Where Is The Bridge On A Cruise Ship & What Does It Look Like?

Are you going on a cruise soon, or perhaps you’re a regular cruiser looking to understand more about the bridge on a cruise ship?

You may wonder where the bridge is located, what it looks like, or even whether you’re allowed to tour the bridge. I’m lucky enough to have been able to visit several cruise ship bridges and I’ve answered everything you need to know below.

Cruise Mummy on cruise ship bridge

Where Is The Bridge On A Cruise Ship?

The bridge on a cruise ship is usually on an upper deck, at the front (fore) of the ship, which gives the captain and crew the best visibility of the waters and where they’re heading.

The bridge on Ambassador Ambition

The bridge is where the command centre is located, where the crew will have nautical charts to navigate the ship, controls to set the speed and directions, and other essential parts of the ship, such as controls for lighting and machinery.

My friend John, who is a ship pilot, often working from the bridge of cruise ships, sent me this photo of the conning display he uses to monitor the ship…

The bridge is the ship’s safety centre. If there is a potential hazard or emergency, the cruise ship’s vital signals can be monitored, and quick decisions can be made.

The term ‘bridge’ has historical roots dating back to the era of paddle steamers, when a raised walkway was constructed across the paddle houses, thereby ‘bridging’ the two sides of the ship.

This design innovation provided the captain with a panoramic vantage point from the quarter-deck, allowing for a view of both paddle wheels and sides of the ship.

The bridge is also sometimes known as a pilothouse or wheelhouse, derived from early ship designs where the pilot would steer the ship using a wheel within a designated house-like structure on the deck. This is more common on river cruise ships.

Cruise Mummy with river cruise ship

Can You Tour The Bridge On A Cruise?

Some cruise lines allow you to book a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship, including the bridge. There is usually a fee to take a tour, although some offer it for free if you are part of their loyalty schemes. Otherwise, the bridge is not a place that can be accessed by passengers.

On our recent cruise on Fred. Olsen’s Bolette, the children enjoyed a visit to the bridge as one of the activities in the kids’ club.

My daughter on cruise ship bridge

Other smaller cruise lines, or expedition cruise ships, have an open bridge policy where passengers can visit during quieter times, such as Windstar. Although, if the ship is coming into the dock or there is bad weather, it will be off-limits. 

Cruise ship bridge closed on Windstar Star Legend

Occasionally on some cruise ships, there is a Bridge Viewing Room where you can peer down at the crew at work. However, many of them have been removed due to health and safety. 

What Does A Cruise Ship Bridge Look Like?

A cruise ship bridge is iften curved in the central cockpit portion. Windows are slanted to reduce reflected light, as a bridge is unlit apart from instrument lighting

This robust design with reinforced glass ensures the bridge can withstand high winds and bad weather, while having a panoramic view.

Inside cruise ship bridge

On most modern cruise ships, on either side, there are extensions which look like wings. These are known as Bridge Wings and give the crew better visibility right to the back of the ship. Here, there is a manoeuvring console which allows control of all the manoeuvring aids like propellers, rudders and thrusters.

They also sometimes have a section that has a glass floor so that the crew can see beneath them, down to the water. This gives an excellent view when docking in a port.

People on bridge

What’s Inside The Bridge On A Cruise Ship?

A bridge on a cruise ship has some things that you would expect and some that you might not. Below are some photos which I took inside the bridge on Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambition, so you can see…

Seats for the navigation crew

The captain sits in the back seat. In the image below, you can see that it says ‘Master’, which is another word for captain.  That’s because the captain’s job isn’t to drive the ship! Instead, he or she is responsible for everybody on board and has overall command.

Inside cruise ship bridge - seats for the navigation crew

Usually, on the bridge of a cruise ship, you will always have two deck officers and two lookouts, of which one is designated helmsman. The steering is set to automatic when in open waters.

The captain can take control and ‘drive’ the ship, and he will state when he is doing this so that the rest of the bridge team know.

The Pilot Station

When arriving at and leaving ports, a port pilot will be taken on board. He will be responsible for navigating the ship safely into port of call. Cruise ship pilots are experts in their particular port, and their role is vital in all countries except Denmark, where taking a port pilot is optional.

Inside cruise ship bridge - The Pilot Station

The Ship’s Wheel

You’d be forgiven for thinking that cruise ships have huge wheels. After all, pirate ships in movies do, right?

A cruise ship’s steering wheel is actually smaller in size than a car steering wheel, as you can see from the image below…

Inside cruise ship bridge - The Ship’s Wheel


If there’s a fire or a flood, the bridge team needs to know exactly where it is, and which doors have been closed to contain it. There are displays for this, as well as a whole host of other things that are to be monitored.

There are various screens to be monitored, such as the one below, which is the engine monitor on a ship…

engine monitpr

Meeting area

Sometimes, the crew need to get together to discuss their plan and communicate with each other. There’s usually a table they can gather around to facilitate these meetings. The discussions most often involve navigation plans, such as arrival and departure briefings.

Cruise ship bridge meeting area

All conversations are recorded, as are the electronic charts and radar readings.

Coffee machine

Ask any seaman what’s the difference between working on cruise ships and other large vessels like cargo ships and they’ll tell you – the coffee!

Cruise ship coffee is great, especially when the crew have their own barista-style coffee machine, like this. And an endless supply of cookies!

Coffee machine on cruise ship bridge

How To Watch Cruise Ship Bridge Cameras

Some cruise ships have bridge cameras with live feeds, meaning you can see what is happening in real time. These feeds can be accessed from your stateroom on the ship’s in-room television service.

Cruise lines often make these live feeds publicly available on their websites or their YouTube channels. If you’re considering going on a cruise, this is a great way to get a feel of the captain’s view, regardless of your location. Or if your friends and family are on the cruise, you can see whereabouts they are in the world.

You can read my article to see a list of all the cruise ship webcams.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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