The A to Z of Cruise Terminology


There are certain words associated with cruising that are not used anywhere else. This can be daunting for new cruisers and travel agents alike. So I have put together this handy guide of cruise related words that you can save to your bookmarks to access anytime you need it. Also, please feel free to share this with people you know will find it useful.

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  • Accessible Room – Designed and held for people with disabilities. Features include wheelchair access, roll-in showers, handrails, larger rooms and lower furnishings. These cabins normally need to be requested directly with the cruise line or via your travel agent and are not bookable on-line. Extra equipment can be booked with Mobility At Sea in the UK or with Special Needs At Sea in the US. Specialist equipment is also available from Dialysis At Sea
  • Adult-only cruiseA cruise that doesn’t allow children. This could be because it is for older people who want a quiet cruise or young people who want to party. So make sure to ask your cruise expert. Virgin Voyages Adult By Design
  • Aft – The back of the ship.
  • All AboardThe last time for passengers to get back onto the ship before the gangway goes up. Don’t miss this!
  • All InclusiveCheck the small print for exclusions but if there are none it should include all drinks as well as meals. This does vary with each cruise line so don’t presume they all mean the same thing. For example Regent Seven Seas Cruises includes some shore excursions as well as drinks. Virgin Voyages includes meals in all restaurants but not drinks or shore excursions. Very few cruise lines offer an all-inclusive package as standard and apart from Marella Cruises, most of them are Ultra Luxury. In some cases such as Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, they offer an “all-inclusive package” either to add on or as part of a limited time promotion.
  • AlongsideWhen the ship is docked beside the pier or next to another ship.
  • Atrium –  Also called the centrum or piazza on a cruise ship the centrally located hub of the ship.
The A-Z of cruise terminology
The three story piazza onboard Caribbean Princess.


  • Back To Back CruisesOr consecutive cruises are when you book two cruises on the same ship. This is particularly popular when cruise ships sail alternate 7 Night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries giving guests a 14 cruise in total.
  • BalconyThis means you will get a balcony with your cabin but not necessarily with a sea view, so make sure to check what type of balcony you are getting. The ideal balcony type is a non-obstructed ocean view balcony cabin or stateroom.
  • BeamThe width of the ship at its widest point.
  • BearingThe compass direction from a ship to a particular destination, in degrees. Hence the term “get your bearings”.
  • BerthThere are 4 definitions of this cruising term but only 2 that you need to know. The first is in reference to the where your ship ties to the shore. Nowadays most cruise ports have signs that tell you which berth each ship is located. The second that you will need to know, is in relation to how many people can sleep in a cabin. For example 2 berth, 3 or 4 berth or 5 -6 berth and so on.
  • Boutique Ship A small, luxurious cruise ship.
  • Bow Or stern is the front of the ship.
  • BridgeHome to the ships’ navigational controls and where the Captain and crew steer the ship. Read:  Visiting The Bridge of the Largest Cruise Ship In The World
  • Buffet Cruise ship buffets are usually large food halls with a huge selection of foods from a wide range of cuisines. These use to be self service, but many now have changed to having servers put the food on the plate for you. However there is no limit to how much you can eat or how many times you return to the buffet.
The Buffet onboard Anthem of the Seas is called the Windjammer a
The Buffet onboard Anthem of the Seas is called the Windjammer and is a big food hall with a range of cuisines.


