What is the Best Deck on a Cruise Ship?  

What is the best deck on a cruise ship? It's not really one-size-fits-all, but we detail the best decks to choose for every travel style.

Best Deck on a Cruise Ship

You’ve come so far in choosing a cruise line, a ship and maybe even an itinerary. But which deck is best when it comes to booking a stateroom? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to cruise decks, as there isn’t a right answer for what each individual cruiser is looking for. What is available are trusty deck plans to every ship sailing the seas and our expert knowledge on the best decks to choose for every travel style.

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What is the Best Deck on a Cruise Ship?         

How many decks are on a cruise ship?

There is no set standard when it comes to how many decks your cruise ship might have. The average large, modern cruise ship usually has between 12 and 16 decks.

However, counting the decks on your cruise ship might be a bit trickier than it seems. The actual number of decks differs from the number of passenger decks, or areas on the ship where guests are allowed.

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Additionally, decks commonly have names that differ from their numbers. Ships can even be superstitious; some cruise lines avoid ascribing the number 13 to any deck, which can confuse the count. Meanwhile, MSC Cruises avoids a Deck 17 because Italians consider 17 (not 13) to be an unlucky number.

As an example, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has 17 actual decks, 15 passenger decks (the other two are for crew), but the deck count goes up to 18 because the cruise line skips the number 13. Got it? Good.

If navigating so many decks seems overwhelming to you, stick to cruise lines with smaller ships. Azamara has just eight passenger decks or less (and half of them are only cabins). River ships have even less, with typically just four decks: main, upper, middle and sun deck.

Is better to be on a higher or lower deck on a cruise ship?

Suites tend to be on the higher decks of a cruise ship. So, it might seem obvious to say that the higher the better. But if you’re prone to motion sickness, this won’t be the case. The higher the deck, the more you are likely to feel the ship swaying. This is also the situation for rooms at the very front or back of the ship.

On the other hand, rooms on the lowest decks might be below the water line, and therefore either feature a porthole window or none at all. If your ship has a ton of decks, you will have plenty of cabin categories and areas to choose from. They will range between an entry-level inside cabin in the bowels of the ship and a top-level owner’s suite.

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What is the best deck to avoid motion sickness?

If you’re worried about getting seasick, the best place for you to be is mid-ship on a lower deck. Booking a room at the very center of the vessel will reduce the motion you might feel while you’re hanging out in the cabin or before bed.

Another consideration is booking the lowest deck with a balcony. Having immediate access to fresh air and a visible horizon line can also make a difference when combatting your body’s adjustment to the ship’s pitching and rolling. Having at minimum a window can also aid in the visibility of the motion.

What is the best deck for access to amenities?

If you want to be in the heart of the action, it’s typically concentrated across two or three main decks. On the majority of mega-ships, these will be the first few passenger decks. For example, on Norwegian Escape you will find the bars and restaurants clustered across Decks 6, 7, and 8. Staterooms begin on Deck 8, so you can book an inside up to a mini-suite and be within one or two decks above the 24-hour pub.

On Carnival ships, you’ll find the Lido or the main pool deck, with bars, restaurants, the buffet, the sun deck, and more. This is typically located a bit higher, on Deck 10. It’s a great place to be, especially if you have kids. You can pop in to grab a quick bite from BlueIguana Cantina, Guy’s Burgers, or the buffet whenever hunger strikes.

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In the morning, you’re right there to snag the best sun loungers. At night, movies on deck mean plenty of popcorn and snuggle time with not very far to go to crawl into bed. Deck 10 on Carnival Vista offers a range of interior, ocean view, and balcony cabins.

Once again using Royal’s Oasis of the Seas as an example, you’ll find everything from Starbucks and the two-deck theater to the Boardwalk area with a carousel, a sprawling spa, a candy store, retail shops, and a half-dozen bars all on either Decks 4, 5 or 6. Staterooms begin in earnest on Deck 6, with an impressive variety of room categories from accessible interiors to large balcony rooms that overlook the bustling Boardwalk area.

When in doubt, comb the deck plans of your specific ship or speak to a travel advisor about the best deck location so you can be a stumbling distance from your favorite onboard haunts.

Which deck is best for cruisers with mobility concerns?

As with previous deck questions, the best deck for accessibility depends on the ship. Lower decks have a tendency to house the majority of accessible staterooms. Therefore, the hallways are wider and easier to navigate with a walker or wheelchair.

