Cruise ships are floating luxury resort vehicles. At first glance, all cruise ships might seem similar in size and shape, but each cruise line uses distinct colours and design features to distinguish them from other ships. A ship's smokestack is one way for cruise lines to utilise creativity in decoration. Identifying each cruise line becomes easy when using photographs from websites, pamphlets and even by watching ships dock and sail in cruise ports.
Study various pamphlets, websites, cruise passenger photos and even cruise ships themselves if you are lucky enough to live near a sailing port. Cruise smokestacks are easy to spot because they will be one of the tallest features on each ship, rising above the highest deck.
Learn the distinguishing features of each cruise line. Colour and branding elements are the main way cruise ship smokestacks distinguish themselves from each other. Major cruise lines, like Disney Cruises, use Mickey Mouse as their identifying emblem, which they paint on each smokestack. Look for the obvious emblems for other cruise lines.
Line up photos of various cruise ships next to each other the way you would flash cards. Study each picture, one or two for each cruise line, until you are able to distinguish one line's colour scheme, size and shape of smokestack from the next. Keep a log of the ships you watch docking if you are near any ports.
Some cruise lines have very distinct marks, such as the aforementioned Mickey Mouse ear design on all Disney Cruise smokestacks. The Cunard cruise line pays homage to past cruise lines by painting their ships in colours that mirror historic vessels like the Titanic, so look for a bright red smokestack. Costa Cruises have yellow smokestacks painted with large "C" emblems. Celebrity cruises have some of the most identifiable smokestacks, with big bold X's that are easy to see for miles.
Be careful if you are observing cruise ships from a sailing port to stay out of the way of workers and keep a respectful distance from boarding and departing passengers.