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You May Feel Movement on a Cruise Ship – Here’s When and Why

This post is sponsored by TravelPlanners.

Many first-time cruisers have questions about the motion that they will feel when on a cruise ship. I’ve been on many cruises and on the majority I often forget that I am on a cruise ship at all.

That said, in certain situations, the movement of the ship can be felt by the passengers.

Do You Feel a Cruise Ship Move?

You may feel the ship move when on a cruise. Most passengers describe the feeling as a vibration instead of defined movements. The degree of movement felt does increase if the cruise ship is traveling through bad weather and you may be able to feel when the cruise ship is docking or pulling away from the port.

The amount of movement varies by cruise ship, cruising location and many other factors.

Celestyal Olympia Cruises Aft

Cruise Ship Movement – In Good Weather

On most cruise ships you won’t be able to feel very much movement when travelling in good weather.

If you are cruising on a particularly small or old cruise ship this may increase but generally speaking if you are sailing at a consistent speed in good weather you will not be able to feel movement when onboard.

Cruise ships typically cruise at around 23 miles per hour and can reach around 35 mph if they need to!

Can You Feel Vibrations on a Cruise Ship?

On most cruise ships you may feel a slight vibration. This isn’t noticeable in all areas of the ship and definitely shouldn’t affect your cruising experience. This said you may feel the vibration when laying in bed at night or when low down in the ship.

I find that the slight vibration means that I sleep deeper than I otherwise would and generally sleep really well. The vibration is often much stronger if you are cruising in an inside cabin low down.

On some older ships, you may also feel a vibration when on higher decks. I recently cruised on the Celestyal Olympia who was originally built for Royal Caribbean back in 1982.

The Celestyal Olympia has a bar that wraps around the funnel and in this bar, you are able to feel the vibration of the ship quite prominently.

That said, I actually enjoy it, the vibration reminds me that I’m onboard a cruise ship! On ships built in the 90s and later you shouldn’t feel much vibration.

Cruise Ship Movement – When Docking

When the cruise ship docks you may be able to feel some movement. This is similar to how it feels when a train which you are on divides.

I commute to work by train so this analogy makes sense to me, apologies if you’re not a frequent train passenger!

Can You Feel The Ship Move in an Inside Cabin?

If you are cruising in an inside cabin being able to feel some movement when docking can actually be really useful.

I am a BIG fan of inside cabins but the worst part is that you have no real measurement of time since it is always dark inside.

When cruising in an inside cabin and I begin to feel a little bit of movement I might think to myself, ‘hmm, maybe we are docking?’ At this point I’ll usually turn the TV onto the bow cam channel, which most cruise lines have, to see where we are.

If you dock early in the morning some passengers are woken up by the docking movement. I personally could sleep through almost anything so rarely wake up but I am aware of family members and friends who have said that the movement wakes them up.

Royal Caribbean Labadee

How Much Movement Can You Feel When Docking?

A lot of this does depend on how difficult the docking process is.

If the cruise ship has to reverse and squeeze in between other cruise ships you may feel more movement than if the cruise ship just pulls up to a stop.

The movement shouldn’t be sudden.

It’s not going to knock you off your feet or anything off the table. It’s most likely that it’ll just make the coat hangers in the closet rattle a little.

I asked the members of our Facebook group if they felt movement when the cruise ship docks, this is what they had to say:

Feel Movement when cruise ship docks

I was surprised to see that more people had been woken up by the docking process than those who hadn’t. Most didn’t seem to mind it though, instead using it as a reason to get up and look at the view or a reminder that they could go back to sleep!

We had a cabin with a porthole low and near the bow thrusters. We could feel it when they used them near the pier’. – Mark

We have a balcony room every time and never wake up. Every single time, I am surprised that we are in port!’. – Stephanie

‘I have, sometimes the noises or vibrations of ship wake me but often it’s about the time I normally wake for work. At home I would go back to sleep but on a ship, I go out to enjoy the view!’. – Jon

How Much Movement Do You Feel When Tendering?

In some ports, you may have to take a tender to get to land.