  • CabinAlso called Stateroom is the name given to all non-suite accommodation on a cruise ship.
  • Cabin StewardOr Stateroom Attendant is a crew member who is allocated to looking after the housekeeping of your room for the duration of your cruise. 
  • CapacityThe number of passengers that can be accommodated on a cruise ship.
  • CaptainThe name given to the driver of the cruise ship, known as the ‘Master’ of the ship and is responsible for the safety of the ship and everyone onboard.  The Hotel Manager, Cruise Director and Chief Engineer all report to the captain.
  • Captain’s Welcome Aboard ReceptionA special reception usually held in the Atrium on the first formal night, for all the guests onboard. Sip a complimentary glass of champagne while the Captain officially welcomes everyone onboard and gives opportunities for photos.
Captain Iv Vidos welcomes passengers on the Independence of the Seas
Captain Iv Vidos welcomes passengers on the Independence of the Seas
  • Captain’s Table Or Officers’ Table, is a tradition where the captain and other officers host tables usually in the Main Dining Room. It’s an honor to be invited to dine at one of these tables. Long term members of the cruise line’s loyalty program are often invited or special guests such as the ships’ Godmother. Dining with the Captain of Independence of the Seas
  • Cast offTo release a ship for its mooring.
  • CategoryA category on a cruise ship means the type of cabin. Ships have many categories of cabins. They can be inside, porthole, oceanview, balcony and suite, and, one type of cabin can even have multiple categories. For example, inside cabins at the front of the ship, midship and aft can be in different cabin categories.
  • CharterWhen a cruise ship sailing has been chartered to an outside company and the sailing is not available to book to the public. In some cases a cruise can be chartered by a company who will sell cabins for a themed cruise which can be purchased by the public but only from the company that has the charter.
  • Chief EngineerIs the most senior engine officer of the engine department on a ship.
  • ChristeningThe naming ceremony that often involves breaking a bottle of champagne.
  • Coastal CruiseA cruise that does not stop but stays close to dry land. Usually somewhere scenic like Alaska, or the Fjords in New Zealand or Norway.
  • CommodoreThe most senior rank of a cruise ship, higher than that of a Captain.
  • Connecting CabinOr Interconnecting Cabin means there is a door between two cabins which can be unlocked. Great for families and friends.
  • Country Club CasualDresses, blouses and skirts or trousers, collared shirts and slacks. Jackets aren’t required but can be worn if desired.
  • CrossingA sailing that crosses an ocean.
  • Cruise Casual Jeans, dress shorts, collared sport shirts, casual dresses and skirts, pants and capri pants.
  • Cruise Contract – Your booking will be subject to terms and conditions which are contained in the ‘Cruise contract’. The contract covers matters such as what happens if your cruise is delayed or cancelled. It is worth reading them before booking to ensure that the terms meet your requirements – for example, if you are pregnant, or your child is under 6 months old, or you have not had a vaccination or booster. It is not your travel agents job to know the terms and conditions, although they are required to make sure you are happy with them before confirming your booking. It is your responsibility to make sure you have read them. These can be found on cruise lines websites usually a link in the menu at the bottom of the page.
  • Cruise DirectorCrew member who organizes for the ship’s activities and entertainment, makes the daily announcements and is often the host for onboard events and in room tv programmes. Some passengers try and pick a cruise according to which Cruise Director is onboard because it can make the world of difference to the guest experience. Cruise Director Marc Walker
  • Cruise DocumentsThese used to be documents you would receive by post about 30 days prior to departure. Now however, everything is online. You will be notified by the cruise line or your travel agent when your documents are ready to print out. Some cruise lines have an app which can be used for check in and organising your onboard payments, which makes embarkation much quicker with one less thing to remember, and saves you the job of printing everything out.
  • Cruise ElegantThe same as Country Club Casual. Dresses, blouses and skirts or trousers, collared shirts and slacks. Jackets aren’t required but can be worn if desired.
  • Cruise FareThe amount you pay for your cruise.
  • Cruise To Passenger Ratio –  This gives you a guide to the level of service you can expect on your cruise and is calculated by dividing the total number of passengers by the total number of crew members. For example mega ships are approximately 1:40 which means 1 crew member for every 40 guests, whereas some ultra luxury ships can be 1:1.
  • Cruise TourThis is usually when a land tour holiday is tagged on to the cruise either before or after. These are particularly popular for Alaska and The Rockies.
the A-z of cruising terminology
The Christening Ceremony of MSC Seaview in Genoa, Italy with Godmother Sophia Loren.


