Major Parts of a Cruise Ship – All You Need To Know

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Maybe you’re wondering about the components of a cruise ship beyond the deck where you lounge beside the pool, or maybe you simply appreciate knowing the location of essential items.

Becoming familiar with basic terminology can be helpful if this is your first time sailing on a cruise ship. We outline the different parts of a cruise ship in detail to help you navigate when on board.

The Basics of a Cruise Ship

Prior to 1920, the purpose of huge passenger steamships in the cruise industry was to transport the affluent and immigrants. Cruising simply for pleasure was unheard of. When new immigration laws changed the industry, shipping lines were forced to market to an entirely different consumer.

Advertisements soon followed, inviting people to enjoy traveling aboard comfortable, stylish cruise ships. Cruise line companies were soon sending guests to picturesque areas all over the world. This enabled people to experience the world like never before, all in luxury.

Worth Reading: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Cruise Ship?

Today’s cruise ships are much different than historical passenger lines. They contain a complete array of modern amenities like media rooms, fitness areas, and infinity pools.

Yet if you were to examine a cruise ship’s diagram from its golden years, you would discover the same terminology used to describe various areas.

Common Terminology: Words That Have Stuck Around

Here are common words that are still used today to describe cruise ships. Becoming familiar with them will help you effectively navigate the expansive ship.

Cruise Ship Decks
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive
  • Aft: Close to the ship’s stern, found at the back of the ship.
  • Bow: The front of the ship.
  • Bridge: Usually found in the bow, this is the area where the captain and their crew manage and control the cruise ship.
  • Cabin: A private stateroom that’s like a smaller version of a hotel room.
  • Deck: Cruise ships are arranged in various levels including upper decks, middle decks, and lower decks.
  • Galley: The kitchen.
  • Hull: The main body of the ship.
  • Lido deck: A commonly used phrase indicating the location of the pool and additional amenities like bars, restaurants, and fitness centers.
  • Midship: The middle of the cruise ship.
  • Port: The left side of the cruise ship when facing the bow.
  • Starboard: The right side of the cruise ship when facing the bow.
  • Stern: The extreme back end of the ship.

If you have ever wondered where these terms originated, some go back to the early days. Many of them were used when sailors required a steering oar to be able to control the vessel. Since most were right-handed, steering oars were placed over or through the right side of the stern.

The right side became known as the starboard (steering side), which combines “steor” (steer) and “bord,” meaning the side of the boat.

Cruise Ship Sizes

Cruise ships take people to desirable places around the globe, ranging from the romantic to the dramatic. But not all cruise lines provide the same experience.

Wonder of the Seas View
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

The size of a ship can impact the type of adventure. Here are the various sizes and what to expect:

  • Large – This size of ship carries over 3,500 passengers. It features a variety of entertainment and restaurants. Large ships stop at popular ports all over the world. They are unable to fit into smaller, hidden harbors, so passengers can only go to more popular destinations.
  • Medium – Medium-sized ships carry 800-2,500 passengers at a time. They provide a mix of well-traveled ports and unique ones. Since these cruise ships carry over 1,000 passengers, the ambiance is similar to that of larger ships.
  • Small – Small vessels carry no more than 350 guests. They are great for those who are interested in exploring hidden areas and remote islands where only smaller cruise ships can dock. These cruise ships offer a less crowded and intimate experience than larger vessels.

Spaces on a Cruise Ship

There are three types of spaces on a cruise ship. They include:

  • Public Space – This includes all areas where guests can enjoy themselves, like the fitness center, pool, restaurants, and the library.
  • Crew Space – A private area designated for cruise ship crew members and staff like housekeepers, the captain, and chefs. Crew members reside on the lower deck with staff inhabiting the upper. The captain and officers reside in private staterooms located close to the bridge.
  • Stateroom – This is a guest’s private space. It is where you relax, sleep, and prepare for daily activities. The rooms will vary depending on the cruise line. They can be minimalistic or spacious in design.

Additional Terminology

The previously discussed terms were just a part of the basic terms used for navigation and the cruise ship’s areas. When it comes to a cruise line, there are other words that are commonly used to describe items or areas onboard.

Norwegian Cruise Ship in Miami, Florida
Photo Credit :ackats /

Cabin Types

There are three distinctive types of staterooms. They include inside rooms, suites, and oceanview rooms. Guests can expect the basics, including bathrooms, closets, phones, televisions, and a bed. Yet each cabin type provides a different experience that should be considered.

  • Suites: These passenger cabins provide seating areas along with multiple rooms for larger families or groups. They offer more space than other cabins. Suites come with perks like plush bathrobes, flowers, and other items, making them more luxurious.
  • Inside cabins: Located in the middle of a cruise ship, they do not contain balconies or windows. These are more budget-friendly rooms. They are similarly sized to oceanview rooms and contain similar amenities.
  • Oceanview rooms: Also known as outside cabins, oceanview rooms line the cruise ship. They feature balconies or windows and allow natural light to pour into your cabin. Guests can watch the scenery from their room in the comfort of their own designated private space.


Itineraries illustrate your daily schedule, including each port of call or destination throughout your journey as well as days at sea. Sea days are when you are in open waters without any scheduled stops. They are as follows:

  • One-way – This journey begins at a certain departure port and finishes at a different one. One-way trips provide additional time to explore several destinations during a single voyage. It may be referred to as “open-jaw sailing.”
  • Round trip – This journey leaves from and returns to the same port. It is ideal for those who can drive to their departure port and would like to avoid traveling by air.
Nassau Cruise Port
Photo Credit: Brookgardener / Shutterstock

Shore Excursion

Shore excursions are organized activities available at each port. They can be booked in advance through your cruise line. While you can explore the ports by yourself, taking tours can provide a memorable experience and be a great way to become immersed in nature, history, or culture.

Final Thoughts

While many people don’t see the value in it, it is wise to know the parts of a cruise ship. In general, individuals cannot recall where the starboard, port, or stern is located. This is common lingo aboard a cruise ship.

Read Also: What Is a Lido Deck? It’s More Than You Think!

Becoming familiar with what different terms mean will allow you to easily locate areas on the cruise ship and find essentials. Acclimating yourself to your environment is never a bad thing.

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