How to Find Your Way Around a Cruise Ship

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With new cruise ships getting larger and larger, it can be more and more confusing to find your way around from forward to aft, port to starboard, and deck to deck.

There are tricks, however, that can help you find your way around even the world’s largest ships with ease, whether you will be onboard for just three nights, a full week, or even longer.

Why You Need to Find Your Way Around a Cruise Ship?

Cruise ships have a lot to offer, from fun activities to unique venues to outstanding shows. Many events and activities, however, may be one-time-only and if you can’t find your way to the right spot, you could miss out.

Furthermore, being late to dining times, spa appointments, or show performances might forfeit your reservation, without a refund for any paid activities or any opportunity to make it up if other time slots are already full.

Fortunately, there are great ways to find your way around the ship right away, so you don’t end up by the pool when you were aiming for the lounge or you stumble across the pizzeria instead of the spa.

Preview Your Paths

Once you book a cruise, you can begin learning your way around the ship, even if your cruise is weeks, months, or more than a year away.

Deck Plan on Cunard's Queen Victoria
Deck Plan on Cunard’s Queen Victoria (Photo Credit: David Dennis / Shutterstock)

Take advantage of online deck plans, photo galleries, and virtual tours to get a sense of how to get around and what the ship looks like overall. Even if you have booked a guaranteed cabin category and don’t have an exact cabin assignment, you can still learn the major routes from one end of the ship to the other as well as where key features of the ship – lounges, dining areas, pools, etc. – are located.

Especially note deck numbers of top venues, as well as figure out where elevator banks are located so you can quickly move from place to place around the ship without difficulty.

Follow the Signs

Cruise ships are designed with helpful features to help passengers find their way around with ease. You may be given a map of the ship on embarkation day, and you should keep it with you for instant reference. Similarly, cruise line apps typically have deck plans available, so you can always have a map of the ship at your fingertips.

Elevators on Celebrity Beyond
Elevators on Celebrity Beyond (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

There are often deck plans near elevators, and there should be an emergency map or even full deck plans on the back of your cabin door. Some cruise lines also have interactive, touchscreen deck plans available at major intersections, such as near elevator banks or large lounges.

Worth Reading: Best Deck on a Cruise Ship – How to Choose

Hallways are often labeled with arrows and other signage to help you instantly see which way is fore and aft, and public areas will have more signs to note the direction of lounges, clubs, shops, casinos, and other features. Use these signs liberally and even if you get turned around, you won’t be lost for long.

Learn the Landmarks

Every cruise ship has key features that make great landmarks for finding your way around or setting up as meeting spots for a family or group. Get familiar with the grand staircase or main atrium, casino, lobby desks, photo gallery, or your favorite café to orient yourself around the ship.

Carnival Panorama Atrium
Carnival Panorama Atrium (Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani)

Unusual and notable artwork, a piano where a live band typically plays, an oversized statue, or even a colorful mural can be useful to learn your way around. Take careful note of these landmarks and you’ll know right where you are every time you see them. Even better, make sure you find such a landmark on every deck!

Discover the Main Road

All cruise ships have a “main road” for passengers to get around quickly. It may be just on one side of the ship, it could be a central promenade, or it may make a complete circle around a deck, but this is the deck where many public areas are found – lounges, shops, galleries, dining rooms, cafes, etc.

Generally, there are no or very few cabins or staterooms on this deck. Learn which deck this is by name and number, and once you’re there you can get to many different places quickly and with as few stairs as possible.

Venues Onboard Celebrity Beyond
Venues Onboard Celebrity Beyond (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Even better, most larger ships have more than one such main road deck – one may be inside, usually on a lower deck, while another is outside on an upper deck where more outdoor bars, pools, waterslides, and casual eateries are located. Learn both main pathways, and you’ll always have an easy way around the ship.

Enjoy the Exploration

The very best way to learn your way around your ship is to use any extra minutes to enjoy exploring its nooks and crannies – and today’s cruise ships have a lot of such spots!

Try taking a different route from your cabin to the dining room, or take a stroll around a deck you haven’t visited yet before the nightly show. Try a stairway or corridor you haven’t used before, and you just might discover a useful shortcut, an easier path, or a new favorite spot to hang out.

Odyssey of the Seas Open Deck
Odyssey of the Seas Open Deck (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Do note, however, that you should never cross into any closed area or areas marked for crew or team members only. Some areas will be temporarily closed for maintenance or safety, while others will always be off limits. Instead, find a different pathway to enjoy.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

If you are having trouble finding your way around, don’t hesitate to ask a crew member – any crew member – for guidance, no matter where you may be lost.

Also Read: How to Deal With Long Lines on a Cruise Ship

All crew members live on the ship for weeks or months at a time, and they know every step of every deck. Any crew member can offer directions to point you in the right way for just where you want to go, and a polite please or thank you may even get you a new secret path to get there even faster!

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