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? Through the planning process, you may have noticed that there’s a whole world of cruise vocabulary or cruise lingo.
Plus, although cruising is suspended at the moment, this has only added some new cruise terminology! This post has been updated to include more cruise lingo, as well new policies and vocabulary used in the cruise industry today.
I hope it will serve as a handy glossary of the common cruise phrases and words you’ll be hearing as you plan your cruise, as well as when you board your cruise ship.
A Cruise Lingo Tip You Must Know
Before we get started, here’s the most important piece of advice I can give you, when it comes to talking like a cruise pro.
Don’t call a cruise ship a boat.
Don’t call a cruise ship a boat. Trust me on this 😉
About Cruise Lingo and Cruise Lifestyle
Cruising is a lifestyle unto it’s own, and cruisers really do have their own lingo and cruise terminology. Nautical terms are often used, and cruisers love it!
New 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.
You’ll be chatting like a seasoned cruiser in no time!
Cruise ship vocabulary
You are on a ship, not a boat. A boat fits inside a ship, and not the other way around. Fellow cruisers won’t hesitate to correct you sternly if you get this wrong.
Try and get used to this one quickly, just trust me on this…
Below you can hear Celebrity Cruises Captain Kate, explaining this point in her navigational report.
Your room is called a cabin. While hotels have rooms, ships have cabins.
Sometimes a cruise cabin will be referred to as a stateroom.
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.
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.
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.)
10. Cruise terminal
Just like airplanes have airports, cruise ships have cruise terminals or cruise ports. There are safety and boarding procedures to be aware of.
Recommended: 11 Cruise Boarding Tips You Need to Know
11. 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 or ports of call on a Caribbean cruise include Cozumel, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and so on.
12. Shore excursion
This is an organized activity you may choose to do when in a port. You can book a shore excursion through your cruise line or on your own with a private vendor or tour company. Examples include a snorkeling or sightseeing excursion.
A cruise ship will usually arrive at a large dock when it arrives at the cruise port.
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.
Modern cruise ships have stabilizers to keep motion to a minimum.
The ship’s anchor is impressive. Along with the chain, the anchor holds to the sea bed to keep the ship from drifting at sea.
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.
18. Dry dock
When a cruise ship goes into dry dock, it’can be to receive routine maintenance, or to be refurbished. the ship can be out of service for weeks or longer.
Groups will sometimes charter a cruise ship, to host a special event.
Cruise Ship Terminology – understanding common areas of the cruise ship
The atrium is a large central public area usually spanning 3 or more decks. Often very beautiful, it will be the central hub of the ship’s interior.
21. 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
22. Starboard side
The right side of the ship.
The front section of the ship.
The back section of the ship is called the aft. The aft or wake view is a favorite for many cruisers.
25. Purser’s desk
These days, the purser’s desk is often referred to as guest or passenger services. However many avid cruisers enjoy the nautical language and will continue to use the term “purser’s desk”. Usually this is located in the atrium.
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.
Cruise cabin information
When booking a cruise, you’ll notice that there are several different stateroom options. Below are the most common cabin options.
27. Interior staterooms
Inside or interior cabins are staterooms which include all the basics, however do not have a window.
28. Oceanview Cabins
Cabins with a window or porthole are ocean view cabins.
29. Balcony cabins
Balcony cabins, sometimes referred to as Veranda cabins, include a private outdoor space outside your cabin.
30. Guarantee cabin (GTY)
This refers to an unassigned cabin any type of cabin (inside, ocean view, balcony) . The cruise line will assign the cabin at any point before the cruise.
Often, guarantee cabins will be priced lower, so this can be a great value if you’re not picky about the location of your cabin.
31. 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.
32. Double occupancy
The cruise fare will be based on double occupancy as a standard, and this is what you will see as an advertised price.
33. Single occupancy
When cruising solo, most of the time you’ll be paying a single occupancy rate, which can be almost the cost of 2 people in a cabin (you won’t pay taxes twice).
34. Solo cabins – Studio cabins
If you’re cruising solo, look for cruise ships that have studio cabins intended for solo travelers.
35. Triple and Quad Cabins
Some cabins can accomodate 3, 4 or more passengers in one cabin, referred to as triple or quad cabins. These are most popular with young families cruising together.
Back to the cruise ship
36. Deck plan
A map of all the cruise ship decks.
37. Lido deck
The Lido Deck is the public pool deck, often on one of the top decks of the cruise ship. There may be more than one pool, hot tub and outdoor seating.
The gangway is elevated walkway you will use to board your ship, usually covered, but not always.
The very front of the ship.
The very back of the ship.
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.
Cruise Lingo you need to know for the first day of your cruise and beyond
42. Embarkation day
The first day of your cruise and the best day in a cruiser’s life 😉
Recommended reading to prepare for your cruise embarkation day – 15 Cruise Embarkation Day Tips Straight from the Pros
43. Muster drill
The muster drill is a mandatory safety drill which is done prior to sailing. Note, it’s not “mustard” drill, as you just may hear from other passengers.
44. Muster station
Your assigned emergency meeting location. You’ll likely meet here for your muster drill, but don’t worry, cruise ship crew will help to guide you.
45. Daily planner
Different cruise lines use different terms for their daily newsletter of information scheduled activities (Cruise Compass, Princess Patters, Today, Freestyle Daily)
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.
47. Sailaway Party
Check your daily planner for information. Generally the Sailaway party will be at the main pool and will include some drinks, a DJ or band playing and some dancing.
48. Sea day
A day at sea is when your cruise ship is not visiting a port, but sea days aren’t boring! There will be plenty of activities to choose from if you don’t want to simply relax by a pool.
