Cruise Lingo Glossary – 55 Words You Need to Know

Cruise Lingo Glossary – 55 Words You Need to Know

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Cruise vocabulary, jargon or lingo – if you’re going on a cruise, you’ll want to be familiar with the cruise terminology!

Are you getting ready for your first cruise? You may have noticed that there is a whole world of cruise vocabulary or cruise lingo. There really is, so it’s very handy to have a bit of a glossary for the common cruise phrases and words you’ll be hearing as you plan your cruise, as well as when you’re on your cruise ship.

Tip: Cruisers might have different opinions about which cruise lines are the best, cruise line dress codes, and the do’s and don’ts of gratuities (and oh my, this is a contentious one!), but there’s one thing all cruisers agree on.

Don’t call a Cruise Ship a boat! Just don’t, really ;-)!

cruise lingo glossary for cruisers

About Cruise Lingo and Cruise Lifestyle

Cruising is a bit of a lifestyle unto it’s own, and cruisers really have their own lingo and cruise terminology. Non-cruisers (or future cruisers) can be left scratching their heads.

Words and acronyms such as Aft, Muster drill, Starboard, OBC and MDR, may seem like a mysterious cruise language. However, in this cruise lingo glossary, I’ll go over all the cruise jargon need to know. And you’ll be chatting like an avid cruiser in no time!

Cruise and ship vocabulary

1. Ship

You are on a ship, not a boat. A boat fits inside a ship, and not the other way around. Try and get used to this one quickly, just trust me.

Below you can hear popular Cruise Ship Captain Kate, explaining this in her navigational report.

2. Cabin

Your room is called a cabin. While hotels have rooms, ships have cabins.

3. Stateroom

Sometimes a cruise cabin will be referred to as a stateroom.

4. Deck

Your cruise ship will have many decks. While hotels refer to floors, cruise-ships refer to decks.

5. The Bridge

The bridge is the navigational hub of the ship.

6. Captain

The person in command of the ship.

7. Cruise Director

Think Julie McCoy :-). Your cruise director, among other duties, will act as Emcee, heading up most major entertainment events on the ship. On larger ships you’ll see assistant cruise directors and other activities staff also leading main activities.

8. Itinerary

You’re cruise itinerary refers to each destination/ cruise port of call you’ll be visiting.

9. Port of departure

This is the port from which your cruise will depart (ie. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Vancouver, Barcelona etc.)

cruise port

10. Ports of call

You probably remember this one from the Love Boat, I know I do! This is individual destination where you will stop at for the day. Examples of cruise ports of cruise ports of call on a Caribbean cruise include Cozumel, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and so on.

11. Shore excursion

This is am organized activity you may choose to do when in a port. You can book these with your cruise line or on your own by doing some research online. Examples include a snorkeling or sightseeing excursion.

12. Dock

A cruise ship will arrive at a large dock when it arrives at the cruise port.

13. Tender: There are some cruise ports where cruise ships cannot access the land directly and dock, due to coral reefs and other reasons. In these cases your ship will tender a few minutes away from the port, and shuttle passengers in by tender boats.

As an example, Grand Cayman is a tender port at this time, but it looks like a new dock will be built in a couple years.

tendering in georgetown grand cayman

14. Stabilizers

Modern cruise ships have stabilizers to keep motion to a minimum.

15. Galley

The super large kitchen where literally tons of food is cooked and prepared. You can actually do a galley tour while on your cruise if you’re interested.

Cruise Ship terminology – understanding common areas of the cruise ship

16. Atrium

Large central public area usually spanning 3 or more decks. Often very beautiful, it will be the central hub of the ship’s interior.

cruise atrium

17. Port side

The left side of the ship is referred to as port side.

Tip: An easy way to remember – LEFT has 4 letters and so does PORT

18. Starboard side

The right side of the ship.

19. Forward

The front section of the ship.

20. Aft

The back section of the ship. Often the view from here is savored by cruise passengers.

Cruise Lingo Every Cruiser Needs to Know

21. Mid-ship

Generally said in reference to the preferred cabin location. Most cruise passengers will prefer a mid-ship cabin, rather than one that is forward or aft. This area has an advantage of having more stability in general.

22. Guarantee cabin (GTY)

This refers to an unassigned cabin any type of cabin (inside, oveanview, balcony) . The cruise line will assign the cabin at any point before the cruise.

Often, guarantee cabins will be discounted, so this can be a great value if you’re not picky about the location of your cabin.

23. Pullman bed

If you have more than 2 passengers in your cabin, you may have pullman beds for 3rd and 4th passengers. They are like bunk beds that come out of the wall or ceiling. They will be tucked back into the ceiling or wall during the day if you like.

cruise ship pullman bed

24. Deck plan

A map of all the cruiseship decks.

25. Lido deck

Pool deck where there may be more than one pool, hot tubs and outdoor seating.

26. Gangway

An elevated walkway you will use to board your ship, usually covered, but not always.

