When getting acquainted with your cruise ship layout, there’s some location-related lingo that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with first. For instance, the front of a cruise ship is known as the forward, while the rear of a ship is called the aft.
You’ll find stateroom options to choose from on both sides of the ship (as well as in between), with each section offering its own distinct benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about the forward and aft of a ship to help you choose the best stateroom for your needs.
What’s the difference between the forward and aft of a ship?
The maritime industry has its own language when it comes to naming parts of a ship. The forward of a ship is just as it sounds: It’s the most forward side, at the front of a cruise ship, facing the bow. The rear of a ship, at the direction of a ship’s stern, is called the aft.
And what’s wedged in between the forward and the aft of a ship is commonly dubbed midship.
What are the benefits of booking a stateroom at the forward of a ship?
Staterooms set at the front of a cruise ship are not without their appeal. For many cruisers, they wouldn’t trade in the views of a forward-facing stateroom for anywhere else on a ship. Indeed, it’s nice to have a similar view to what the captain does in the bridge as your ship pulls into port or points its bow out toward the sea.
Plus, it’s not uncommon for forward staterooms to come with a little extra space to spread out, too, thanks to the alternative stateroom configurations owed to the angled shape of a ship’s bow.
Forward-facing staterooms are subject to more movement than other parts of a ship. This is because as a ship forges forward through the seas, it faces the most wind and direct hits from rolling waves, translating to lots of motion and sea spray. However, some cruisers enjoy that sense of being so connected to the sway of the seas.
Due to the elements, a veranda isn’t especially practical at the forward (if you’ve ever had your Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet moment at the front of a cruise ship, you know that the wind and sea spray there is strong). However, the few verandas that are situated at the forward tend to be oversized.
While verandas are a relative rarity, the forward’s oceanview staterooms take on some unique characteristics. Due to the more unusual configurations, staterooms at the front of a cruise ship sometimes swap out the standard picture window for more massive or even floor-to-ceiling window panels—which afford pretty incredible views.
What are the benefits of booking a stateroom at the aft of a ship?
Staring out at a ship’s wake can be downright hypnotic, and for many cruisers, taking in the spectacle of the churning seas below, with the expansiveness of the ocean stretching out toward the horizon, is the ultimate in relaxation.
That alone might be reason to book a stateroom at the back of a ship, but if that isn’t enough to sell you on it, consider this: Cruisers with staterooms at the aft also get some of the best views around when pulling out of port.
Another major perk is that coveted rear-facing verandas typically run bigger than the ones found midship. Some special staterooms at the very rear corners of a ship might even feature verandas that wrap around the vessel in an L-shape, affording you views on two sides.
On many ships, at least one main dining room is set at the aft, too, so if you are looking to have meal access just a flight or two away by stairs, this might be the right pick for you. However, aft staterooms also tend to be situated a bit farther from the elevator banks, so factor in some extra walking to access them to reach other ship amenities.
Engine equipment is also placed at the aft of a ship, so be prepared for the possibility of some extra vibrations and sounds from the engine room, especially if your stateroom is located on the lower decks of a ship.
Do higher or lower decks matter when booking a stateroom at the forward or aft of a ship?
Whatever stateroom you choose, be sure to consult with a travel agent or do some independent study of the ship’s deck plan before you book to ensure you get a good gauge on what’s surrounding your stateroom—and that means what’s above, below, and directly next to it.
If noise is a consideration, you’ll likely want to avoid units too close to high-traffic areas that are potential noise sources, like elevator banks. And you probably don’t want to book right below the pool deck or above the nightclub or theater if you’re noise adverse or a light sleeper. The quietest staterooms tend to be the ones insulated by other staterooms above, below, and on either side.
On the flip side, there may be an amenity that you’d like easy access to. Maybe you love being steps away from the spa (often found toward the forward of a ship) or Oceanview Café (casual dining venues are typically located at the aft of a ship), for instance. Or, being close to the stairwell or elevator bank might be essential for you. So be sure to look at deck plans for these potential locational perks, too.
Also keep in mind that whether you book forward or aft, lower-deck staterooms are typically priced lower than higher-deck ones. That’s because staterooms closer to the top of a ship are traditionally considered more desirable, especially on warmer-weather voyages, since alfresco attractions like the pool and sundecks are clustered on the ship’s top decks. Higher-deck staterooms also offer better vantage points and panoramas.
Which side is best for staterooms?
The best “real estate” on a cruise ship really is subjective and based on your personal tastes and preferences. That said, there are benefits when it comes to booking your stateroom in either the forward or aft of a ship.
In short, if you’re not adverse to motion and are after a unique front-perch view, the forward of a ship might be the best bet for you. If you are keen on a view out over the ship’s wake and the potential for scoring a larger veranda (and don’t mind the potential for some extra vibration), then the aft of a ship is probably the right move.
Keep in mind, too, that there is a case to be made for forgoing both sides and simply booking a midship stateroom. You’ll be in the center of the action, within fairly equidistant striking distance of most ship amenities, which is a saving grace for those with mobility issues.
By contrast, when you’re tucked away off to the sides of the ship, it’s quieter. And in general, the staterooms at the forward and aft of a ship will have more unique layouts than the more standardized midship staterooms, which may or may not work in your favor.
Which side is best for sunrises and sunsets?
If having a perfect perch for the daily spectacle of sunset—or, sunrise, if you’re an early riser—is high on your list, you’ll want to review your itinerary carefully. Of course, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so you’ll want a stateroom that faces primarily east for the duration of your itinerary if sunrise is what you’re after, or west if you’re more interested in sunsets.
If your itinerary is anything but a straight line, chances are that you’re likely to get at least a little bit of both on any one cruise vacation. Be sure to ask ahead to better ascertain the stateroom’s anticipated orientation and views out to sea. Keep in mind that there are ample public decks on the ship, so you’ll have access to the perfect sunrise/sunset spot no matter where you stay.
Is one side better for seasickness?
The forward is subject to the most movement out of anywhere on a ship. And the higher the deck, the more pronounced that rolling and swaying motion tends to feel.
Movement at the aft is a bit less drastic than the forward, but still isn’t the most stable place for those who are prone to seasickness. Instead, if you want to avoid motion sickness, aim to book a stateroom set as close to the center of the ship as possible, on a lower deck, where you’re guaranteed the smoothest ride and most stability in the case of turbulent seas.
Now that you’ve got your maritime lingo down pat, you’re ready to book your cruise vacation. Celebrity’s 14 ships sail to 300-plus worldwide destinations—browse our itineraries to find your perfect cruise.