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Getting Lost At Sea

by Douglas Terhune

More than likely I do not have any famous explorers in my family lineage. Luckily though, I acquired a very sturdy sense of direction from my father. Being able to navigate a city with or without a map is truly a blessing, and I have never taken it for granted.

To the surprise of my current and future friends, if I am in the car and not sure where I am, I pull over and ask the first bystander or convenience store employee for directions. Time is too valuable to let my ego stand in the way. If I am going someplace, then getting there is the necessary evil part. And getting lost is not an option. Delayed might be, but not lost.

The percentage of cruise passengers that get lost the first two days aboard their ship must be staggeringly high. The scene often resembles what mice bumping into walls must look like in a mile long maze.

In several of my previous articles, I offer the suggestion of studying the ship's layout, floor by floor, before boarding a ship. This will give you a very good idea where the prominent public areas are in relation to your cabin ~ because I firmly believe that everyone should know before boarding where their cabin is located, i.e., Deck #, Aft or Stern, Starboard or Port, etc.

Ship Tip: Study your ships' floor plan extensively before boarding.

The cruise lines have listened to the passengers for years about the time wasted looking for specific public rooms and/or their own cabins. They listened and have instituted many new signs and ship drawings. And the new signs are nice, but are they really all that helpful?

When I am riding in an elevator and above the door they have the large public rooms lighting up as we pass each floor, does that really help? Heck, usually by the time I can read something - we are off to the next floor. However, I like the idea of the signs in the elevators and understand the ship's reason for not wanting a huge map in their glass and brass elevators, but might there be a compromise?

Today's newer fleet of ships pretty much all have a standard "side view" of the ship and a layout of the floor you are on posted near each elevator/stairway area. This is really your best bet to figure out where the heck you are and see if you can figure out where the heck you are going. But, there are limitations to the drawings - mainly because they are small and typically have a crowd around them.

But these signs can be confusing. It will say you are "HERE" designated by some small mark - and since the maps are so chock full of detail - finding the "HERE" mark itself can be a chore - especially if you use glasses and don't have them with you.

Ship Tip: There are signs, so take the time to read them!

Many of today's cruise lines send a compact floor plan with your cruise documents. The problem I see with these is that when you are going someplace, you don't like to usually whip out the map, unfold it, study it, fold it, and continue on your merry way.

If you are going somewhere on a ship, trial and error is often the most popular method used at learning your way around. But with today's behemoth Superliners, trial and error can take a week! And I am not ashamed to say that I have done more than my fair share of trial and error - albeit I have wasted enough cumulative time on ships looking for my destination to account for a wasted 4 day cruise somewhere.

Ship Tip: If you like exploring, you'll have a field day - or two!

There are a few key public rooms that in my opinion deserve a few more noticeable signs - namely the Dining Rooms, Pursers Desk and Theater. Signs that have an arrow and point down a hallway to the direction of each would be EXTREMELY helpful. Perhaps they could be taken up at night time or after the first two days of sailing, but the ships could do more to prevent the unnecessary frustration that is felt by millions of passengers each year.

My favorite idea I have heard in bits and pieces over the years, is having a very limited number of crew members posted at key stairwells the first 24 to 48 hours - kind of like an information booth in a mall. When one is looking for the casino or the Champagne Lounge, one does not want to walk down 6 floors to the busy Pursers Desk to ask for directions.

Ship Tip: The cruise lines could do more - but until then, YOU are in charge!

Please don't take me out of context on this one. The lines could figure out a way to make the ship more user friendly, but until then, it is kind of like sitting down with some kind of disassembled gadget and set of instructions and figuring out how it goes together - with no one in the room to answer questions.

And when you say you are "lost on a ship" - isn't that kind of an oxymoron? Couldn't you really find the top deck if you had your trunks on some sunny afternoon or the midnight buffet if your stomach was growling?

Life aboard a ship should be stress free. Time is valuable at home, work and especially on vacation. Until the cruise lines figure out a better way to point you in the right direction, moving about on the ship is your responsibility. There are no gas stations or 7-11s around to tell you where something is - so read your maps before boarding and give yourself a head start on the rest of your fellow passengers.


Doug TerhuneDoug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. His monthly "Ship Tips" columns are very popular with our readers.

Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Grandeur of the Sea's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.

Doug can be reached at: Doug@sealetter.com.

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