What Is The Best Side Of The Ship For An Alaskan Cruise?

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A friend of mine called me yesterday and told me that his parents were looking at booking a cruise up to Alaska this summer. He said that they’ve always wanted to visit and they decided that this was their year.

He said that they’d decided most of the details and would be coming up around the middle of July but there was one question that they weren’t able to answer. Which side of the ship was best for their cabin?

His parents did a Bing search and the first thing that came up was “starboard”. Not only did they not know what that meant (not big boaters!), but they also weren’t sure they should entrust this decision to a search engine algorithm.

It’s a very good question because the left side (also known as the port side) and the right side (also called the starboard) will provide different views during your journey. Which one is better? Let’s take a look at both sides and then we’ll decide.

Port vs Starboard

If your cabin is on the left side of the cruise ship while you travel north from Washington through the Inside Passage to Southeast Alaska, it’ll be mostly water that you see from your cabin window.

Cabins on the right side will see the coastline, as cruise ships generally travel between one and five miles from the shore.

If you’re sailing southbound (i.e., from Southeast Alaska through the Inside Passage down to Washington), it’ll be the opposite. The left side will have the coastal view and the right side will be mostly water.

What Type of Cruise Will You Be Taking?

Perhaps the more important question to ask when deciding which side of the ship you’d like your cabin to be on is “what kind of cruise will you be taking?”

I don’t mean destination or length, although those are also important. Specifically, is it a roundtrip (or “closed loop”) cruise or are you only going one-way (or “open loop”)?

If you’re taking a round-trip, choosing a starboard or a port cabin will be less important because you’ll be returning the same way you came in. That is to say, you’ll get both views, one on the way up and the other on the way back.

However, if your cruise starts in Washington and ends in Skagway, for example, you’ll only get one side from your cabin. There are, of course, viewing decks and other options to see the other side.

Front or Back?

Now that we’ve discussed left and right, let’s take a look at the other two directions. Is it better to have a cabin at the front (or “forward”) or in the back (or “aft”)?

This is an easier choice because it all comes down to personal preference. Personally, whenever I’m on a boat, train, or another mode of transportation, I like to look forward at where we’re going, instead of looking back on where we’ve been.

However, other people don’t mind being in the back. They believe that it’s about the journey itself and, if they want to see what’s up ahead, they can go to one of the forward observation decks or lounges to get a good view.

Aft cabins also tend to have larger balconies than the ones up front, as a tradeoff for the difference in view.

Top or Bottom?

Finally, let’s look at the other way the ship can be divided. Is it better to have a cabin on one of the upper decks or closer to the bottom?

This also comes down to personal preference. Because the upper decks are higher up, they will allow you to see more from your room than someone closer to the water. However, there is a trade-off.

The upper decks experience more movement from the water, which can be unpleasant if your ship encounters a patch of rough waves. The lower decks will be less affected by this, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, you may prefer the bottom of the ship.

What About Interior Cabins?

If you’re looking to save a little bit of money on your cruise, the cheapest option is usually an interior or “inside” cabin. These face the middle of the ship and have no windows to the outside.

In addition to making a cruise more affordable, they also have other benefits. Because there are no windows, the rooms get darker at night, which can give added privacy and could make it easier to sleep in, especially in the summer when we get 20 hours of daylight every day!

They’re also a good choice if you’re concerned about spending too much time in your cabin and want to enjoy the full benefits of the ship while you’re onboard. Having to leave the room to see the sights will give you a little extra incentive to go exploring.

A Few Words on Price

You’ll also want to account for your budget while picking a room. For this illustration, I picked a random cruise line and went to their website to find pricing for a seven-day cruise from Seattle to Skagway and back.

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Cruise ships, like most things, are priced based on demand. Each room costs the cruise line the same amount to maintain, so the more expensive ones will naturally be those that people prefer.

Based on this, interior rooms are the least expensive, followed by cabins along the port or left side (often called “Oceanview”), then cabins on the starboard or right side, and finally, starboard cabins with balconies are the most expensive.

From this, we can deduce that most people prefer being on the right side of the ship. However, just because it’s the most common (and most expensive!), that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best for everyone.

If you’re cruising on a budget, an interior or portside cabin will give you more money to spend when you’re in a city or town or on excursions that aren’t part of the cruise price.

However, if the price is no object, you may want to spring a little extra for a starboard balcony suite if you’d like a closer view of the shoreline.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

There are a few other factors that you should take into consideration before choosing a cabin because although the view can be very important, there are some other things to keep in mind.

It’s always a good idea to look at the deck plan for the ship you’re going to be on. If your cabin is too close to an elevator, a staircase, or another area that people will be walking through all day, it could get a little too loud, especially for light sleepers.

Finally, keep in mind that no matter where your cabin is, there will be plenty of places on the ship to see the awesome glaciers, bears (and other wildlife), and other scenery that Alaska has to offer!


The “best” side of the ship for your cabin depends on what kind of cruise you’ll be taking and what you’d like to get out of your adventure.

If you prefer to see the coast instead of the water, you may want to choose a starboard cabin if you’re heading north or one on the left if you’re heading south. If you’re going roundtrip, don’t worry! You’ll get both views.

If you have motion sickness, a room towards the bottom of the ship will probably be better for you. However, if you don’t mind a little bit of rocking and prefer to get better views, you’ll want to aim for the top of the ship.

No matter which part of the ship you choose, you’ll have a wonderful time seeing all that Alaska has to offer. We can’t wait to see you here as part of your next exciting Alaskan adventure!