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Navigating Port vs. Starboard

Navigating Port vs. Starboard

Ah, the thrill of setting sail on a cruise, where every sunrise brings new horizons and every sunset paints the sky with hues of enchantment. However, if you’re not well-versed in maritime terms, understanding the differences between “port” and “starboard” can be a bit perplexing. But, fear not, fellow adventurers! In this blog post, we’ll unravel the mystery and offer valuable tips to remember port and starboard, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable cruise experience.

The Basics: Port and Starboard Defined

Before we dive into the tips, let’s clarify the basics about the sides of cruise ship. On a ship, “port” refers to the left side of the vessel when you face forward, while “starboard” refers to the right side. An easy way to remember this is that both “port” and “left” have four letters.

Find a Focal Point

Once onboard, establish a focal point that can serve as a reference for remembering port and starboard. Many cruise ships have artwork or signage near the main staircases or elevators. For instance, you might notice a striking painting or sculpture on the port side and another on the starboard side. By associating these points of interest with their respective sides, you’ll quickly grasp the orientation of the ship.

Alternatively, if you can see the sea from where you are on the ship, determine whether you’re facing the front or aft of the ship (easier whilst the ship is sailing!). If you’re facing the front, and the water you can see is on the left, then you are on port side.

Bed Placement

You would hope that all beds face the same direction… facing forwards. However this isn’t normally the case. Some beds may face aft, some beds may even not even follow the aft or forward idea, especially in interior cabins. So don’t rely on the bed direction to help you remember whether your room is on port or starboard.

Docking Procedures

I’m sure that you would expect that when a ship docks in a port of call, that the port side will always face inland. Why would they name it as such otherwise?

The origin of the word “starboard” can be traced back to the Old English term “steorbord,” (meaning steer-board – it has nothing to do with the stars) which referred to the side of the ship used for steering purposes. In the era prior to the implementation of centrally placed rudders on ships, steering was accomplished using a steering oar positioned at the rear (stern) of the vessel, specifically on the right-hand side. This choice was influenced by the prevalence of right-handed individuals, making it more convenient for crew members to operate the steering mechanisms effectively.
So basically, the left side is called ‘port’ because ships with steerboards would have to dock at ports on the opposite side of the steerboard. And therefore, now that modern ships have central rudders, you cannot rely on which side of the ship is docked to establish whether you’re on port or starboard side.

Deck Plans and Signage

Familiarise yourself with the ship’s deck plans and signage. Most cruise ships have clear and detailed deck plans available, showcasing the layout of the various decks, restaurants, amenities, and cabins. Additionally, many areas onboard are labelled with signs indicating the direction and location. Once you become accustomed to reading these signs, you’ll find it easier to navigate and remember which side is which.

The Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party

Attend the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party! During this event, the ship’s captain and crew often share insights and information about the vessel, its facilities, and upcoming ports of call. This is an excellent opportunity to listen to nautical terms explained in an engaging and entertaining manner, and it may just help solidify your understanding of port and starboard.

Practice Makes Perfect

Lastly, like anything in life, practice makes perfect! As you spend time exploring the ship and getting to know its layout, the terms “port” and “starboard” will become second nature. Soon enough, you’ll impress your fellow travellers with your newfound seafaring expertise.

Call us on 02380 658 386 for more information or browse our cruise deals.

Comparing MSC Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea  Previous
Comparing MSC Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea

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