What is the Front of the Ship Called? (Each Part)

Bearing in mind the size of some ships, especially modern-day cruise ships, which can have a front extending 10’s of meters in height, what you name the front of a ship can vary depending on the specific front part you are referring to.

So let’s break it down and explain some of these front features’ purposes and ways to remember what to call them if you aren’t too familiar with maritime terminology and sometimes forget.

Front of cruise ship

Names for the Front of a Cruise Ship

The front of a ship is called the bow. It is the most forward part of the vessel when it is sailing.

The bow of a cruise ship is designed to enable the hull to pass through the water with the least resistance possible.  

There are various types of bows for cruise ships.

Bow of a Cruise ship

The type of bow a cruise ship has will depend on the waters and sea conditions it will typically sail in, be they rough or often more calm seas.

They are often straight or flared bows.

Flared Bows

 A “flared bow” is a bow that extends out further the higher up it is.  

This makes them better at riding waves because as the waves approach, they encounter more hull, which increases buoyancy lifting the ship up on the seas.    

Flared bows are slightly more expensive and are only likely to be used on cruise ships that sail in rougher seas.

Straight Bows

Straight bows are more likely to be seen on the slower-moving river and tropical water cruise ships.

Forward of a Ship

The forward of a cruise ship means towards the direction of the bow.  Towards the front of the ship.

Prow of a Ship

Although often referred to as a bow, the prow is a specific part of the bow.  

The prow is the forwardmost part of the bow that you can see above the waterline, typically extending upwards into a point.  It’s the region designed to cut through the waters or, in some cases, to cut through the ice they encounter.

Port and Starboard

Knowing the bow ( front of the ship) is also essential when it comes to knowing port and starboard because both depend on facing the front to know which is which.

When you are facing forward towards the bow, the port is on your left, and the starboard is on your right.

If you have trouble remembering, we have a post to help, ways to remember port and starboard.

Bulbous Bow

Have you ever seen a cruise ship out of the water and wondered what that big lump of metal sticking out from the front of the bottom of the ship is? Well, its called a bulbous bow.

A bulbous bow is a protruding bulb-like extension at the front of the bow which is normally out of sight beneath the waterline when the hull of the cruise ship is underwater, so can only be seen when the ship is out of water.

At the very front of the bow, the amount of the underwater cruise ship is indicated by draft marks.

Although there are many more bow types that all serve different purposes based on the locations they visit.  

Some are designed for slow, smooth sailing, and others that visit icy waters are designed to cut through ice.

You can see a few different cruise ship bow examples here.

Why Do Ships Have A Bulbous Bow?

The purpose of the bulbous bulb is to reduce the ship’s drag, which will reduce the ship’s fuel consumption.

It does this by changing how the water moves along the hull and flattening it out, in effect, a wave canceling out effect.   The bulbous bulb creates a second set of waves which cancels out the first set of waves from the standard bow of the ship.

For an illustration of the purpose of the Bulbous bulb  and how it works in the water, check out this video:

Not all types of ships have a bulbous bow.  You can see the other notable bow types here.


At the front of a cruise ship is the bridge.  This is at the front of the ship on the higher decks.  From the bridge, the cruise captain and his navigational crew will navigate the ship through the waters.

Advantages of Cabins at the Front of Cruise Ships

On some cruise ships, there is the option to have a forward-facing stateroom.

These give a great view when the ship is sailing into port, especially if you are on a higher forward-facing deck.

Although if you book a front-facing stateroom for the view, double-check that it is not blocked in any way by the bridge wing.

Front Facing Balconies 

Some cruise ships even have front-facing balconies.   Although these sound like a good idea for the forward-facing views, they do have a few more restrictions than other cabins. 

Firstly you can expect front-facing balconies to be windier, especially when the ship is moving at 15 to 20 knots.  than side-facing cabins and, on some days, may have access restricted due to weather conditions.  This will be more of an issue for rougher seas, for example, an Atlantic or transatlantic cruise, than, say an Alsakan or Mediterranean cruise or even Caribbean.

There may be a notice which tells you to keep your balcony doors closed while the ship is at sea.  In some weather conditions, they may be automatically locked.

Forward-facing balconies tend to be bigger than side-facing.

Front Facing TV

You don’t necessarily need a front-facing cabin to get a view of the port you are sailing into, as most ships will have a bridge webcam which you can watch o the Tv in your cabin.   

You may also need to keep the curtains closed at night to prevent interference with the ship’s navigation.

Disadvantages of Front of Ship

Sea Sickness

The closer you are to the front of the ship, the more movement you are likely to feel and, therefore, the more likely you are to suffer from seasickness.


The front of the ship can be a little noisy for a few reasons, which is worth bearing in mind if you are a light sleeper.

The sound of waves hitting the bow, especially in rougher seas, can be noisy for some.  

The ships anchor is high up the bow, and the chains can be heard quite loudly in some nearby cabins when it’s being raised or lowered.

Bow Thrusters are sideways-facing propellors that help maneuver the vessel and can be heard when in use.

If you are still weighing up the best position on the ship for you, you might also be interested in our more in-depth look at whether the front or the back of a cruise ship is best and for who.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Remember Bow Is The Front Of A Ship?

There is an easy way to remember bow is the front of a ship.

Picture yourself if you were to bow your head or body as a sign of respect when meeting someone of importance. 

Notice how you bow forwards, so remember forward for the front.

Can You Go On The Bow Of A Cruise Ship

It varies from ship to ship, but some cruise ships allow passengers in the bow area, although the very front near the tip of the prow is usually a restricted area.

To Conclude

There are many areas to the front of a cruise ship, but its primary purpose is to lead the way,  the vessel through the seas and rivers which it sails.

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