Aft of a Ship – What You Need to Know

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Unsure what is meant by the aft of a ship? We can help you understand this nautical terminology. Our guide covers everything you should know!

Whether you are new to cruise ship vacations and would like to know more about the layout of a ship, or you are just curious about nautical terminology, you will want to familiarize yourself with what is meant by the aft of a ship.

Fortunately, we can help you gain an in-depth understanding. We will explain what this term means and cover in detail what areas you will find in the aft of a large-scale cruise ship. From there, we will even explain some of the benefits and drawbacks of booking a room in the aft of a cruise ship.

If you ever wanted to learn the differences between the forward and the aft of a ship, you have come to the right place!

What Is the Aft of a Ship?

The aft of a ship is a nautical term to describe a vessel’s rear section or back end. The rear of the ship can also be called the stern, but aft is often the preferred term when discussing larger vessels like cruise ships.

Essentially, the aft of a ship is the exact opposite of the bow or forward of a ship, which is the term for the front end of a vessel. With most non-sailing ships, the underside of the aft is where you will find the propellers, engine compartments, and steering rudder.

Where Does the Term Aft Come From?

The term “aft” is a common phrase in maritime and nautical terminology that is often believed to just be the shorter version of the word afterdeck. While this explanation makes sense, it is actually somewhat misguided.

The real explanation for the use of the word aft in nautical terminology is the fact that the word is derived from an Old English word spelled “aeftan,” which roughly translates to “behind” or “in the back of.”

Two Docked Cruise Ships
Two Docked Cruise Ships (Photo Credit: SeregaSibTravel / Shutterstock)

Given that it originates in such an old word, it is unsurprising that the term aft has been used in nautical terminology for hundreds of years. Various navies, particularly the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, placed great importance on the aft portion of a naval vessel, as this is where the steering wheel and captain would be located.

Worth Reading: Underwater Cruise Ship Rooms – What Are They?

Today, the term aft is used regularly, especially within the cruise ship industry, to describe the back portion of a ship. It can be used to describe where various amenities are located, as well as sections of cabins.

What Can Be Found at the Aft of a Cruise Ship?

Regarding cruise ships, the aft of the ship can be an extremely busy area where passengers can find many amenities and features.

While some of the smaller cruise ships will use the aft of the ship as a quiet area where they can position a simple observation area above crew cabins and storage areas, some of the larger cruise vessels will use this area as a high-traffic entertainment hub.

Some of the many things you could find at the aft section of a cruise ship could include:

Dining Venues and Restaurants

Given that the aft of a cruise ship can offer stunning views and a more relaxed atmosphere than the middle of the ship, it is regularly used for restaurants, cafes, and other dining establishments. It can be a great place to enjoy a delicious meal or a quiet drink while viewing the water being churned up behind the ship.

Norwegian Encore Dining Room
Norwegian Encore Dining Room

Many cruise ships also feature bars and lounges in the aft, allowing them to enjoy the expansive views.

Outdoor Observation Decks

It is also common to have multi-level observation decks at the aft of a cruise ship, as they provide outstanding views. Some cruise lines will even intentionally charter their trips in a way where the sun will set behind the vessel to offer passengers stunning sunset views from the aft of the ship.

View of MSC Cruise Ship
View of MSc Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: ODIN Daniel / Shutterstock)

Many of these observation decks will have seating areas that consist of sun chairs, bistro tables, and comfortable loungers, so it is beneficial to stake out a spot early if you plan on taking in a sunset view!

Swimming Pools and Spas

You may also notice that some cruise ships have swimming pools, hot tubs, and spa facilities in the aft section. Again, the stunning views of the ocean that can be found at the rear of the ship make this an ideal location for lounging and relaxing.

Pool and Loungers at Back
Pool and Loungers at back of Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Brent Wong / Shutterstock)

Cabins with Balconies

For many cruise ships, some of the largest passenger cabins can be found in the aft section. For those looking for a large and comfortable balcony, looking for a cabin towards the aft of the ship could be the right decision.

Because the aft of the ship is more shielded from the wind, the balconies tend to be much larger than those found along the port and starboard sides of the ship.

Not only are the balconies and cabins found in the aft of the ship usually larger than those found elsewhere, but they also offer uninterrupted ocean views that allow passengers to enjoy the hypnotic sight of water churning in the ship’s wake.

Balcony Cabins
Balcony Cabins Aft View (Photo Credit: NAPA / Shutterstock)

Some of these cabins and balconies are even located along the corners of the ship’s rear, so they can wrap around, allowing for multiple views from the same cabin!