49. Cruise Card
On most cruise ships, you’ll be given a cruise card which will act as your room key, ID and your method of payment when on your cruise.
50. Ocean Medallion
You can read about our recent Ocean Medallion experience here.
51. 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.
52. Dress code
Cruise lines have suggested dress codes, ranging from very casual to more formal.
53. Formal night
A tradition on many cruise ships, the formal night is a night to dress up. Check your cruise line’s dress codes for suggestions. Cruise lines have changed and some are opting for a Chic dress code, rather than formal.
54. 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.
55. Open dining
Open dining is offered on many cruise ships. In some cases, a cruise line will 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.
56. 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.
57. 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 the all aboard time before heading off for an excursion in the cruise port.
All joking aside, there are people at cruise ports every year – and you don’t want it to be you.
58. Towel animals
You just may find towel animals in your cruise cabin. These are the super cute towel creations made by your room steward, available on some cruise lines (usually family orientated ones).
We’ve had many years of enjoyment when our kids were young, even miss them a little bit these days.
59. 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!
60. Roll call
A roll call may be set up for your cruise by yourself or other cruise passengers. Basically, this is a group of people who chat online before a cruise, and may have some gatherings set up once on board.
The saddest day in a cruiser’s life is the day that you need to disembark and the cruise is over.
Wondering about how disembarkation day really works? 21 Cruise Disembarkation Tips You Need to Know
62. 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.
Booking a cruise – terms to know
63. Cruise fare
This is the base cost of the cruise, per person
64. Deposit and Final Payment
When you book a cruise, if you’ve booked early you’ll be making a deposit which will secure your booking. As you get closer to sailing (usually about 70-90 days pre cruise), your final payment will be due.
Terms and conditions may be different on various cruise lines, however the details will be on your own reservation.
65. Cruise contract
When booking a cruise, you’ll be agreeing to a cruise contract. The cruise contract includes the terms and conditions that cruise passengers agree to.
66. Online check-in
Before your cruise, passengers are asked to complete an online check in and print out cruise documents to sail.
Gratuities or tipping is customary on a cruise. A per person service fee or gratuity will be charged daily to your cabin, on most major cruise lines.
Recommended: Cruise Tipping Guidelines and Etiquette
68. Prepaid gratuities
When booking your cruise, you can prepay your gratuities, and avoid thinking about additional expenses on a cruise.
A lanyard might be used by cruisers to hang a cruise card around the next for convenience. This is one of the most popular cruise accessories in our list of travel essentials.
70. Rum Runners
A type of container used to conceal alcohol brought on a cruise, that isn’t allowed.
Recommended: 10 Things NOT to pack for a cruise
Cruise suspension vocabulary (we wish we didn’t know)
The pause on cruising won’t last forever, but the situation has no doubt changed the reality of cruising as it resumes.
Along with some major changes on cruise ships, we have seen new cruise line policies the have resulted in more cruise lingo – more words and explanations we just don’t know.
71. Cruise with Confidence
The major cruise lines introduced a flexible cruise cancellation policy, during this time, should people decide to cancel a cruise up to 48 hourse pre-cruise. When cancelling, in most cases passengers will receive a credit which can be used towards a future cruise.
There are some terms and conditions to be aware of, so always read the fine print.
72. Muster 2.0
A new technology that would allow muster drills to be done using a new app, rather than in a large gathering. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises have said they’ll be using this new technology as cruises resume.
The Cruise Line International Association is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association. It represents the major cruise lines, which have suspended cruises leaving from the United States until the end of October.
74. No Sail Order
A no sail order was put into effect by the CDC in March 2020. For cruises to resume, it is imperative that the CDC lift the no sail order.
75. Warm lay up and cold lay up
As cruises are suspended, we hear the terms “warm and cold lay up” of cruise ships.
Warm lay up refers to when a cruise ship has reduced levels of crew onboard, and costs for fuel and other items are reduced. However, the cruise ship is kept in a condition as to be able to be brought back to service relatively quickly.
A cold lay up is a prolonged period of time when the cruise ship is shut down as much as possible to reduce cost. It takes longer for ships to be brought back to service and is a more complicated process.
76. NEW Safety and health protocols
The cruise lines are working diligently on new safety and health protocols to ensure safe cruising for passengers and crew.
This is how MSC Cruises is currently sailing in Europe, with accepted protocols for this time.
Cruise Lingo Acronyms
It’s quite common to hear people who cruise a lot speak using these acronyms. You may even see these abbreviations in cruise facebook groups and pages, or on cruise forums.
Here is an explanation of the most common cruise acronyms, so you’ll be fluent in cruise lingo of all sorts.
Main Dining Room
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.
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)
The abbreviation for a guarantee cabin (see above in cruise lingo glossary)
Future Cruise Credit – when booking a future cruise onboard
Avid Cruiser Lingo
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.
84. Cruise addict
It’s said that cruising is the healthiest addiction and 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!
Another word for someone who is addicted to cruising!
Recommended: 30 Best Gifts for Cruisers (that are unique too!)
86. Thallosphile (n)
A lover of the sea, someone who loves the sea, ocean.
87. Post-cruise depression
So, the post-cruise blues is real! One possible remedy is booking another cruise when onboard, but it’s still tough to leave that amazing cruise ship life!
Do you suffer from Post-Cruise Depression?
Recap: Cruise Lingo Glossary – 85 Cruise Terms You Need to Know
In this post, we went over 85 cruise terms that are important to know when you’re booking a cruise, as well as when you’re on a cruise ship. This list of “cruise lingo” 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!
Is there a cruise term that you think should be added? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
P.S. If you’ve enjoyed this, please don’t keep it to yourself ;-)! Please share it with a friend, on Facebook or save for later on Pinterest. Thanks so much!
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