of the ship so you can get a better view. Some offer cabins with views of 180 degrees or more.
When it comes to accessibility, especially on a big ship, you might want to be close to the things you will use most. If you want to spend time at the pool — which your children probably will, well again, the higher up the ship you can be will probably put you closer to those and the other deck activities.
So, departing from the “which deck” questions, I’d also be thinking about which end of the ship. If the children’s pools and waterslides are at the back then a cabin on deck 4 near the elevators is closer to them than a cabin at the front on a higher level.
Personally, I don’t mind being closer to sea level, especially if I have quicker access to the amenities I use the most. I’d rather be closer to the theatre, dining rooms and bars — and the gangway to make a quick exit when the time comes — than be near the pool and the spa.
If you are worried about noise, higher up may be better — away from the engines and noisier venues (although sometimes nightclubs, etc. are up high). But, then again, your position along the ship is important in that regard too.
You might also want to check out where the lifeboats are, as they might obscure the view from the cabin. But, at the same time, if you have a fear of sailing, you may prefer to be close to your muster station.
The key, of course, is to check the deck guides on the ships or agent’s websites, or on comparison web sites like Cruise Critic. And if you want a particular deck, or have some other special requirement, book early.