Cruise ships come in all sizes. Assuming you are sailing on a medium to large sized ocean-going vessel, here are a few great places you need to find. Some smaller ships and river vessels might have them too.
- The bar overlooking the bow. Every ship should have one. It’s often a gigantic cocktail lounge. Find a table at one of the large windows looking forward and enjoy the view as the ship leaves (or enters) a harbor. It’s a view you are not going to get at home.
- The indoor hot tubs. The problem with hot tubs is some people do not want to use them in front of strangers or sitting shoulder to shoulder with them. Find out when those whirlpool tubs start (and finish) operation for the day. You can be in the tub while your fellow passengers are still sleeping or having breakfast.
- Your neighborhood bar. Cruise ships have lots of bars. So does your neighborhood back home. You are a regular in one or two, max. Explore the ship from top to bottom on your first day. Pick a bar that is comfortable. Get to know the bartender and waitstaff. Now you have found familiar territory. When you make new friends, invite them to “your bar” for drinks.
- Your (somewhat) private pool. If the ship has lots of passengers, you might find the pools crowded. What can you do? Check out the onboard health spa. This is usually run by a third-party firm. They do haircuts, massages and other treatments. They often have a hydrotherapy pool, also known as a big jacuzzi. Since you need to pay a fee for daily admission, it’s more private. There will be other people around, but not that many.
- The command bridge. The days of “bridge tours” are long gone. No one is going to let passengers into a secure area. The ship likely has a big viewing window, turning the command bridge into sort of an aquarium where the ship’s officers are the fish! (Perhaps that’s a bad analogy!) If you come up to visit while the ship is at sea or pulling into port, you can watch everyone in action.
- The laundry rooms. You can pack less if you plan on doing some washing during the voyage. If you prefer, you can send it out in the fabric bags in your stateroom closet. Assuming you use the (free) laundries onboard, you will want to check out the locations and start to gauge the busy and slow periods. FYI: The people who do their own laundry are usually a pretty nice bunch.
- Your own private deck space. If you booked a balcony cabin, this is an easy one. Your balcony is your private deck space. The ship is huge. There is probably a pool area with a retractable room, making it an indoor pool. There are outdoor pools surrounded by deck chairs. There are rows of deck chairs on the open decks. There is also an enormous amount of desk space at the very top of the ship. This might often be empty because there are no pools or activities. This can be a great place to pull over a lounger and relax in your own (somewhat) private space.
- The ship’s library. Many ships have them. When you are spending a day at sea, you have lots of time on your hands. The library should have a few desktop computer terminals for sending e-mails. Obviously a library has books. They should also have magazines. Ships often have a system for downloading and printing daily newspapers for you to borrow, read and return. There might be boardgames. There should be plenty of comfy seating. It’s a good place to relax indoors.
- The coffee bar. This will seem counterintuitive. If you can get coffee delivered to your cabin or free on the Lido Deck in the buffet restaurant, why would you want to pay for it? Because you can enjoy your favorite version of a specialty coffee in an uncrowded location. You might splurge on a pastry too.
- The cigar room. Many ships have public spaces that can be reserved or rented for events. The space needs a purpose when it isn’t booked. Your ship might have a small “living room” that is very cozy in an easily overlooked location. If it has glass doors, it’s a good bet it’s the cigar room. Not as many people smoke as they did in previous years. If it is undiscovered, this can be “your” living room to relax and read on sea days during the cruise.
Cruise lines publicize the big stuff like the dining room, restaurants, theaters, casino and bars. There are other spaces you can discover on your own after a little exploring.
Cover photo: Queen Victoria Atrium, credit Bryce Sanders
Ed. Notes: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world. Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines