Cruise Ship Lingo? Look like a cruise expert before you get on the ship

Ahoy Fellow Cruisers

This week we  are going to look at cruise ship lingo. These are words or phrases commonly used on ships or when booking a cruise, so if you have a few of these words up your sleeves you will look like a cruise expert!!


Before your cruise:


Cabin/Stateroom: This is going to be your ‘hotel room’ for the duration of your cruise, depending on what type of cabin you book will depend on what facilities are in the cabin. You will have a bed and 99.99% of the time an ensuite.

Cabin Category:

  • Inside:  this is a cabin with no windows, there are some insides that now come with virtual balconies, so a screen that reflects the time of day outside.
  • Oceanview/Outside:  this cabin will have a window or porthole to the outside.
  • Balcony/Veranda:  this cabin will have a private balcony. Some balconies have doors that open to the cabin next door which are handy for families travelling together.
  • Suite: usually the best staterooms on the ship, they will usually have a living room and separate bedroom area. The sky is the limit with some cruise lines having suites with hot tubs, slides, karoke rooms and air hockey tables, as well as multiple bedrooms for the whole family.

Guarantee: A guarantee cabin is a type of cruise fare. This means you book a cabin category and you are not assigned a cabin but you are guaranteed to be in that cabin category or better. If you don’t mind where on the ship your cabin is this can be a great way to get an upgrade into a better category.

Itinerary: This is where the ship is going, destinations and days at sea.


Today is the day you depart on your cruise, what you need to know:


Aft: The rear of the ship

All-Inclusive: Some cruise lines are all-inclusive, this means that you won’t pay extra for gratuities, drinks, Wi-fi, shore excursions, it is all included in your cruise fare! One tip, all-inclusive cruise lines can seem expensive, but if you consider all the extras, they usually work out about even compared to cruise lines that aren’t all-inclusive.

Any-time Dining: If anytime dining is offered there will be an anytime dining restaurant. So, you would go to the restaurant usually sometime between 1730 – 2100 and you will sit with different people each night, at a different table with a different waiter. You can also eat in any of the other restaurants – apart from the Traditional dining restaurant.

Atrium: This is usually the hub of any cruise ship. In the middle of the ship, you will generally find the reception in this area, possibly bars and restaurants and often there will be music or entertainment in the atrium throughout your cruise.

Bridge: This is where the Captain hangs out, this is the control centre of the ship, where all navigational operations take place.

Cabin Stewards: The steward is the person who will be looking after you and your cabin while you are on your cruise. If you need something in your cabin or something is broken let your steward know. They usually will come and introduce themselves soon after you get on board and there is normally something in the cabin that will have a number to contact them on. They are given a section of cabins, so you will generally find them around your area in the mornings and afternoons/evenings.

Cashless Society: This is a term often used to describe how a cruise ship functions, you don’t pay for anything with cash, you swipe your cruise card and then it will go onto your account, to be paid with on board credit, cash you have put onto your account or a credit card that you have loaded.

Cocktail Attire: Some cruise lines will have a formal evening during your cruise, this means that in the main dining rooms formal dress will be required, but alternative dining locations will allow a more casual attire. Often cruise passengers use a formal night as an excuse to really dress up and women will wear ball gowns and men will wear tuxedos, you don’t need to go to this length, but a nice evening dress or pants and top for a woman and nice suit for the gentleman will be perfect for your cocktail evening attire.

Cruise card: When you check in for your cruise you will be given your cruise card. This will act as your key to get into your cabin and how you pay for everything on the ship.

Cruise Director: This is the crew member that is like the ‘face’ of the ship, they oversee the entertainment department and either they or one of their team will MC all of the entertainment on board and also run the on-board activities.

Deck: A floor/level of the ship, they are given numbers and sometimes words eg. your cabin is on deck 9, Dolphin deck.

Disembarkation: To leave the ship at the end of our voyage – our saddest day 🙁

Dock: Where the ship ‘parks’ when in port.

Dock vs Tender: If you have limited mobility it is very important to know these terms, in each port you will either dock or tender. This means the ship will either park up at the wharf and you will be able to walk off the ship directly onto land or tender which means that you will need to transfer from your cruise ship onto a tender boat and you will be transferred to the wharf by the much smaller tender boat, a tender generally holds about 200 passengers.