On venue-packed middle decks, you’ll likely be wrestling your way through crowds. On higher decks, you could be navigating tricky outdoor areas, like a pool or solarium, to get from one end of the ship to the other.

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According to accessibility travel expert Cory Lee, Holland America Line excels in this space across its fleet. Whichever line or ship you choose, always contact the company’s Special Services department prior to booking to discuss specific mobility needs. They will help determine the best deck and room location for you. For example, proximity to a main elevator bank will help get you where you need to go faster than traversing a long cabin hallway.

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What is the best deck for peace and quiet?

First thing’s first: you will encounter noise above or below a late-night nightclub, the theater, or close to the engine room or anchor. So, avoid those decks for less racket. For a truly tranquil experience, seek out spa staterooms or a suite neighborhood ideally located across an entire deck.

Many cruise lines have begun to design onboard oases known as spa cabins or a ship-with-a-ship concept. These private enclaves not only provide extra amenities like special access to the spa or a dedicated restaurant, but also the quiet that comes with a cordoned-off section of the ship intended for rest and relaxation.

For tucked-away suites, consider MSC’s Yacht Club or Norwegian’s Haven, both spread across the upper decks, but accessible by keycard only. For a serene spa retreat, consider Celebrity’s AquaClass cabins, which even has its own spa-inspired restaurant.

What is the best cruise ship deck for a view?

Views on a cruise ship are not just about the deck, but also your location. Even from the very top decks, with the ocean spread in all directions beneath you, it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if you have an obstructed view. 

The best observation deck for wildlife and scenery is almost always going to be the uppermost deck. It offers unimpeded views above and outward. This is followed by the promenade deck, which is usually toward the middle of the ship but wraps all the way around. If offers views in all directions if you just walk the length.

In terms of best decks for cruise cabins with a view, look not only to the deck but if the room is located in the forward or aft of your ship. The best ocean vistas are going to come from suites with wraparound balconies toward the front or bow of the ship or overlooking the wake at the back of the ship.

Which deck is best for young families?

Unless your littles are headed to the pool or splash area morning, noon and night, there are plenty of family-friendly deck options aside from the Lido. Check if your ship has a deck outfitted with family cabins.

Carnival’s Family Harbor, on its newer ships, is a dedicated family zone that also has a lounge and hangout just for parents and kids. Onboard Carnival Horizon, Family Harbor spaces and staterooms are all located on Deck 2. Meanwhile, newer Royal Caribbean ships offer an Ultimate Family Suite for groups that can splurge, tucked all the way on Deck 17. 

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Are there any decks that you should avoid?

Just like picking the best deck, choosing decks to avoid all depends on what you’re looking for from your cruise. Is it calm and quiet or being in the middle of the action? Are you seeking a relaxing couple’s retreat, or will you need a deck that accommodates you and your wily brood?

Most cruisers are looking to avoid unnecessary clatter. So, avoiding any location on a deck directly above or below a noisy area like a buffet, the casino, an active pool deck, show theater or club, is key. Keep in mind that while lower decks can be useful, they are also prone to the ship’s mechanical sound effects like the anchor chain or deployment of the gangplank.

If you value your privacy above all else, avoid booking passenger decks that jut up against public areas like the promenade. While some folks enjoy people-watching from their room in spaces like Royal Caribbean’s Central Park, others might be mortified to find their curtains were open while changing and a family having breakfast at the deli just witnessed the entire display.  

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Do you agree with our assessment of the best deck on a cruise ship? Does cabin location matter to you when booking a cruise? Drop us an anchor below to share your preferred decks and locations on a cruise ship.

Brittany has covered cruising professionally for more than a decade. She embarked on a world cruise as a college student aboard Semester at Sea, and never stopped sailing. Formerly a Cruise Critic editor, Brittany now writes about ships and their many destinations for various industry and consumer outlets. She is a lifelong resident of the Jersey Shore.
Brittany Chrusciel, Contributor
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2 comments on What is the Best Deck on a Cruise Ship?  

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  1. DO your research…..Especially for seniors, location, location. location is EVERYTHING ! the time you spend checking things out properly could mean the difference for a hugely successful cruise experience or NOT !!! Follow Eat, Sleep Cruises guidelines but really, DO YOUR HOMEWORK …. You will be more than happy that you did !!! …..

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