  • DecksThe levels or floors of a cruise ship.
  • Deck PlanA detailed map of each deck of the ship including cabin numbers and lift areas. 
  • Departure PortWhere your cruise begins.
  • DisembarkationOr disembark means to leave the ship. 
  • DockAn area in a port for the loading, unloading, and passenger embarkation and disembarkation.
  • Double OccupancyTwo people sharing one cabin. So if a price is per person based on double occupancy, you cannot pay for one person only and have a double occupancy cabin. You would have to pay two cruise fares excluding taxes and fees, even if there is only one passenger. 
  • Drinks PackageA one off charge which usually includes an unlimited selection of alcohol, soft drinks and speciality coffees and teas. Can be purchase before the cruise or on embarkation and only for the whole cruise, not for specific days.
  • Dry DockWhen a ship is taken temporarily out of service to a shipyard or other location to be refurbished or for technical upgrades.


  • EmbarkationOr embark means to board the ship.
  • Embarkation PortWhere your cruise begins.
  • Expedition CruiseOr Adventure Cruise is usually on a small ship, often with an ice-strengthened hull, which takes passengers off the beaten track. They are often hosted by expedition leaders and expert lecturers and visit places such as the Arctic, Antarctic or South America with zodiac rides into the Amazon.


  • Future Cruise Credit/FCCThese are vouchers that the cruise lines give out in certain circumstances, such as when a sailing is canceled or to compensate for problems experienced onboard. Cruisers who receive an FCC can rebook on another ship. If booking with a different agent than the cancelled cruise, check you can use the FCC with them when you make your enquiry.
  • First OfficerAnswers directly to the Captain, and is considered a Watchkeeping Officer. During their watch, they are in charge of the bridge, and ensure that all bridge operations and navigational equipment are functioning properly.
  • First SittingWhen a cruise offers two dining times, the first sitting is the earlier time, usually around 5.30 or 6pm. There are usually two shows in the theatre to accommodate guests for both sittings.
  • FleetThe number of ships operating under the same ownership.
  • Float OutWhen a new cruise ship touches water for the first time. 
  • Formal NightTraditionally a black tie event and takes place once or twice on a 7 night cruise. These days most ships do not strictly enforce this but it is very popular amongst those who love to wear a nice dress. It is not so popular for those having to wear jackets in the summer, not just from a comfort point of view but also the weight of luggage allowances for flights.
  • Friends of Bill W. A gathering for Alcoholics Anonymous members. Details can be found in the daily cruise planner or on notice boards at reception.
  • Friends of DorothyA gathering for LGBTQ cruisers. Details can be found in the daily cruise planner or on notice boards at reception.
  • FunnelShips chimney or smokestack.
The A-Z of Cruise Terminology
Disney Magic. The unmistakeable funnel of a Disney cruise ship.


  • GalleyThe kitchen on a ship. You can often book tours as part of a behind the scenes tour on a sea day.
  • GangwayA ramp or staircase used by passengers to get on and off the ship.
  • GodmotherEvery ship has a godmother who christens the ship and wishes it a lifetime of good luck. The Godmother is the person to release the champagne that smashes on the side of the ship. There will be a framed portrait of the Godmother onboard the ship. And if you are wondering if they get free cruises for life, the answer is generally yes. Godmother of Independence of the Seas
  • Grand StaircaseMost ships have a grand staircase either in the Atrium of the ship or in the main dining room.
  • GratuitiesTips which can be paid at the time of booking. These are not the same as tipping in a restaurant as it is shared amongst all crew that serve you during your cruise.  Should I Prepay Gratuities?
  • GuaranteePeople choose this option to save money and it is where you book a specific category of cabin but the cruiseline allocate a cabin for you. So if you book a Guarantee Balcony, you are guaranteed to have at the very minimum, a balcony but it may be obstructed.  What Is a Guarantee Cabin on a Cruise Ship?


  • HelmThe helm is the steering wheel of the ship and the immediate area, located on the bridge.
  • Home Port – The ports from which a cruise starts and finishes for a season. 
  • Hotel DirectorManages all aspects of the hotel-type operations to make sure the entire cruise experience is seamless. 
  • Hull the watertight outer skin covering the lower portion of the ship.