Embarkation: To board the ship – our favourite day 🙂

Forward: The front of the ship.

Galley: This is the main hub of the ship. The kitchen!!! So if you see on the daily list of activities a galley tour (a lot of the cruise lines offer them once per cruise) then make sure you go along, it’s fascinating.

Gangway: This is how you get on and off the ship, it will be a ramp or stairs.

Gratuities: This is another word for tips. Depending on the cruise line they may or may not be included in the cruise fare. They are shared between the cabin stewards, dining and bar staff. If this is not included with your cruise fare, this will be a per person daily amount added to your shipboard account.

Kids Club: This is where you send the children, they are separated into different age groups and there are staff who watch the kids for the day and evening while you have a great time on the ship. There are a wide variety of activities available and the children are in a separate area away from the adults.

Midship: Hopefully this one is easy for you first timers, this is the middle of the ship.

Muster drill: This is the lifeboat safety drill that ALL passengers must attend, and you will be given instructions on what to do in an emergency and how to put on your life jackets. It is law that everyone attends, and attendance will be taken, most cruise lines will scan your cruise card as you enter your muster station.

Muster station: You will be assigned to a muster station, this is based on the location of your cabin. This is where you gather, when you are advised to, in an emergency. If you have been assigned to a muster station that is different to family or friends, you must go to YOUR assigned muster station when advised.

On board credit: This is money that goes onto your shipboard account, you may be given on board credit as part of a promotion from your travel agent or the cruise line, this is like free money that you can spend on the ship, in the stores, on shore excursions, on drinks or sometimes even the casino.

Port: The left-hand side of the ship when facing forward – a great way to remember this is Left = four letters Port = four letters.

Port/Ports of call: This is where the ship stops on the itinerary.

Promenade: Most ships have a promenade, this is an open deck that you can walk around and often serves as a running track.

Sea Day: A day where the ship stays at sea and does not stop in a port. These are fantastic days to relax, especially if you have lots of ports in your itinerary, or if you like lots of fun activities, there will be plenty of things to do on a sea day.

Specialty restaurant: This is a special, or alternative restaurant. There will usually be a per person price but sometimes it will be a la carte pricing by the dish, this price is on top of your cruise fare. Often these restaurants will have a point of difference like on the new Majestic Princess with two restaurants created by Michelin star chefs, or Ovation of the Seas with the magical Wonderland restaurant.

Starboard: The right-hand side of the ship when facing forward.

Tender: A tender is basically the lifeboat of the ship. When you are in a port where the ship is unable to dock at a wharf the ship will use the ‘tenders’ to take passengers from the ship to shore.

Traditional Dining: This is set dining, so you would eat at the same restaurant, at the same time and with the same people and same waiter, each night of your cruise. You can book into specialty restaurants or eat at the buffet if you would prefer – just let your waiter know that you won’t be at dinner, so they don’t wait for you!

Turn down service: Your cabin steward will come in in the evening, usually while you are at dinner and turndown your bed, possibly leave a chocolate on your pillow, if you are lucky maybe a cute towel animal and refresh of your bathroom.

Wake: This is the trail of waves left by the ship as she moves forward, often there is a bar area somewhere near the aft of the ship, so you can sit back and enjoy a cocktail or two while watching the wake of the ship as the sun sets!!! 🍹🍹🍹


Some other cruise terms which will make you look like an expert cruiser!!


Back to Back Cruise: This involves two cruises, one after the other. Most often on the same ship, but not necessarily. MSC cruises do a great Mediterranean back to back, where you sail the East Med for 7 nights, coach transfer and then sail the West Med for 7 nights or vice versa, so you are on two different ships but you get off one and get onto another on the same day. 

Cruise to Nowhere: These are usually short cruises, like a Comedy cruise or a Wine & Food cruise, often over a weekend. There are no ports on the itinerary, you will just be sailing out into the ocean. Great for a relaxing weekend away, especially with friends.

Dry-dock: The ship is taken out of the water and she will have either a minor or major refurbishment and will come out sparkly and new.

Turnaround day: This is an important day if you are doing a back to back cruise. This is the day when most or all of the passengers will get off the ship and then the ship will fill up with new passengers. 








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