It’s a common sight onboard many cruise ships: people wandering around lost, confused about where they need to go. And who can blame them? Cruise ships today are floating cities, with accommodations, dining, and entertainment venues all stacked together over multiple decks.
Traditionally most ships have their show lounges located at the front of the ship (forward), the dining rooms are in the back (aft), and the pool is on the upper deck -- but that's not always the case. And there isn’t really any other discernible pattern when it comes to the rest of the ship's layout, which can vary dramatically between different types of vessel belonging to the same cruise line.
Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned cruiser, finding your way around your cruise ship should never be a chore. So how can you make your cruise experience enjoyable from the moment you embark, instead of getting lost and frustrated? Here are our top five tips to accomplish this feat stress-free.
Interactive wayfinding screens have become the norm on new cruise ships and are being added to many older ones during their scheduled refurbishment. These large touchscreens are similar to what you find in shopping malls, where you can view the entire map (in this case, the ship’s deck plan), zero in on a specific floor, or find a specific place -- even your cabin.
For directions, simply input your cabin number or select your desired venue, and you will receive a step-by-step route on how to get there. These handy screens are located at stairwells and elevator bays but are also found outside public lounges and restaurants where there is ample passenger traffic flow.
In today’s digital age, mobile apps are becoming popular with cruise lines as they not only house all pertinent information regarding the cruise but also reduce waste by eliminating printed material. With the app, you have all the ship’s information at your fingertips, including the deck plan and the locations of all onboard venues. And since the app is GPS-based, it can also provide directions to where you need to go from your current location.
Detailed signage can be found at every elevator bank and stairwell, showing what is located deck by deck, including venue names and cabin number lists. On some ships, you may also find this information displayed inside the elevator above the doors. Once you exit the elevator, you’ll see additional signage directing you to the venues or cabins located on that deck. Our tip: most ships have two or three elevator bays, so depending on where your cabin or venue is located, you may want to choose the elevators closest to your destination.
This old-school method is fool-proof! The ship’s deck plan from the printed, hard-copy cruise brochure is accurate and to scale. It’s also perfect for those without smartphones or who prefer the paper route. Studying it closely before your cruise will help orientate yourself before you get onboard. Better yet, tear out the pages and carry them with you, and you’ll always have a point of reference at all times. Our tip: circle or highlight your cabin on the deck plan as well as the nearest elevator bay and your favorite hang-outs, so you can plan out the best route to get there.
One of the biggest challenges cruisers face is knowing which way is forward and aft, especially when leaving their cabin or coming out of an elevator. Some cruise lines have incorporated creative ways to help guests find their way around. On many ships operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, you’ll find schools of swimming fish woven into the carpets in the cabin hallways - they are always swimming towards the front of the ship!
Onboard cruise ships from other lines, there are typically ship models and/or ship diagrams in the hallways, with the bow always pointing forward. When at sea, if you are in any room with windows or up on deck, simply look at which direction your ship is traveling, and that will point you forward!
Using one or all of the above tips should get you around your ship effortless. But if all else fails, ask! You’re never far from a helpful crew member who would be happy to give you directions. Have a great cruise!