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Carnival Horizon departs PortMiami (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

8 Best Cruise Ship Spots to Enjoy Sail Away From

Carnival Horizon departs PortMiami (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
Dec 13, 2023

Read time
5 min read

The time has come: your ship is ready to depart port, and your cruise is about to get underway! The lines are going in, the gangway has been retracted. Suddenly, you feel the ship start to rumble as the bow thrusters gently push your massive vessel away from the pier. Sail away time is upon you.

But where should you go onboard to watch sail away from port? With ships getting bigger and more fantastical every year, knowing where the best vantage points are for any cruise ship sail away celebration can be stressful.

Fortunately, Cruise Critic is here with our tips and recommendations. These are the eight best cruise ship spots for that sail away celebration to remember:

On This Page

Enjoy Sail Away from the Pool Deck Party

Pool deck aboard MSC World Europa (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

The Pool Deck is the quintessential sail away spot. Usually, sail away parties happen right here, out on deck, poolside, unless inclement weather intervenes. Expect plenty of high-end energy here if you’re on a big, mainstream cruise ship, complete with thumping music, live dance performances, silly games and more.

Of course, you can choose to actively participate in all that or enjoy the show and sail away at the same time. And, on smaller cruise ships or luxury ships like those of Silversea and Seabourn, even a poolside sail away can be a relaxing affair.

Celebrate Sail Away on the Promenade Deck

Viewing sailaway from the Promenade Deck gets you closer to the "action". (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Not every ship has a promenade deck, but those that have this wonderful feature have an additional advantage for those looking to get closer to the action at sail away.

Since promenade decks are typically lower down on the vessel, you’ll get a better shot here of the crew pulling the gangway in, taking the last of the lines up, and pushing away from the pier.

Viewing sailaway from the Promenade Deck (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

The promenade deck also tends to be quieter and more sheltered than the pool deck, which is great if you’re not a fan of the searing sun, or are just looking for a bit more reflective sailaway experience.

While not every cruise ship has a promenade deck, some of our favorites can be found on the ships of Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, to name a few.

Have a Quiet Sail Away on your Balcony

Passengers watch sail away from their balconies aboard Disney Wonder (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

You splurged for a balcony cabin for a reason, and there’s no better time to put it to the test than during port departure.

A balcony sail away is relaxing and tranquil – even more so if you crack a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the occasion. In fact, one of our most memorable balcony sail away celebrations was a champagne-induced affair from Piraeus aboard Silver Spirit many years back. It’s quiet, introspective and perfect for really taking in all the action and scenery as your ship begins to depart port.

Watch Sail Away from the Bow of the Ship

Some ships have forward-facing deck space that can provide the same view the Captain gets of departure (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Some ships are blessed with forward-facing observation decks that are open to passengers – and a few, like Royal Caribbean’s Radiance, Voyager and Freedom-class ships, even have outdoor helipad areas that allow guests to stand right at the very bow of the ship.

Both features are increasingly rare on today’s newbuild ships, which is why we prize these vessels so much. There’s nothing like taking in the same view the Captain of the ship has from high atop the navigation bridge while you leave port.

Some ships, like Royal Caribbean's Radiance-class, have bow-mounted helipads that are open to passengers (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

While bow-facing sail away spots tend to be quiet simply because these deck spaces are typically more hidden than, say, the pool deck, they can provide an exhilarating view of the seas ahead.

You don’t need to be on a luxury or small ship, either, to enjoy this: some of our favorite hidden forward-facing viewpoints can be found on nearly every Carnival cruise ship in the fleet. Check your deck plans to see that you’re not missing out on any hidden gems!

Perch High Above the Action for Sail Away

The Viking Crown Lounge, as seen aboard Navigator of the Seas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Of course, sail away can sometimes be best observed from the highest point on the ship. And, depending on the ship, that point could be an open deck or an enclosed lounge like the Viking Crown lounges found aboard some Royal Caribbean ships.

Going to an upper deck can provide great views of departure (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Even if your ship lacks an enclosed lounge viewpoint, a high deck will do the trick. We typically like to pick a high deck near the ship’s radar mast forward, or near the funnel aft. Seeing the length and enormity of your ship as it traverses something like Government Cut in PortMiami is a true sight to behold.

Stay Inside, and Enjoy Sail Away from a Lounge

Watching sailaway from a quiet lounge or window-filled space can be rewarding, too. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

There’s no need to be outside to get the most from sail away, and this is particularly true in colder climates or inclement weather. A good lounge with plenty of unobstructed windows will do just as good, and will likely prove far more comfortable, too.

Search your ship out on embarkation day, too: sometimes the best vantage points aren’t in lounges at all. We particularly loved the aft stair tower alcoves aboard Royal Caribbean’s former Empress of the Seas (pictured above) for their superb views and quiet comfort. And while Empress of the Seas may be no more, having been sold off to Indian concerns, there are plenty of ships these days that offer little hidden places from which to relax and watch the world – and the waves – go by.

Hit the Outdoor Bar for a Celebratory Sail Away

Enjoying sail away from the stern bar aboard Costa Toscana (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Sail away and drinks go hand in hand – and newer megaships are taking advantage of that. Newer vessels like Costa Toscana, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, Celebrity Edge and its sisters, and other vessels all boast stern-facing bars that are perfect for sail away celebrations with friends and family.

Meeting at the bar to watch sail away is a great choice for friends and multigenerational families travelling together. It’s an ideal gathering space that typically has plenty of seating, and is convenient even for those who choose not to imbibe, thanks to the growing popularity of mocktails and other non-alcoholic libations available on cruise ships these days.

Watching the Waves from the Ship’s Stern at Sail Away

A passenger aboard Pride of America watches sailaway on a misty day in Hawaii (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

The ultimate in quiet solitude – depending on the ship, of course – could involve standing at the stern railing, watching the ship’s wake slip away into the distance. Peaceful and transformative, these stern-mounted viewpoints are one of the best and most unique vantage points of being at sea.

Few things are as powerful as watching birds swoop over the ship’s thundering wake while the sun sets over the Caribbean Sea, or watching the clouds roll in over the mountains of Alaska as your ship sails for the Inside Passage.

Give this quiet vantage point a try on your next cruise.

Publish date December 13, 2023
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