How To Find Your Way Around a Cruise Ship – Fast!

Whether your cruise is just three nights long or you will be spending a week or more on board the ship, every minute matters.

You don’t want to miss activities, be late for a shore tour, or forfeit a spa appointment because you ended up by the pool when you were aiming for the lounge or you stumbled across the pizzeria instead of the shops.

But with ships getting bigger and more elaborate than ever, how can you find your way around as soon as you arrive on board?

Preview Your Paths

Once you pick your cabin, you can begin learning your way around the ship even if your cruise is weeks or months away. Take advantage of online deck plans, photo galleries, and virtual tours to get a sense of how to get around. You can track the easiest routes, note landmarks, and otherwise get familiar with your ship well before you’re onboard.

Even if you have booked a guarantee 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.

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.

There are often deck plans near elevators or major stairways, and there should be an emergency map or even full deck plans on the back of your cabin door. 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.

How To Find Your Way Around A Cruise Ship – Fast!
Photo By: Russell Otway

Learn the Landmarks

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

Unusual and notable artwork, a piano where a live band typically plays, or even a colorful mural that stands out to you 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.

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

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 or it may make a complete circle around a deck, but this is the deck where most of the public areas are found – lounges, shops, galleries, dining rooms, cafes, etc.

Generally there are no 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.

Enjoy the Exploration

Take time to really learn your cruise ship and enjoy exploring its nooks and crannies. Try taking a different route from your cabin to the buffet, or take a stroll around a deck you haven’t visited yet. 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.

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. 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!

Melissa Mayntz
Melissa Mayntz
Avid, enthusiastic cruiser (35 cruises and counting!), having sailed on multiple cruise lines, 20+ 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, 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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