It’s a question that comes up again and again: What side of the ship should I book my stateroom on?
The root of the question itself is understandable: There is a lot to see along the waterways of Europe, and prospective cruisers want to ensure they make the most of their investment by securing the best views.
The truth, though, is this: There’s no “better” side of the ship. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, or what river you’re sailing on, or even what ship you’re sailing aboard. Both sides of the ship are created equal.
The trouble with trying to pick a side of the ship based on something you’d like to see is this. Assume, for example, you’re booking a sailing from Budapest to Nuremberg, and you’d really like to see Durnstein from you stateroom. Because you’re sailing up-river, Durnstein will be on your starboard, or right-hand-side, when you pass.
But two problems will immediately present themselves. First, you have no control over what time the ship will pass Durnstein. Secondly, you have no control over where you might be in that given moment. So, unless you intend to spend your entire voyage cooped up in your room, there’s little point to trying to play the “which-side-is-better” game. Plus, you only need walk up to the top deck for a great view of Durnstein.
The great thing about river cruising is that so much of it can be enjoyed from the ship’s Lounge (always the social hub of any vessel), or the Sun Deck. I’ve sailed down the Danube in everything from a full-on Suite to a full-balcony stateroom to a French balcony stateroom, yet I’ve never spent more than perhaps half an hour at a time in my room outside of time spent changing or sleeping.
The truth is this: There’s stunning scenery no matter which side of the ship you’re on. And if there’s going to be something noteworthy coming up, the program director or your guide will typically announce it over the PA, which allows ample time to for you to come up on deck or gather in the lounge if the attraction is coming up on a side that your stateroom isn’t on.
It’s also important to remember that a river cruise ship is much more navigable than a large oceangoing cruise ship, where you might have to ascend or descend multiple decks to reach a suitable vantage point. On a river cruise ship, the outdoor decks or observation lounges are never more than a 30-second walk away.
So spend your valuable research and planning time selecting your itinerary, ship and stateroom. You’ll be happy that you did, regardless of whether you’re on the port or starboard side.