  • Inaugural VoyageThe first sailing after the Christening Ceremony.
  • Interconnecting Cabins Or Connecting Cabins means there is a door between two cabins which can be unlocked. Great for families and friends.
  • Interior CabinThe cheapest way to cruise is normally in an interior or inside cabin. The most notable difference of these cabins is that there are no windows and they are usually smaller than most. Some now have virtual balconies or have a view of the interior of the ship, however that will be made clear in the cruise lines description of the room.
  • InterportingWhen it is possible to start and end your cruise at a port that is part of the itinerary rather than the home port. This is often done for ships sailing from Barcelona and calling at Rome, giving guests the option of cruising from Rome to Rome or Barcelona to Barcelona. The pros and cons of this is that for example cruising from Rome may be cheaper, but it will depart midweek rather than the weekend. That will also make the flights cheaper but the transfer from the airport can take up to 2 hours but it does mean you get a full day in Barcelona and are virtually in the city already when you dock. On the other hand, Barcelona departures are usually at the weekend and is just 20 mins from the airport to the port. You also get to spend a whole day in Rome but allow 3 hours to get into the city and back by coach. Of course you can always add a few days city break before you cruise, to make the most of the trip.
  • Inside Cabin – See Interior above.
  • ItineraryThe schedule of destinations and days at sea on your cruise. This can be subject to change at any time, usually due to bad weather and safety, medical emergencies or political unrest.


  • Juliette BalconyAlso known as a french balcony is not intended to be sat on and is meant to serve as a guard rail instead.
  • Junior SuiteOr mini suite is not a full suite but is larger than a regular cabin and will have some upgraded amenities and benefits.


  • KeelThe main structure of a ship that extends lengthwise along the centre of the ship’s bottom.
  • Keel Laying CeremonyThe official start of construction often combined with a coin ceremony. Scarlet Lady Keel Laying Ceremony
  • KnotA unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h (approximately 1.151 mph or 0.514 m/s).
The A-Z of Cruise Terminology
The Keel Laying Ceremony for the first Virgin Voyages ship, Scarlet Lady.


  • LanyardA cord or strap that you can attach your cruise card to and wear around your neck. Some of my favourite lanyards are these For people who like bling  or palm leaves and these for kids.
  • Late Sitting Or second sitting is when a cruise offers two dining times and the second is around 8.30 or 9pm. There are usually two shows in the theatre to accommodate guests for both sittings.
  • LeewardThe side of the ship where you feel most sheltered from the wind.
  • Lidoor Lido Deck is where you will find the main pools and is the business part of the ship on sea days. It is also a popular place for sail-away parties.
  • LifeboatEvery cruise ship carries smaller boats that can be used by passengers in case of emergency. Guests are allocated specific lifeboats in relation to their cabin location. It is compulsory to attend the muster drill so you are aware of your assembly point in case of emergency.
  • Local Time – The time in port/your destination. This may vary from your ship time. The best way to ensure you don’t get confused is to buy a cheap analogue watch that will not automatically update when you leave the ship. That way, you always know what the ship time is and you can use your mobile phone, if you switch on data roaming, for local time. Alternatively, you could have someone else in the party you are traveling with, keep track of local time, while you watch the ship time. 
  • Loft SuiteA two level suite with a mezzanine sleeping area and a separate living area.
  • LogAn official book for recording daily events.
  • Lower BerthMeans a bed on the floor rather than an upper bunk type bed.
  • Loyalty LoungeA members only club which usually offers complimentary drinks and canapes for a few hours a day along with special events and a concierge to help with booking onboard and on shore activities.
  • Luggage LabelsThese used to be pre printed sticky labels you would receive with your cruise documents which you could attach to your luggage. Now they are part of the electronic documents and you need to print them off, fold them and staple them to your case. I prefer to just use one of these for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and these for other cruise lines. Pro Tip for Travel Agents – Offer to print out your customers documents and send them in the post.
The A-Z of Cruise Terminology
A loft suite onboard Harmony of the Seas


