How to Sleep Well During Your Cruise

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A cruise can be enjoyable, exciting, entertaining – and exhausting. At the same time, you’ll need restful sleep every night so you don’t miss any of the different onboard activities and ports of call.

Strange beds, unfamiliar cabins, and unexpected motions of the ship can disrupt even the heaviest sleeper, so how can you be sure you’re getting the very best shut-eye on board?

Choose Your Cabin for Good Sleep

The first step toward good rest on a cruise ship is to be sure your cabin is in the best possible spot for good sleeping conditions. If you are concerned about your sleep quality, choose your stateroom location accordingly.

The motion of the ship, for example, is more pronounced in the extreme fore and aft locations, and if you are sensitive to that motion, you’ll want to choose a stateroom in the center of the ship for less rocking.

Take note of local noise as well – if your cabin is right underneath the gym, you may hear the noises of weights or machines from early morning workouts (I made that mistake on my very first cruise!). Similarly, a cabin near a major intersection or elevators will have many more people passing by the door, often in conversation, whereas a stateroom in a more isolated area will have much less foot traffic.

Virtual Balcony Cabin on Odyssey of the Seas
Virtual Balcony Cabin on Odyssey of the Seas (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Cabins on lower decks closer to the rear of the ship may hear a bit more engine noise, while cabins near children’s areas may hear more shouts and excitement from the youngest cruisers.  Likewise, staterooms near show lounges or theaters – including Boardwalk or Central Park balconies on Royal Caribbean’s popular Oasis-class ships – might be louder during performances and rehearsals.

Also, check deck plans when choosing your cabin. If there are many adjoining cabins nearby, you may be near larger groups of passengers, such as a family reunion or a bachelor or bachelorette party. In some cases, those celebrations can be louder than you may appreciate for good sleep.

Personally, I always try to book what I call a “sandwich” deck, with my cabin on a deck with nothing but a full deck of staterooms on both the deck above and the deck below. This makes my cabin the “filling” of the sandwich and ensures a much quieter space. If that placement isn’t possible, I opt for a stateroom much closer to the front or back of the ship so there is less foot traffic.

Pack for a Familiar Bedroom

You’ll get the best rest if your stateroom is as close to your familiar, home sleeping conditions as possible. But how can you do that when you don’t know what the stateroom will be like?

Bringing your own pillow or pillowcase along on the cruise can help be sure your head rests easy every night, or you may want to bring along a favorite blanket if you’re sensitive to different bedding textures. You can also ask your stateroom attendant for an extra blanket or extra pillows if necessary. If you prefer a softer mattress, you can also ask for a mattress topper if there are any available.

Carnival Cruise Ship Stateroom
Carnival Cruise Ship Stateroom (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

If you sleep with a fan, sound machine, or soft music to serve as white noise, bring along what you need to replicate that condition in your cabin. On the other hand, if you are a light sleeper who might be disturbed by slight noises – or if your travel partner might be a heavy snorer – consider packing along earplugs to ensure sound sleep.

Personal tip! If you forget earplugs or decide you want to try them, contact the Guest Services desk or your stateroom attendant to politely ask for a pair. Cruise ships carry a large supply for crew members who work in the engine room, laundry facilities, or other LOUD areas, and they can usually give you a pair or two without trouble.

Read Also: What a Cruise Ship Cabin Steward Really Does

A small travel fan can also be useful to help air circulate in your cabin and keep it cooler, essential if you prefer to sleep in a cool room. Take care, however, that the fan is permitted onboard – larger fans are prohibited by most cruise lines.

Towel Animals in Cruise Ship Cabin
Towel Animals in Cruise Ship Cabin (Photo Credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock)

The light level in your cabin can easily affect your sleep. Do you need a very dark room to sleep well? Consider choosing an interior cabin, or be sure your window or balcony drapes are tightly closed – a hair clip, binder clip, or clothespin can keep them that way.

Use an extra towel to block light under the cabin’s door, and tuck a tissue into the peephole to eliminate that bright spot of light. More personal tips – bring along a few small pieces of electrical tape to cover up the brighter-than-you-expect indicator lights on the temperature controls, telephone, or television.

On the other hand, if you need a bit of subtle light in your cabin, you may want to pack along a night light or leave the curtains cracked to give your cabin a cozy glow.

Get Tired

No matter where you are, you won’t sleep well if you aren’t tired. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to wear yourself out on a cruise.

Join in different activities and don’t be afraid to try something new. Consider visiting the gym or taking a good walk around the decks so you are getting enough exercise to wear your muscles out, or opt for more active shore tours. My favorite option? Just take the stairs more often and avoid the elevator lines while getting your exercise.

A nice afternoon nap may be a wonderful way to relax on vacation – especially napping in a deck chair on a cruise ship – but try not to nap too much if you have trouble sleeping at night.

MSC Virtuosa Stateroom
Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar

Keeping your familiar bedtime routine can give your body clues that it’s time to sleep so you will rest more easily. Pack your comfiest pajamas or otherwise sleep like you’re accustomed to at home (just be sure your stateroom door is locked and the do not disturb sign is out if you sleep au naturel!).

If you normally shower at night or have a regimen of beauty cream, hand lotion, tooth brushing, or other tasks before bed, keep up that routine while you’re on board the ship. Do you normally read before bed, or always write in a journal? Bring along a favorite book or notebook so you don’t miss that clue to good sleep.

Avoid Overdoing – Anything!

It is tempting to do a little too much on vacation – overeating, a few extra drinks, stretching yourself beyond your limits – but when you overdo, you won’t sleep as well.

Indigestion or digestive trouble can have you spending more time in the bathroom than in your bed, and if you’ve drunk too much, you may be sitting on the bathroom floor instead.

Worth Reading: What Is a Pullman Bed On a Cruise Ship?

A strained muscle, twisted ankle, or other injury from pushing yourself too hard can keep you up at night, and so can that wicked sunburn from enjoying too much sun with too little sunscreen. Take care to pace yourself, respect your limits, keep hydrated, and you’ll be sure to get enough sleep that you won’t miss any of the fun on every day of your cruise.

Melissa Mayntz
Melissa Mayntz
Avid, enthusiastic cruiser (35+ cruises and counting!), having sailed on multiple cruise lines, 25+ different ships in a variety of classes, and visited ports of call in more than 6 countries, including Caribbean, Mexican, Alaskan, and Hawaiian ports. Widely traveled on multiple continents and homeported from Port Canaveral, as well as a professional freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience and thousands of articles published. Find out more about us here.

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