15 Phrases You Need to Know When Booking a Cruise

phrases cruise ship terms definition define
If we said this cabin was aft, would you know what we mean? If not, read on to find out. - Photo by Crystal Cruises

The nautical world famously has its own language, with words derived from Old and Middle English, Dutch, and German —even if they aren’t used by those of us who spend most of our time on dry land. At sea, you stand on a deck (from the Middle Dutch decke, or roof), not a floor, for example. Fortunately, booking a cabin does not require that you learn to talk like a pirate, but knowing the appropriate terms will be helpful: 

add-on balcony: As its name implies, this is a balcony attached to the outside of a stateroom (see “interior balcony” below). The pluses of this type of balcony are that views are generally unobstructed, and none of the floor space of the cabin is lost to the balcony. 

aft: At or near the stern (or rear) of the ship. You are most likely to run across this term in the context of “aft-facing” balconies, which have unobstructed views of the sea over the rear of the ship. 

berth: Simply, bed. Typically, most cabins have two single berths, or beds, that can sometimes be pushed together to make a larger bed. 

French balcony: You’ll most likely come across this term if you are considering a river cruise. It’s not really a balcony; instead, glass doors open onto a small ledge with a railing. 

guaranteed cabin category: With a guaranteed cabin category, you aren’t booking a particular cabin but instead one in its category, or better. In exchange for giving the ship’s staff some flexibility, you may find yourself upgraded. 


Related: How to Book a Cruise


half window: This is sometimes referred to as a picture window or half-height window. Often, these smaller windows don’t open, but you’ll still have a water view. 

inside cabin: A cabin in the interior of the ship with no view of the water. 

interior balcony: This is a balcony that has been created from part of the space of a stateroom, making the stateroom smaller in square feet than an equivalent outside stateroom without a balcony. Compare to “add-on balcony.”

limited view: Also known as “obstructed view,” this is a room with some obstacle (often a lifeboat) between your window or balcony and the water. If it’s an “extremely” limited or obstructed view, you may have to crawl up on a chair to see the ocean, but it’s out there. 

midship: The name is self-explanatory: This is the middle section of the ship. The reason you should know the term when booking a cabin is that this is generally the steadiest part of the ship — important if you’re prone to seasickness — and it often provides the shortest walk to elevators and facilities. 


Related: How much does a cruise cost?


minimum occupancy: Promotional fares are often offered on the basis of a certain minimum occupancy per cabin. In other words, the per-person rate is contingent on, say, two people occupying the cabin. 

obstructed view: See “limited view.”

porthole: A small round window, usually found in cabins on lower decks. 

preliminary booking: With some cruise lines, this booking allows you to hold a cabin at a certain rate for one or several days before committing to a confirmed booking. 

upper/lower berth: Most cabins have two berths, or beds, side by side, but some ships still have upper/lower berth cabins, with the layout common to sleeper cars on trains. An upper berth swings down from the wall or ceiling, creating a sort of bunk bed that is stowed away during the day.

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