When you first board the ship, you will probably be given a small, pocket-sized ship deck plan – SAVE THIS!!! This will be MOST helpful as you try to get your bearings for where your cabin is in relationship to the public spaces onboard. If you lose it or need another one, they are also usually available at the Guest Services desk.
Most of the newer ships have been designed so that most of the guest cabins are on certain decks (especially for the decks with balconys), with the public areas on other, separate decks. This DOES make it easier to navigate around the ship when you KNOW that some of the decks only have guest cabins.
In some cases, the public areas are spread out between two decks immediately on top of each other, which really DOES help, because pretty much anything you are hoping to find will be on one deck or the other.
The exception to this, however, are the main dining rooms – those will usually be on the lower decks – this helps with people that are prone to motion sickness as the smell of food sometimes intensifies nausea. By having the dining rooms on the lower, more stable parts of the ship, there is less chance of motion sickness.
As mentioned in the Elevator Ups and Downs post, it is a good idea to ALWAYS double check where you are when you first get off the elevator and then make sure that you head out in the right direction.
Depending on when you board, you may or may not be able to access your cabin right away. Instead, grab lunch in the buffet restaurant, your pocket guide and go explore! Then YOU’LL be the one to help point others in the right direction!
Regardless of how many cruises I’ve been on, when I get home, I usually find that there were sections of the ship I never found, but exploring is fun and gives you a better ‘sense’ of the ship overall – after all, it’s going to be your home for the duration of your cruise!
I usually start on the top deck and work my way down. Since some of the elevators will be used for luggage distribution on embarkation day, the wait for an elevator can be lengthy, so you may need to use the stairs and it’s MUCH easier to go down! Once the cruise actually starts, you may or may not have time to just wander around, so now is a good time to do so!
Be sure to book spa services, specialty restaurant reservations and popular shore excursions as soon as possible, if you have not already booked them online. They will fill up fast – especially for ‘at sea’ days!