27. Bow

The very front of the ship.

28. Stern

The very back of the ship.

29. Wake

The beautiful white trail of waves visible at the very back of the ship. My favorite spot on the ship to take it all in.

ship's wake - Ilana Life Well Cruised

Cruise Lingo you need to know for the first day of your cruise and beyond

30. Embarkation day

The first day of your cruise and the best day in a cruiser’s life šŸ˜‰

Recommended reading to prepare for your cruise embarkation day – 15 Cruise Embarkation Day Tips Straight from the Pros

31. Muster drill

General Mandatory Safety Drill which is done prior to sailing. Note, its not “mustard” drill as you just may hear.

32. Muster station

Your assigned emergency meeting location (it will be on your cruise card). You’ll likely meet here for your muster drill, but don’t worry, cruise ship crew will help to guide you.

33. Daily planner

Different cruise lines use different terms for their daily newsletter of information scheduled activities (Cruise Compass, Princess Patters, Today, Freestyle Daily)

cruise daily planner

34. Sailaway

The period of time that your Cruise Ship actually sails away from the shore. Often there will be a Sailaway party on the top deck, however some cruisers enjoy it from their own balcony.

35. Sailaway Party

Check your daily planner for information. Generally it will be at the main pool and will include some drinks, a DJ or band playing and some dancing.

36. Sea day

A day when your ship is out at sea and not visiting a port. There will be plenty of activities to choose from if you don’t want to simply relax by a pool.

cruise lingo you must know
Please Pin to save for later šŸ™‚

37. Cruise Card

You will be given a cruise card which will act as your room key, ID and your method of payment when on your cruise.

38. Ocean Medallion

Ocean Medallion is a new cruise ship technology available on Princess Cruises. Instead of a cruise card, the medallion serves like a cruise card, but also does much more. You can read about our recent Ocean Medallion experience here.

39. Room steward or cabin attendant

Sometimes mistakenly called a room “stuart”, the person who cleans your room twice a day (amazing!) and really takes care of you and your cabin mates is called a room steward or a cabin attendant.

40. Early dining and late dining

Early and late dining are basically a first and second seating, which some cruise lines with an option of assigned dining will have. This is for a main dining room and not a buffet.

41. Open dining: Refers to a more open dining time which is offered on some ships. Some cruise lines offer both open and set dining. It can go by different terminology including Anytime Dining on Princess, My Time Dining on Royal Caribbean, Select Dining on Celebrity.

To note, some cruise lines offer only open dining, such as Norwegian Cruise Line which is Freestyle dining.

42. Specialty restaurants

This usually refers to the dining in an alternative restaurant that is not included in your cruise fare and is often a more intimate or higher culinary experience. An example of this would be Celebrity Cruises Tuscan Grille.

tuscan grille celebrity cruises

43. All Aboard

The ship will leave your ports of call promptly. All aboard time is generally set for 30 minutes before your cruise is scheduled to leave the port of call. Do verify before leaving your ship.

Seriously, there are people left at port every year!

44. Towel animals

Yes, you just may find these in your cabin. They are the super cute towel creations made by your room stewards on some cruise lines (usually family orientated ones). We’ve had many years of enjoyment with these and even miss them a little bit when we don’t have them.

towel animal

45. Pier runners: This is an unofficial name given to those (who may have had too many libations) who can be seen running in the last few minutes hoping not to miss the ship’s departure. It is quite entertaining!

46. Disembarkation

The saddest day in a cruiser’s life is the day that you need to disembark and the cruise is over.

47. Post-cruise depression

Omg this is real and it absolutely sets in post-cruise. A remedy could be booking another cruise when onboard.

Recommended reading: Do you suffer from Post-Cruise Depression? How To Know if You Have Post-Cruise Depression (a fun read)

48. Onboard booking

Booking your next cruise on board can give you some awesome benefits and is one of the best kept secrets for saving money while booking a cruise. For those that book with travel agents, don’t worry, the future cruise consultant will transfer it to the agency (request if they don’t offer).

Tip: Check to make sure about the terms and conditions and find out if future cruise deposits are refundable if that’s important to you.

cruise lingo glossary

Cruise Lingo Acronyms

It will be very common to hear people who cruise a lot speak with these acronyms and more. You may even see these abbreviations in some cruise facebook groups and pages. Here is what they mean, so you’ll be fluent in cruise lingo or all sorts.

49. MDR

Main Dining Room

50. OBC

On board credit – extra cash credit on your cruise account that you can use on the ship for most purchases. Sometimes this is added as a promotion by the cruise line or your travel agent.

51. FCC

Future Cruise Credit – when booking a future cruise onboard

52. B2B

This refers to a back to back cruise, meaning one cruise and then another cruise one after the other. Some cruisers may even do a B2B2B (3 cruises in a row)

53. GTY

The abbreviation for a guarantee cabin (see above in cruise lingo glossary)

Avid cruiser lingo

54. Cruisebug

After a first cruiser, it’s not uncommon for a new cruiser to love it so much that they feel an immediate calling to book again and cruise more often. Often, this is reffered to as catching the cruisebug.

55. Cruise addict

It’s said that cruising is the healthiest addiction an a vice many are happy to have! If you’ve cruised and now you’re constantly on the lookout for all the cruise info you can find and really just want to book cruises, congrats! You are now a cruise addict!

Recap: Cruise Lingo Glossary – 55 words cruisers need to know

In this post, we can see 55 common cruise vocabulary words that are very common. This list should help to navigate the world of cruise language.

If you’re a new cruiser I hope the information has been helpful. If you’re a seasoned cruiser, I hope it was a fun read.

However, I know that experienced (and maybe new) cruisers will be able to add to this conversation. Please leave a comment below of any cruise phrase, slang or word that must be added.

Happy cruising!

Ilana xoxo

If you’ve enjoyed this and are preparing for an upcoming cruise, you may enjoy reading about what you need to prepare for your cruise carry-on or cruise cabin hacks.

P.S. If you’ve found this post helpful, please share on Facebook or save for later on Pinterest. Share buttons at the top. Thanks so much!

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  1. August 13, 2018 / 4:20 pm

    You missed out Rum Runners. Those cheapskates that think its clever to smuggle on alcohol rather than buy on board in various containers. This may be a Carnival thing but its creeping on the better lines.

    • August 14, 2018 / 2:22 am

      Hi Bob,

      You’re right – I completely forgot that one and it’s now totally in the cruise lexicon, right? For better or for worse, lol!

      I’ll add it in. Thanks for taking the time to comment :-)!!


      • November 2, 2018 / 8:39 am

        by the way what happens to the “Rum Runners” when caught?

        • November 4, 2018 / 1:33 am

          Hmmmm,good question. I actually have heard that any alcohol will simply be confiscated, but I’ve never used them so I can’t say for sure.

          I love the drinks on board, so I just drink those šŸ™‚

          Thanks for taking the time to comment Lebo.


  2. Charles Bos
    September 10, 2019 / 10:44 pm

    I really like your blog/page. The information in it is very good. I am a member of the Princess Cruise forum and what I have done is when I have come across something interesting or information I didn’t know I take notes on it. That’s how I’ve learned many of the items here. I would add TA – which is travel agent may seem too simple But I see TA all the time. I liked your comment about if you don’t know something ask a fellow cruise passenger or staff person on board. Since I am a solo travelor that really helped me. I would also add to tips for new cruisers is to be respectful of their fellow travelors and also all staff they encounter onboard (which includes room stewards, wait staff and everyone else they encounter).

    • September 11, 2019 / 1:33 pm

      Hi Charles,

      Great points! TA is one I overlooked and you are so right. I agree completely with respect for passengers and crew – I hope most are.

      I really appreciate you reading my blog and taking the time to leave a comment!

      All the best,


  3. Trudy Casto
    October 21, 2019 / 3:14 pm

    This is great, but I would have liked a short, printable list, as well.

    • October 24, 2019 / 1:33 am

      Hi Trudy,

      Glad the list was helpful. Thanks for your suggestion as well. This may be something that I’ll work on doing in the future.

      Take care,


  4. January 6, 2020 / 5:40 am

    I love your cruise blog. I have the cruise bug bad. PCD is bad in me on disembarkation day. I have only cruised with NCL and when onboard I buy as many CruiseNext Deals as I can. Many times you buy one and get on free, and on balcony and higher you can use two. To me free money off my cruise. NCL has past guest deals and when on bourd I book it. Thus even getting a better deal. I will triple dip looking for a past guest and a Latitudes Reward program. Earn point for every cruise night, Point for Suite, point booking 9 mounts in advance, and point for a Latitudes insider offer. Next cruise I will earn many points per day. That gives you free laundry, free dinners, free bottles of wine at dinner, and hopefully one day a free cruise… I would like to do a B2B2B. Do you have to get off the ship? Only word I would add is RESPECT. Respect yourself not making a scene if something not right. For you are the lesser for it. Hopefully one day we will meet up on a cruise ship. Your friend Russell

    • February 16, 2020 / 4:51 pm

      Thanks Russell for your kind words and your great tips! I have the same sentiments on disembarkation day – it’s the worst :-(.

      For a B2B, you do have to get off the ship (although I hear sometimes not if customs come on), but it’s a pretty good process as passengers are grouped together and passed through quickly.

      Would be great to meet you on a cruise one day!


  5. Deborah Henning
    February 11, 2020 / 12:07 am

    Yes a printable list of the terms would be very helpful. Tyvm for your time to help fellow cruisers!!

    • February 12, 2020 / 4:01 am

      Thanks Deborah for your comment. I’ll definitely look into creating one, especially since it’s been suggested a couple of times.

      Best to you,


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