These Are the Worst Rooms on Every Cruise Ship
Nobody wants to get stuck in a crappy cabin.
Any experienced cruiser can tell you that the one thing most likely to turn your smooth cruise into a nautical nightmare is absolutely hating the stateroom you've booked. After all, nothing is more terrible than finding yourself in dark, claustrophobic quarters with no windows, or tossing and turning every night because you can't escape the booming music and drunk laughter from the bar upstairs. (And don't even get us started about the smallest, shoebox-sized interior cabins that can barely fit a suitcase, let alone a few bodies!) To ensure this doesn't happen to you, we've compiled here all of the dingiest, dirtiest, and downright awful rooms you need to watch out for on your next voyage. (You can thank us later!)
Rooms smaller than 150 square feet
Fact: No matter how fancy or spacious your room is on a cruise ship, you're going to spend a lot of time in it. Period. Which is why, if you end up booking the tiniest cabin onboard, you're going to run into some trouble tripping over your bunkmates and your bags. Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas, for example, has "studios" that are as small as 108 square feet (stateroom numbers 4000 and 4500, to be exact). That's fine for a closet, but less so for an actual place to sleep and relax. In general, when you look at a deck plan, avoid anything labeled as a "studio" or "compact cabin."
Rooms with obstructed views
When you shell out money for a balcony or ocean view room, you want the best experience possible. Unfortunately, even when you get a window or balcony, you may end up with an obstructed view from a protruding upper deck or a lifeboat located on the surrounding floors. Many of the bigger ships make it easy to spot which rooms have a less-than-stellar lookout by labeling rooms with obstructed views in the map key of the deck plan or mentioning it directly in the room descriptions. For example, on Carnival Dream, all Deluxe Ocean View rooms and Junior Suites have obstructed views.
Cabins above or below entertainment venues
Clubs. Lounges. Casinos. Theaters. Pools. Buffets. Kids' activity centers. What do these places have in common? They're noisy. When it comes to booking a room on a cruise ship, if there's a place people gather, you'll want to avoid your room being above, below, or directly across from it. Unless you enjoy hearing club songs until 1 a.m. or deck chairs being rearranged at sunrise, that is. Each individual cruise ship has a custom floor-by-floor deck plan, so you can see what activities are happening above and below your room.
Pro tip: On Celebrity Edge, the third-deck cabins are located directly below the loud fourth floor casinos, restaurants, and shops. You'll especially want to avoid room numbers 3171 and 3173, which are across from the elevators, guest relations desks, and the Grand Plaza Café.
Cabins near maintenance facilities or major walkways
Elevators and stairways are common areas where people often forget to keep their voices down, so while it might seem convenient to be close to one, the trade-off is extra noise. Similarly, keep an eye out for where the ship's laundry facilities or maintenance areas are—staff or guests are likely to be coming and going at all hours from these spots, not to mention the sound of clothes going 'round in the dryer (and the clunks from someone who forgot to empty their pockets first). On Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam ship, you'll want to avoid stateroom numbers C1081 and C1082, which are next to six elevators, two public bathrooms, and the main atrium stairs.
Pro tip: Blank, white spaces on any deck plan can be a signal that an area is a major maintenance spot, so try to avoid booking a room nearby.
Rooms in the very front or back of the ship
If you're prone to motion sickness or are traveling during a season known for its rough weather—like summer in southeast Asia or the Caribbean, winter on transatlantic cruises—avoid rooms near the tip of the ship (bow) or near the back (stern). These areas pick up most of the intensity of a storm, the front in particular. On MSC's new Virtuosa ship, the staterooms and suites at the stern are 9289, 9291, 9293, 9297, 9316, 9314, 9312, 9308, and 9306.
Pro tip: Rooms located in the center and toward the bottom of the ship are more friendly toward seasick passengers.
Cabins facing inward toward a pool or other activities
Royal Princess and Regal Princess, for example, are well-known for the SeaWalk, a 60-foot glass-floored walkway overhanging the water below by more than 10 stories. But if you look closely, you'll notice several balcony rooms underneath the vertigo-inducing feature, which means those rooms seriously lack privacy (M415, M417, M419, M423 on deck 15 are the most affected). More common on big ships is a pool area that has inside-facing rooms, which, much like a hotel, means you can look straight into your neighbor's room across the way.
Cabins near the anchor (bottom front of the ship)
On some ships, passengers complain of loud anchor noises when they're on lower decks toward the front of the ship. Granted, these noises don't last long, and many ships dock at large ports rather than anchor down. But check reviews for your cruise ship and itinerary to see if folks have complained about anchor noise before, and then steer clear of the cabins near the anchor, which is often located toward the front (aft) of the ship.
Front or back of the ship—unless you're ready for a walk
On most big ships, stairways and elevators are centrally located, which means if you choose a room at the front or back, you'll have a long ways to walk. If you're able-bodied and need an excuse to get extra steps in, great, you've got a built-in excuse. If not, the walk can be daunting and make you less likely to explore the ship.
Cabins near the smoking area
Non-smokers should carefully look at deck plans and the labeled smoking areas, especially if they have a balcony. It's a noise issue, as we mentioned before, but you'll also be dealing with the smell of cigarettes your entire cruise. No fun. One very upset customer found this out the hard way on a Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas cruise where he was "upgraded" to a room above the smoking lounge.
Adjoining rooms (when you're not traveling with family)
Connecting rooms are great when you're traveling with family. When you're not, all it means is you'll likely be privy to some intended-to-be-private conversations (and other noises) from your neighbors.
For people who love a good deal, guaranteed cabins might seem like it: you tell the cruise line what type of cabin you'll accept, and as your booking date approaches, they assign you a room based on your request. Now, some cruise lines automatically lower the prices of rooms booked via guarantee, while with others, you only get a good deal if they upgrade your room. But in reality, these rooms often end up being the type we've talked about so far: noisy, obstructed, or otherwise sub-par choices. So considered yourself warned.