  • Maiden VoyageA brand new ships very first voyage.
  • Main Seating Also second or late sitting around 8.30 or 9pm.
  • Maître d’The crew member in charge of the dining room. If you are travelling with someone who for some reason does not want to dine with others, go to the Maître d’ as soon as you embark the cruise and explain the situation to them to maximise your chances of getting a table on your own. Don’t just turn up for dinner and make special requests as they are less likely to be able to accommodate them.
  • MDR –  Abbreviation for Main Dining Room.
  • MidshipThe mid point of the ship.
  • Mobility At Sea – and Special Needs At Sea and Scootaround are among some of the specialists that provide medical equipment for those with special needs. Equipment can be anything from motorised wheelchairs and scooters to raised toilet seats, hoists, over bed tray tables, adjustable pillow raisers, bed rails, shower commode chairs etc. The cruise lines require certain specifications and information regarding the equipment, so it is much easier to use a specialist who already knows the procedures. See Accessible Room for links to websites.
  • MooringThe tying of a ship to a dock or quayside.
  • Muster Drill A mandatory event where passengers assemble in a specific location and receive instructions on what to do in an emergency. 
  • Muster StationThe location passengers must go to during a drill or in an actual emergency.
  • My Time/Freedom/Anytime DiningGives you the freedom to turn up whenever you want and different times everyday. This is also a great option if you are keen to share a table with other people and meet different people each night.
Independence of the Seas Main Dining Room
The beautiful chandelier in the Main Dining Room of Independence of the Seas


  • Nautical MileA unit used in measuring distances at sea, equivalent to 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet.


  • OBCAbbreviation for on board credit also known as shipboard credit or on board spend. It’s money that’s deposited into your onboard account which you can spend during your cruise on things like drinks, spa treatments, gifts, shore excursions and specialty restaurant fees.
  • Obstructed View This means you don’t get a full line of sight through your cabin’s window. You may be able to see part or all of a ship’s lifeboat that’s stored on the deck below. Each ship varies from 10% to 90% obstructed, so check the details before you book.
  • Ocean CruiseA cruise on the open sea.
  • OceanviewOr outside, you will have a porthole or picture window facing the sea. These windows cannot be opened.
  • Officers TableOr Captain’s Table, is a tradition where the captain and other officers host tables usually in the Main Dining Room. It’s an honor to be invited to dine at one of these tables. Long term members of the cruise line’s loyalty program are often invited or special guests such as the ships’ Godmother. Dining with the Captain of Independence of the Seas
  • Onboard AccountWhen you check in online  you will be asked if you want to set up your onboard account. It is much simpler if you do this and register a credit card. Cruise ships operate a cashless system so you will need to scan your cabin card whenever you wish to purchase something. This facility will not be enabled unless you have either registered a card or put cash credit on your account which can only be done once onboard at the pursers desk. Charges will be added to this account throughout your cruise. At the end of the voyage, you’ll receive an itemised bill. If you’re fine with it, the total will be charged to the credit card on record. Please note; if you use a debit card rather than a credit card, the cruise line will put a temporary hold on funds. This can take up to two weeks to be released, so if you are going to need all the funds in your account to be available soon after your cruise, DO NOT use a debit card.
  • Open Jaw SailingA one-way cruise, ending in a different port to the one you started the cruise.
  • Open SeatingThis means you can dine in the main restaurant anytime you like.
  • Outside CabinOr oceanview you will have a porthole or picture window facing the sea. These windows cannot be opened.
looking out of a cruise ship porthole at the norwegian fjords
You don’t want to miss a moment of cruising through the Norwegian Fjords.


