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Usually too lit up. We were on a ship with a lecturer on the heavens and several nights she got the staff to turn out all ship lights while she pointed out various heavenly bodies ( In the sky that is).
I was wondering is it possible to see the nighttime sky on a ship or is it generally too lit up?
I suppose it depends on the size of the ship, the state of the cloud cover, and the brightness of the stars........I could see many common constellations on my last cruise, but certainly not the way you would if you were camping in the middle of nowhere. Some stars are brighter than others and I could still see many in the sky.
If you really want to see the night sky, try for an aft balcony cabin. We had no problems viewing the stars and full moon reflecting on the ship's wake from our aft balcony on the Radiance of the Seas. Truly a spectacular sight! It probably depends on where public places are on individual ships, but there should be somewhere that's not brightly lit. Smaller, less "party atmosphere" ships might have fewer outdoor lights late at night. If you can manage to get up very early (or stay up very late!), you might also try just before dawn - there tend to be fewer outside lights then on most ships we've been on.
I am an astronomer on Cunard Lines and we have "stargazing nights" on deck 13 of the QM2. The Captain will slow the ship and turn out the lights to allow us to use the telescope. You can get a pretty good view at sea!