14 Easy Ways To Remember Port And Starboard


Cruise ships are huge these days, it so easy to get lost until you get your bearings. Thus it’s helpful to understand cruise terminology and some basic nautical terms to help you get around the ship. Every time I board a ship I often forget so it’s great to have a few easy ways to remember port and starboard in the hope that one will stick and help navigation of your cruise ship that little bit easier.

Also when cruising with kids, these navigation points are crucial to any successful scavenger hunt, knowing port and starboard will keep them one step ahead!

Easy Ways To Remember Port And Starboard, Bow And Stern On A Ship

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How many times have you been on a ship when the captain announces over to tannoy there are dolphins on the starboard forward? I have to rely on the flow of people to get me to the right destination. Or on a river cruise when the captain announces free cocktails on the top lounge starboard side? I mean considering factors like this its an important to remember port and starboard, right?

We have compiled a handy printable for kids to download with some little rhymes we have designed for kids to print and take on their cruise. However also thought as I struggle with port and starboard myself, I would give a little insight into how to remember basic nautical navigation on a ship, and how to remember bow and stern for adults too.

What Is The Bow And Stern On A Ship?

Let’s start with the bow and stern of a ship, otherwise known as the forward and aft.

  • The Bow is the front of the ship, the captain with call this forward.
  • Whilst the back of the ship is called the stern, the captain will call this the aft.
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Ways To Remember Bow And Stern On A Ship?

13 Ways To Remember Port And Starboard, Bow And Stern
Photo credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with kids

Remembering The Bow of a ship

  • If you were pulling a bow and arrow you would shoot forwards, so bow forwards.
  • Forwards, going forward has to be the front right.
  • Also take an actual bow, you are leaning forwards.
  • Remember the rhyme Billy Bow stands at the front.

How to Remember Stern On A Ship?

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Photo credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with kids
  • I used to tell my kids to remember; stern Stand stands and the back, that seemed to work!
  • Whilst the aft sounds like after, which is always behind the front. So aft, at the back.

How To Remember Port And Starboard on A Ship?

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Photo credit: Royal Caribbean

What Is Port And Starboard On A Ship?

Ships are divided into two halves, the port and starboard, imagine an imaginary line going right down the middle of the ship.

Historically, before ships had rudders on their centerlines, boats were controlled using an oar to steer. This was in the days where left handed people were considered inferior, this the steering oar was always placed to the right hand side of the stern. In time the right side became the steering side, which soon became “starboard” by combining two Old English words: stéor (meaning “steer”) and bord (meaning “the side of a boat”).

Thus meaning the left hand side was the side that you docked in port, using the starboard side to steer in. Of course now days this is not the case, but the names stuck and is how a sailor will always refer to areas on their ships or boats.

How To Remember The Port On A Ship

Photo Credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

The key to getting this right is to face the front of the ship when using the points.

  • Remember the words port and left both have 4 letters, if you can remember that one thing you will always get both right.
  • Also remember the saying sailers had a wife or girl in every port and think of your wedding finger. So the left hand is port.
  • Also remember Lucy left lives in port.
  • For little ones it’s a great idea to get a friendship band on their left arm, or ask the cruise staff to put the cruise line kids band on the left arm, this will help them remember.
  • Which are do you wear your watch on? Note that, is your watch on your port or starboard arm, then you only have to look at your watch to remember, my watch is always on my left arm.

How To Remember The Starboard On A Ship

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Photo Credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids
  • Remember steer to the right, is always starboard.
  • Also remember right handed Starboard.
  • And a little saying, Suzie Starboard rows to the right.

Ever wondered why Portside is Red and Starboard is Green? See this post on why Portside and Starboard were given their colours.

Hope that helps, we all remember things differently, so we have tried to think of a few different ways, easy but logical and cute rhymes. Happy Cruising.

Check out these Cruise Printable’s

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Photo Credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

For more kids printable’s check out our Cruise printables for kids section. And for family cruises check out Royal Caribbean.

Click here for your printable to help you remember port and starboard, aft and forward.


  • Sarah Christie

    Sarah also writes for Mini Travellers Family Travel Blog and Extraordinary Chaos Craft and Lifestyle Blog. Both are award-winning blogs with a travel and family focus. She is married and has two boys, aged 18 and 22, who all love cruising as a family. Nothing is better than waking up every day in a new port with new and exciting things to explore. She aims to share how cruising as a family with young adults is the perfect choice for family travel. Her boys are sporty and love the activities, sports and dining options cruising offers. Sarah has worked with brands such as Walt Disney World, Mark Warner, Ikos Resort, Center Parcs, Laura Ashley, Belling and Next.

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