When choosing a cabin for your upcoming cruise, you might run across the terms port and starboard. This is cruise ship lingo for the left and right sides of the ship (respectively), when facing the front of the ship. It can be an important choice if you're investing money upgrading to a balcony or outside cabin instead of an interior cabin. If you're wondering whether the port side or the starboard side is the better pick for your cruise room, read on for our breakdown of how to choose port versus starboard for your next sailing.
While port and starboard refer to two distinct sides of a cruise ship, you will have a similar experience on either on most cruises. Standard cabins will be essentially identical whether they're on the port or starboard side, and both sides will have corridors lined with interior cabins (or inside cabins) as well as outside cabins and balcony rooms.
When your ship is in the open ocean, the view is pretty much the same from an outside cabin. Exceptions might include regions where you pass near islands, if you see the coast sailing into or out of port, and whether you catch the sunrise or sunset. A ship can tie up on either port or starboard sides when it's docked, so one side does not consistently offer better port views.
During scenic cruising, such as visits to Glacier Bay in Alaska or the Napali Coast in Hawaii, the captain will usually turn the ship 360 degrees so both sides get good views, and when surrounded by really dramatic scenery, you're better off on the top deck than in your cabin anyway.
Related: A Glossary of Cruise Terms
If you're planning to take a one-way cruise, choosing between the ship's port and starboard sides is likely to be more important. Some of the most popular one-way cruises are north or southbound Alaska cruises, as well as one-way sailings across the Mediterranean, like Barcelona to the east or Athens to the west. On these itineraries, choose a port side cabin to see sunsets if you're sailing north or west, or to see sunrise if you're sailing south or east. Choose starboard for the opposite view. You can expect the rooms that face the scenic coastlines to cost more on these types of sailings.
Read More: How to Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin
Ultimately, the most important cabin choices are which deck you're on, whether you're in the middle or toward one end of the ship (for seasickness reasons), and which size and category of room you select. Your budget is, of course, a factor as well (though that will only be relevant on one-way cruises). Generally, choosing a starboard or port cabin will have little impact on your trip, especially when you can head up to the pool deck or elsewhere to get a wider view.
Updated February 25, 2022