Crew Quarters

Some cruise ships will also use the lower portions of the aft of the ship for small crew cabins and shared, dormitory-style accommodations.

These areas are reserved for staff members to sleep and recuperate during their off-duty hours. While crew quarters are found here on some ships, where crew quarters are located depends on the specific layout of each particular cruise ship.

Helicopter Landing Pad

Some ships feature a helipad towards the aft of the ship. These helipads are designed for medical emergencies that necessitate the evacuation of a passenger or crew member. The Helipads on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships are at the front.

Typically, the helipad will also be near a medical treatment facility. Although they are interesting features of the ship, these areas are only accessible to certain crew members.

Helipad on Cruise Ship
Helipad on Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Anton Watman / Shutterstock)

It is also possible to find sports and recreation facilities, movie theaters, concert venues, and other amenities towards the aft of the ship. Basically, each cruise ship is different, but many try to take advantage of the stunning views offered by this relaxing section of the vessel.

Should You Book a Cabin in the Aft of the Cruise Ship?

Where you book a cabin on a cruise ship depends primarily upon your personal preferences and the budget you have allowed for your trip.

Stunning Views

In terms of the benefits of a cabin near the aft of the trip, many people find the view relaxing. Watching as the ship’s propulsion system churns up the water below can be mesmerizing, as can the expansive view of the sea or ocean you get behind the ship.

Cruise Ship Wake
Cruise Ship Wake (Photo Credit: Tony Steinberg / Shutterstock)

These views can be delightful when the ship is pulling out of port, as you see the land shrink into the distance the further the ship gets away from it.

Larger Cabins and Balconies

As mentioned, another benefit of cabins located towards the ship’s rear is that some of the best private balconies can be found here. The rear-facing cabins and verandas are much larger than those on either side of the midship area. Many ships even offer wrap-around balconies with two views for those willing to spend a little more on their trip.

Proximity to Dining Areas and Amenities

We covered some of the features common towards the aft of cruise ships above. If you would like easier access to dining areas and other amenities, it might be worth looking at the ship’s layout, as many will have these features in the aft section.

Are There Downsides to Booking a Cabin in the Aft of the Ship?

Again, personal preferences play a significant role here, but booking a cabin in the aft section of a cruise ship is not for everyone. You have to remember that this is where the ship’s engine equipment and propeller system are located, so vibrations and other sounds in the engine room could impact some of the lower cabins.

After of the Cruise Ship
After of the Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock)

Then, of course, there is the fact that larger aft cabins with full-sized balconies are highly sought after, which means they can be more expensive than cabins located in other parts of the ship.

Not only can this increase the price, but it can also make them more challenging to book. If booking a cabin in the aft of a cruise ship appeals to you, you should book your trip well ahead of time to ensure that you get the accommodations you desire.

Another potential drawback of a cabin near the aft of the ship is that you could be located a reasonable distance from the ship’s main elevators, which tend to be closer to the ship’s middle sections. While this is not always the case, it can be a concern for those with mobility issues.

Is the Aft of the Ship Bad for Seasickness?

It is a common misconception that the aft of the ship is the worst area to stay for those sensitive to seasickness. The truth is, the forward of the vessel is where the most movement can be felt. This is especially true for those staying on the upper decks of the ship’s front end, as the swaying motion is the most detectable in these areas.

MSC Seascape Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: MSC Cruises

Perceivable movement is less severe at the aft of the ship than at the ship’s forward. With that said, the ship’s propulsion system can create excess noise and vibrations that can disturb some passengers.

If you have concerns about sea sickness or motion sickness, you would be better off booking a cabin as close to the ship’s center as possible. You should also prioritize a lower deck, as this will reduce the motion and swaying you can feel.

Final Words

Now that you know more about maritime terminology, you will be better prepared to navigate a trip and book a cabin for your next cruise vacation. Whether or not booking a cabin in the aft section of the ship is right for you depends on what you value in these types of trips and the budget you have set aside.

Read Also: Is Deck 1 on a Cruise Ship Bad – Pros and Cons

With that said, the views of the churning wake can be an incredible draw, as can the stunning views of seemingly endless water behind the ship.

Even if you book your cabin in another part of the ship, we recommend venturing out to the aft to take in the view, especially as the sun sets. Grab a meal towards the ship’s rear, or take a quiet moment for yourself; it is well worth your time!

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