Cruise Terms to Learn Before You Sail
When traveling to a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the local language. The same is true for cruising — you want to talk like a sailor, right? Don't worry if you don't know the difference between port and starboard, because we put together a list of all the ship lingo you need to have a successful cruise.
Aft/Forward: The rear and front of the ship, respectively.
Cruise ship atriums, like this one on Disney Dream, are known for being bright and extravagant. - Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Atrium: The open, central room of the ship, which typically spans multiple levels. This is a common gathering area, so cruise lines put a considerable amount of money into their designs. (Picture a hotel lobby — often one that looks like it could be in Vegas.)
Berth: 1) A bed in a cruise ship cabin meant to accommodate one passenger: “the oceanview cabin offered four berths” or 2) A spot reserved for a cruise ship in a port: “The Cozumel port can berth five cruise ships.”
Beverage Package: Most cruise lines offer at least one beverage package that includes unlimited alcoholic drinks for a daily charge per person. Some lines offer similar packages for soda and non-alcoholic drinks as well.
Bow/Stern: The front and rear of the ship, respectively.
You can check out the bridge if you take the official ship tour. - Photo by Princess Cruises
Bridge: The location on the ship were the Captain and senior officers navigate the ship. Located forward, on a high deck.
Cabin: Your room onboard the ship. Also referred to as a stateroom.
Cabin Guarantee: A special offer that allows you to book a specific type of cabin (inside, oceanview, balcony or suite) at a reduced price, but without receiving a specific cabin number at the time of booking. The cruise line guarantees you’ll receive a cabin in the indicated category (or higher), but you may not receive your specific cabin assignment until you board the ship.
It's best to develop a good relationship with your cabin steward early in the cruise. - Photo by Princess Cruises
Cabin Steward: The person responsible for cleaning your room. Develop a good rapport with him or her, and you might come back to a pleasant surprise or two.
Cruise Card: Your room key, charge card and ship boarding pass. You’ll receive your cruise card when you arrive to board the ship. Once onboard, you’ll use it to enter your cabin, charge items on the ship and reboard the ship in ports of call.
Cruise Director: The ship employee who manages the onboard entertainment. These high-energy individuals often emcee events, with varying levels of cheesiness.
Denail National Park - Photo by Princess Cruises
Cruisetour: A cruisetour is a multi-day land tour that immediately precedes or follows a cruise. Expeditions to Alaska’s Denali National Park are a popular Cruisetour option.
Decks: The various levels of the cruise ship. The pool might be on Deck 14 and your cabin on Deck 4. Often erroneously called “floors” by new cruisers.
Double Occupancy: Two people sharing a cabin. Most cruise fares are priced per person, based two people staying in the cabin.
Embark/Debark: To board or exit the cruise ship, either in port or at the beginning or end of your cruise.
Cruise lines have a dress code on formal night, though some are more strictly enforced than others. - Photo by Holland America Line
Formal Night: An evening where the ship encourages (or in some cases, requires) passengers to wear formal attire in the dining rooms and public venues around the ship. Those who don’t wish to dress up are usually limited to the buffet or room service for dining.
Galley: A cruise ship’s kitchen. Large, modern cruise ships have multiple restaurants and galleys.
Gangway: The ramp connecting the ship to the port. Remember, you don’t walk the plank on a vacation — pirate ships have a gangplank; cruise ships have a gangway.
Homeport: The port where a cruise ship is based and returns to after each cruise to debark and embark passengers. PortMiami and Port Everglades in Florida are the busiest cruise homeports in the world.
Knot / Nautical Mile: Knot is a common abbreviation for Nautical Mile, the unit of measurement at sea. Cruise ship speeds are reported in Knots. One Knot = 1.15 Miles Per Hour.
Leeward / Windward: Leeward is downwind, or the side of the ship that is facing away from the wind. Windward is upwind, or the side of the ship that is facing the wind.
The lido deck on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. - Photo by Royal Caribbean
Lido Deck: An Italian word for a public outdoor swimming pool complex, this term is used on cruise ships to describe the top deck, where you’ll often find the pool, hot tub, and open-air bar.
MDR: The Main Dining Room. Virtually all cruise ships have at least one Main Dining Room where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served and included in your cruise fare. Also referred to as the Formal Dining Room by some cruisers.
Muster Drill: An exercise to teach passengers where to go in case of an emergency on the ship.
Follow these signs from your cabin to find your muster station. - Photo by Thinkstock.com
Muster Station: The point on the ship where everyone in your cabin will rally in case of an emergency.
Pier: Where the ship docks in a Port of Call.
Pier Runner: A passenger who returns to the ship late in a port of call, often with hilarious results.
Port of Call: A port that is visited by a cruise ship. A typical 7 night cruise itinerary features three to four Ports of Call.
Port/Starboard: The nautical terms for the left and right sides of the ship (when you’re facing the bow). If you’re one of those people who needs to make the L with your left thumb and pointer finger to tell which hand is which, just remember that “left” and “port” both have four letters.
Some oceanview cabins come with portholes. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line
Porthole: A round window located in an oceanview stateroom.
Purser: The ship’s officer in charge of accounts, money, transactions, tickets, etc. Head to the purser’s desk with any questions regarding your bill.
Repositioning Cruise: A cruise that departs from one port and ends in another. Repositioning cruises frequently occur in the Spring and Fall as cruise lines move ships between Europe and the Caribbean.
Single Supplement: An extra charge levied when a lone passenger occupies a Double Occupancy stateroom. Single Supplements can be avoided by booking a studio cabin.
Shipboard Credit / Onboard Credit: A booking incentive offered by cruise lines and travel agencies. Shipboard Credits are applied to your onboard account and can be used toward drinks, speciality dining, spa treatments, shore excursions and more.
Shore Excursion / Shorex: A tour, usually operated by a local tour company, offered in a Port of Call. You can book Shore Excursions onboard your ship, via Cruiseline.com or from vendors located alongside the Pier once you arrive in port.
A tender shutters cruisers to New Caledonia. - Photo by Shutterstock.com
Tender: Not all ports have harbors deep enough to dock a large cruise ship. At these ports, passengers are ferried ashore by small tender boats.
Turnaround Day: The day a cruise ship returns to its homeport to debark/embark passengers and take on supplies.
Veranda: Another word for “balcony.”
Wake: The waves behind the cruise ship as it moves through the water.
Join the discussion
What's your favorite word in the cruise lexicon?