The Ultimate Cruise Lingo Glossary – 85 Terms You Need to Know

Cruise Lingo Glossary the ultimate guide

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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? 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.

Cruisers might have different opinions about which cruise lines are the best, cruise line dress codes, and the do’s and don’ts of cruise gratuities, but there’s one thing all cruisers agree on…

Don’t call a cruise ship a boat. Trust me on this šŸ˜‰

cruise lingo glossary for cruisers

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

1. Ship

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.

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.

cruise deck cruise lingo

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.)

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

cruise port

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.

13. Dock

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

14. 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

15. Stabilizers

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

16. Anchor

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.

17. 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.

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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.

19. Charter

Groups will sometimes charter a cruise ship, to host a special event.

Cruise Ship Terminology – understanding common areas of the cruise ship

20. Atrium

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.

cruise atrium
Princess Cruises Piazza

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.

23. Forward

The front section of the ship.

24. Aft

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.

Cruise Lingo Every Cruiser Needs to Know

26. 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.

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.

cruise ship pullman bed

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.

85 most useful terms
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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.

38. Gangway

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

39. Bow

The very front of the ship.

40. Stern

The very back of the ship.

41. 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
My favorite spot on the cruise ship!

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 šŸ˜‰

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)

cruise daily planner

46. 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.

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.

Cruise lingo the ultimate guide updated
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50. Ocean Medallion

Ocean Medallion is a relatively 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.

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.

tuscan grille celebrity cruises

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.

towel animal

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.

Read more: 5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Cruise Roll Call

61. Disembarkation

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.

85 cruise lingo terms you can use
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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.

67. Gratuities

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.

69. Lanyard

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

New cruise lingo for cruise suspension
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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.

73. CLIA

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.

How Cruises Are Restarting; Safety Measures & Protocols on MSC Cruises 

balcony breakfast

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.

77. MDR

Main Dining Room

78. 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.

79. 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)

80. GTY

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

81. FCC

Future Cruise Credit – when booking a future cruise onboard

82. T.A

Travel agent

Cruise Lingo you must know if you love cruising
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Avid Cruiser Lingo

83. 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.

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!

85. Cruiseaholic

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?

How To Know if You Have Post-Cruise Depression (a fun read)

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.

Happy cruising!

Ilana xoxo

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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12 Comments

  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 :-)!!

      Ilana

      • 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.

          Ilana

  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,

      Ilana

  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,

      Ilana

  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!

      Ilana

  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,

      Ilana

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