  • Passenger Space RatioThis is the gross tonnage divided by the passenger capacity. The higher the number, the more space per passenger.
  • PierA pier is built over the water and is the place where ships moor.
  • PortA place where the ships stop so passengers can disembark and explore the area.
  • Port of Call See Port above.
  • Port Taxes and FeesWhenever a сruise ship docks at a port of call, the local authorities require a fee. Before a cruise starts, the cruise line will add up the port charges from the different ports of call on the cruise itinerary and will pass the cost of these port charges on to the passengers. Cruise lines also have to pay taxes to the government. Sometimes you’ll find that taxes are grouped together with port charges.
  • PorterPeople who ferry your luggage from shore to ship, and vice versa.
  • Porthole A round window, smaller than a picture window.
  • Promenade DeckThe open-air walkway on mid deck that span the entire length of the ship and sometimes wrap right around so you can do a complete walk around the ship. Some ships use this as their jogging track as well. This is not to be confused with the Royal Promenade onboard some Royal Caribbean ships which is like an indoor street with shops and bars.
  • Pullman BedOr Murphy Bed pulls down from the ceiling or wall and act like a top bunk of a bunk bed. It helps reduce use of floor space and overcrowding.
  • PurserCan be found at the reception desk and is in charge of guest relations and onboard accounts.


  • Repositioning or Repo CruiseThese happen at the beginning and end of a regional cruising season, when the ship repositions from one home port to another. So a ship may spend the winter cruising out of Miami for Caribbean itineraries and in the spring, the ship repositions to Barcelona to sail out of that home port for Mediterranean voyages all summer long.
  • River CruiseA cruise along the river.
  • RollThe movement of a ship when it sways side to side.


  • Sailaway PartyIs the official start to a cruise vacation and is a big party usually on deck with music and dancing.
  • Sea DayA day where the ship stays out at sea and does not visit a port.
  • Second SittingOr late sitting is when a cruise offers two dining times and the second is around 8.30 or 9pm. There are usually two shows in the theatre to accommodate guests for both sittings.
  • Segments World cruises or other longer cruises are broken up into shorter “segments”, so cruisers can book just part of a longer itinerary.
  • Shore excursion/ShorexAn activity off the ship at a port of call that you can purchase from the cruise line.
  • Single Supplement If you book a double occupancy cabin by yourself, you will often be charged a single supplement of up to 100% of the cruise fare. A cheaper option is to find a cruise or ship with a single cabin.
  • Solo OccupancyOne person in a cabin.
  • SommelierA wine steward who is highly knowledgeable with wines.
  • Speciality Restaurant A restaurant which offers alternative dining to the main restaurant, usually with an extra charge. 
  • Speciality StateroomThis would be some sort of themed room such as a Spa Room or Family Room.
  • Starboard The right side of the ship when facing forward.
  • StateroomAnother name for a cabin.
  • Stateroom Attendant Or Cabin Steward is a crew member who is allocated to looking after the housekeeping of your room for the duration of your cruise. 
  • SternAnother name for Aft or rear of the ship.
  • SuiteThe most luxurious, spacious and most expensive rooms on the ship. Some have hot tubs and sun loungers on their balconies and come with a butler who will unpack your cases for you.
Sea days are great opportunities to enjoy the ship. On Harmony of the Seas there is no shortage of fun activities.


  • TenderIf one of your ports of call says ‘tender’ next to it, it means rather than dock in port, the cruise ship will anchor nearby and you will be taken to and from the shore on a lifeboat. This is not suitable for people in wheelchairs.
  • TransatlanticMeans the ship will cross the Atlantic Ocean.
  • TransfersA coach that takes you from the airport to the cruise terminal and vice versa at the beginning and end of your cruise. It can also be provided if you have a pre or post cruise stay to take you to your hotel.
  • TranspacificMeans the ship will cross the Pacific Ocean.
  • Turnaround DayThe day one cruise ends and another begins. It is the busiest day for the crew since they need to clean and prepare the ship for the next cruise, and welcome the new passengers on board. 


  • Upper BerthA bed which pulls down from the wall and becomes a top bunk bed and folds up when not in use.


  • Virtual BalconySome of the newer cruise ships have inside cabins with a virtual porthole, window or balcony. A high definition video of what is going on outside is projected into the cabin.


  • WakeThe trail of waves at the back of the ship created as the ship moves forward.
  • World Cruise  three- to four-month-long itineraries that span the entire globe.



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