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Which Side of The Ship is Better? (Here’s Where to Book Your Cabin)

The Great Debate: Port Versus Starboard

When it comes to cruising, one of the most common questions people ask me is “Which side of the ship is best?” The Port side or the Starboard side?

But the truth is, the best side of the ship is just a matter of personal preference – and in most cases, it doesn’t make any difference at all.

Why It Really Doesn’t Matter

There are lots of myths about why people think one side of the ship might be better than the other.

Some believe that the port side always has better views, while others argue that the starboard side is quieter or less crowded. In my opinion, this is absolute rubbish.

The reality is that cruise ships are designed to provide a great experience regardless of which side your cabin is on.

norwegian fjord cruise view from balcony emma cruises in geiranger
On my balcony on Anthem of the Seas – enjoying Norway

Here’s why:

  1. Rotating Itineraries: Cruise ships often rotate their itineraries, meaning that one side might face land on one leg of the trip and the open ocean on the return journey.
    • If you are sailing to the Norwegian Fjords for example, the land will be on the Starboard side going up, and the Port side going back down.
  2. Docking Variability: Cruise ships can dock either way; sometimes they reverse into the space, and other times they go in forwards.
    • This means the same side of the ship won’t always face the port or ocean. You can really never tell exactly where the ship will dock in the harbour until you get there.
    • You might be tendering. The ship might be anchored offshore, and the position of the ship may change and move.
  3. Symmetrical Design: Cruise ships are symmetrically designed, ensuring that both sides offer the same amenities and views.
    • Cabins are identical on each side of the ship. Cabins are prefabricated in a factory on land and then slid into the side of the ship. Each cabin category is exactly the same, no matter where it is on the ship.
  4. Equal Treatment: It would make no sense for Cruise lines to make cabins on one side better than the other. Both sides get equal treatment in terms of maintenance, amenities, and services.
Classic Med Loop cruise – Study the itinerary and work out which way the ship is sailing – you can then pick which side you would prefer to be on.

Itinerary and Destination

The main factor that will influence your cruise experience is the itinerary and destination.

Whether you’re cruising through the fjords of Norway or exploring the sunny Caribbean islands, your itinerary will have a more significant impact than the side of the ship you’re on.

  • Scenic Routes: On routes where the scenery is a highlight, such as Alaskan cruises or Mediterranean voyages, both sides of the ship will offer wonderful views at different times.
  • Open Sea Days: During days spent cruising the open sea, the view remains relatively the same from both sides, with the endless expanse of water stretching out to the horizon.
  • Check your ship’s itinerary. If you are taking a standard Western Mediterranean loop cruise, for example, you might decide that you would like to be on the side of the land.
    • If the ship is going to be travelling in a clockwise direction around in a loop, choose a cabin on the left – or port side.

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Cabin Type and Location

Another consideration is the type and location of your cabin. This will often play a more significant role in your overall comfort and enjoyment than whether you’re on the port or starboard side.

  • Cabin Type: Whether you choose an interior cabin, an oceanview room, a balcony, or a suite will affect your cruising experience.
    • Balcony cabins, for example, provide private outdoor space to enjoy the views and fresh sea air, regardless of the side of the ship they are on.
  • Location on the Ship: The location of your cabin on the ship – midship, aft (rear), or forward (front) may influence your cruising experience.
    • Midship cabins tend to be more stable and convenient – but can be more expensive.
    • Aft cabins often offer larger balconies but can sometimes judder and shake when the ship is docking or moving at slow speeds.
    • If you are worried about seasickness, try to get a cabin that is central and low down. Here you will feel the movement of the ship less.

To find out more about where to pick your cabin if you are concerned about seasickness, read the article below:

What is The Best Cabin Location on a Cruise For Avoiding Seasickness? (I’ve Tried Them All!)

Find out about my favourite balcony cabin here:

Personal Preferences and Priorities

When choosing a cabin, think about your personal preferences and priorities. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Sun Exposure and Views: Depending on the direction of travel and the time of year, one side might get more sunlight than the other.
    • For example, if you enjoy morning sun, you might prefer the starboard side on a northbound cruise.
Arvia Balcony
View from the balcony
  • Proximity to Amenities: Being close to or far from amenities such as restaurants, pools, and theatres can impact your convenience and enjoyment, particularly if you have any mobility issues.
    • Some travellers prefer cabins near the action, while others enjoy quieter locations.
    • If you have a cabin at the very front or back you might be close to the buffet for example – but a long way from the theatre. What are your priorities?
costa smeralda buffet desserts
Costa Buffet Desserts
  • Cost of the cabin: If cost is your primary concern and you don’t mind walking, it might be best to book a “guaranteed cabin.” The cruise line will pick the location, and they tend to be the “leftover” cabins that no one else has booked – often at one end of the ship or the other.
    • Mobility is no issue for me, and I am happy to walk long distances and get extra steps in. A cabin right at the front or the back certainly wouldn’t suit everybody though.

Check The Ship’s Deck Plan

You can have a look at the ship’s deck plan on the cruise line website. You can see if you are close to the buffet, between other decks of cabins – or right above the theatre.

As a general rule, if you want a quieter cabin it might be better to pick one which is sandwiched between other decks of cabins, not close to the public areas of the ship.

costa smeralda deck 15 deck plan
Check the ship’s deckplan to see where your perspective cabin is – and what is above and below it.

If you have one near the pub or nightclub, it might be noisy late into the night and disturb your sleep.

I had an Aft balcony cabin on Marella Explorer 2 that was really noisy, I should have checked the deck plans to see what was around it when I booked!

I was only taking a short weekend cruise on Marella Explorer 2, so I didn’t think the cabin location was too important, but our cabin turned out to be right above the ship’s pub/nightclub and smoking area. The noise kept me awake.

Find out all about that unusual cabin here:

If you decide to book what is called a “guaranteed” cabin, you will have no say on where your cabin is located – the cruise line decides for you.

I often book guaranteed cabins, find out why here:

I Always Book Guaranteed Cabins on Cruise Ships – (Photo Examples, Regrets & More)

Port Out Starboard Home = POSH!

Urban myth has it that the word POSH originated from one side of the ship being better than the other.

If you were travelling from Western Europe to India and the Far East by boat back in the day – and you were rich – you would want the best cabin.

The best cabins on the way out, were on the Port side. You would get a great view of the coast all the way around Africa. On the way back you would choose to be on the Starboard side to enjoy the view once again.

Port Out Starboard Home – or POSH – is a synonym for first-class travel and the richest people.

Maybe this is why people still think one side of the ship is better than the other? Either way no one seems able to prove that this is where the word posh comes from, or that one side of a ship is better than another.

Before You Go

Find out whether it is worth saving money by booking an obstructed-view cabin here:

The Truth About Obstructed View Cabins – (Photo Examples & How to Find One)

Find out how to get the best cabin for your money in the article below:

Get The Best Cabin for Your Budget! Hints, Tips and Examples of How to Save Money Without Downgrading Your Cabin Type

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