A tender is a little boat that takes you to land from the cruise ship. If this happens you won’t feel any movement when docking because the cruise ship will simply drop the anchor.

To learn more about the tendering process, (and learn how to skip the lines), check out this post:

You may hear the dropping of the anchor if you have a cabin nearby but generally speaking, this will not disturb you.

How Much Movement Will You Feel When Sailing Away From Port?

You may feel movement when the cruise ship is sailing away from the port.

This is usually more gentle than docking.

On a number of occasions, I haven’t even noticed when we have sailed away. Most of the time when the cruise ship sails away you will be at a sail away party or eating dinner so generally are distracted.

If you are at the back of the cruise ship when sailing away you might feel more movement.

I recently cruised on the MSC Meraviglia and when the cruise ship started to sail away we were often eating dinner. It was obvious when we began to sail because we could hear the engines and could feel the room vibrating.

The vibration wasn’t very dramatic but you were able to see slight movements in our drinks on the table.

msc meraviglia emma cruises jump

How Much Movement Will You Feel in Bad Weather?

In bad weather, you may feel quite a lot of movement.

When cruising through a particularly bad storm some things onboard may move, such as if you put a pen on a table it may roll-off.

I’ve been on 34 cruises to date and on one cruise the weather was so bad that my drink actually slid across the table, this is INCREDIBLY rare though, things onboard usually won’t move around.

When walking through the corridors in bad weather you might find you need to hold onto a handrail if you are not stable on your feet.

I don’t have a problem with this and when walking around the ship it just feels as though I’ve had a drink or two…

How To Minimise The Feeling of Movement on a Cruise Ship

In order to minimize how much you feel movement in bad weather, it is usually a good idea to stay in the middle of the ship and to stay as low as possible. Being high up at either end of the ship is where you’ll feel the most movement.

Feeling movement can be a bit strange if you are not used to it.

Heading outside for some fresh air and looking at the horizon can be a good way to get rid of that strange feeling. In bad weather, certain things might be closed like swimming pools.

A lot of activities that take place outside such as sail-away parties may also be canceled or the venue changed.

P&O Cruises Sail Away Party Top Deck

When the weather is bad the cruise line may cancel cruise ports or amend the itinerary. It is written into every cruise contract that the cruise line is allowed to change the itinerary whenever they would like.

To learn more about why cruise ports are canceled (and to find out if you’re entitled to any compensation) check out this post: Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports?

Preventing Motion Sickness

There are a few things that you can do to prevent motion sickness when cruising:

  • Avoid itineraries with many sea days
  • Choose a cabin with a central location
  • Book a balcony
  • Choose a mid-sized ship

Prevention is always better than cure but even if you follow all of these steps you may still get seasick if your cruise ship is caught in bad weather.

Carnival Sensation cruise ship early morning storm
Early Morning Storms in the Distance – from the Carnival Sensation

One area which is notorious for bad weather and storms is the Bay of Biscay.

The Bay is Biscay is located 300 miles from Southampton between France and Spain. To learn more about the Bay of Biscay, and how long it takes to cross this area, check out this post: Cruising Through The Bay Of Biscay: What to Expect.

There are also a number of ways that you can treat seasickness should the worst happen. A personal favorite cruise hack of mine is to eat green apples when feeling seasick, they take the nauseous feeling away almost instantly.

For more ways to treat seasickness, including things that you shouldn’t eat, read the following post:

Feeling Movement When Back on Land After a Cruise

When returning from a cruise a few people report feeling movement which lasts a couple of days.

This feeling is similar to how, when you’ve been walking on a treadmill for a while then walk on the floor it feels slightly strange.

It isn’t an unpleasant feeling and usually does go away within a couple of days.

There isn’t really anything that gets rid of this feeling apart from time but I’ve heard that one great way to prevent it is to just never disembark a cruise… That isn’t the most practical of solutions but it definitely sounds enjoyable!

For me, the feeling just appears occasionally as I feel some movement and instantly dismiss it as ‘oh, it’s just the ship’, it’s at this point I realise that I’m not on a ship anymore.

It isn’t unpleasant but just takes a little getting used to. Some people don’t ever feel this feeling.

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