No doubt cruise ships are big, and getting bigger all the time as cruise lines build increasingly more extravagant ships with bigger and better attractions and more of everything. It’s no wonder passengers often get lost trying to find their way around the ship. There are ways to make finding your way around the ship easier though.
Start with the deck plans guide usually included in a packet with your ship card at check-in. This guide shows all the different decks and what is located where on each deck. It is a great help in finding your way around and knowing on what section of which deck to look for things.
If you don’t have your handy pocket guide with you, help is as close as the next set of elevators. There’s always a deck plan posted next to the elevator, with a map of the deck you are on and a list of what is on each of the other decks. On most decks you can walk from one end to the other, but some ships have decks where there are things at the front and back, but the middle is crew area and passengers have to go up or down a deck to get through. This was true on the Veendam, which had the dining room at the stern of deck 7 and the showroom and other public areas at the front, but no way to get from one to another on that deck. Taking the wrong stairway or elevator was not a complete tragedy though as people could go to another deck to get through.
It also helps if you know some ship terms. The front of the ship is the bow, the back stern or aft. Port means left and starboard right. You often see these words on directional signs around the ship.
Finding your room is sometimes an ongoing challenge throughout the cruise. The stairways and elevators come down into the center of the ship with identical looking hallways on either side. Though these hallways are marked with signs indicating which room numbers are in either direction, and most ships have odd numbers on one side and even on the other, it is easy enough not to look at the signs and to get all the way to one number away from your room only to realize that the next room is 2 numbers away and yours is in the hallway on the other side of the ship.
Ships also have more than one set of stairways and elevators, so you won’t always head the same direction down the hallway once you have gotten to your floor. So how do you find your way through this confusion without having to stop and read all the signs? Landmarks is the answer, or in this case possibly shipmarks. Look for things that are different. While at first glance everything seems the same, there is always something that is not.
Stairways usually have some sort of artwork at the halfway level between each deck. Usually there is a theme to this, and it often differs from one stairway to another. For instance on the front staircase the Veendam had photos of different renditions of the ship that got older and older as you go down the stairs. There must not have been quite enough for the entire stairway though since both the top and bottom levels had other things. The back stairway had various plaques the ship had received throughout the years. Bigger ships have three main stairways and sets of elevators, but the Veendam had just two.
On the Veendam we noticed that at both ends as you left the stairs or elevator there was a fire extinguisher in the wall on the side closest to the odd-numbered rooms. We had an even number so no matter which way we came, thinking run from fire would head us in the right direction and was quite easy to remember.
Once we got to our hallway we had to decide which way to go. It’s a bit inconvenient to go look at the room numbers sign each time, but we noticed the front end had a painting of flowers just before the hallway, and the back had a painting of strawberries. So that made it easy, go toward the pretty flowers, but run from the evil strawberries. (Evil strawberries is a running joke for us because on my grandson’s first cruise he wouldn’t eat his breakfast because of a strawberry garnish on the plate.)
We could even get right to our door without looking at the room numbers because there just happened to be a lighted exit sign hanging from the hallway ceiling right in front of our door, though it just meant go down the hall for the exit as none were actually nearby. Using these landmarks we could go straight to our room from either end of the ship without stopping to look at any signs.
It helps to know which end of the ship things are at before going there in order to take the right stairs or elevators. On the Veendam besides being especially important to remember to take the back stairs/elevators (or lifts in some countries) to dinner because you could not get to the dining room from the front of the ship on that deck, some other areas had easier access from one end over the other. The front way went right to the spa and showroom, and the while the Lido deck was easily accessible from either end, the back went straight to the food area.
On port days you often find help in locating the exit from the ship in the form of gangway signs with directional arrows conveniently placed near stairways and elevators. The gangway may change places from one day to the next depending on whether you exit straight onto a dock, through a building, or onto a tender (a smaller boat that brings passengers to shore when the ship anchors rather than docking). It can be on different decks or different sides of the ship.
By the end of a cruise it gets easier to remember how to get where. Then you get off that ship and start over again on a different ship next cruise – but finding landmarks that stand out to you in a way you can remember them for directions will make learning your way around each new ship much quicker.