99 Fascinating Cruise Ship Jargon Glossary of Words

Dec 9, 2020 | CRUISE TIPS | 0 comments

cruise ship jargon

Glossary of Cruise SHip Terms


Cruise Speak, vocabulary, jargon or lingo – are words you may never have heard of before.  Cruise ship jargon – once you start thinking about a cruise you need to be familiar with “cruise speak” and understand some of the terms that are used.


cruise ship jargon

Are they speaking another language you may ask? Cruising can be a bit of lifestyle for some folks, and when you hear them talking about this subject so dear to their hearts, they almost seem to have a language of there own. This terminology can leave Non-Cruisers and those new to cruising somewhat confused!

You may hear words like Muster drill, Guarantee, Starboard, OBC may seem like a mysterious, unrecognisable language. However, in this cruise speak glossary, we’ll cover all the cruise jargon need to know. And you’ll be chatting like an avid cruiser in no time!


Some of the words, associated with cruise ship jargon, you may hear when cruising original from the ancient mariners that sailed the world. Many of the names have not changed over the years.

  •  AFT: Near, towards or in the rear (stern) of the ship. Often the view from here s the one most serious cruisers love.
  • BOW: The very front of the ship, (Fore) sometimes referred to as the ‘pointy bit”!
  • BRIDGE: The navigation and command centre of the ship, usually found high up and forward.
  • CAPTAIN: The person in command of the ship. Denoted by having 4 gold stripes on his/her epaulettes. 
cruise ship jargon seabourn
  • DRY DOCK: This can have 2 meanings: 1- The first is a sealed docking facility from which water is pumped in and out. This enables maintenance and repairs to be performed on a ship’s hull and keel. The second meaning is a generic term for a vessel’s maintenance period when a ship actually enters a dry dock to maintain the vessel’s hull under the waterline and to undergo onboard refurbishment and upgrades to hardware and soft furnishings.
  • GRT: Gross Registered Tonnage, i.e., a measurement of 100 cubic feet of enclosed revenue-earning space within the ship – Generally referred to as the ships’ size.’
  • KEEL: The ships “backbone” extending underneath from bow to stern.
  • KNOT: A unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour.
  • FORWARD: The front section of the ship
  • GANGWAY: A ramp or steps by which passengers enter or leave the ship.
  • GODMOTHER: The individual chosen to christen or name a ship, usually a member of royalty, government official or celebrity.
  • HOMEPORT: The port in which a ship is based and most often sails.from.
  • LIFEBOAT: Small boats carried on the ship and used in case of emergency.
  • LNG POWERED: Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered when referring to a cruise ship.
  • MAIDEN VOYAGE: The first sailing of a ship with passengers on board.
  • MIDSHIPS: In or toward the middle of the ship. Generally said about the preferred cabin location. Most cruise passengers will prefer a mid-ship cabin, rather than one that is forward or aft. This area has the advantage of having more stability in general.
  • NAUTICAL MILE: A unit used in measuring distances at sea, equivalent to 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet.
  • PORTHOLES: Circular “windows” in the side of the ship.
  • PORTSIDE: The left side of the ship is referred to as the port side. Tip: An easy way to remember – “There is no PORT LEFT in the Bottle.
  • RMS: Royal Mail Ship (sometimes Steam-ship or Steamer), usually seen in its abbreviated form RMS, is the ship prefix used for seagoing vessels that carry mail under contract to the British Royal Mail. The designation dates back to 1840.
  • SHIP: When you cruise, you are on a cruise ship, not a boat. The difference is that boat fits inside a ship, but not the other way around. This one is important!
cruise ship jargon

These are Ships and not Boats!

  • SHIPS REGISTRY: In simple terms, a ship register or ship registry gives a ship a nationality, a flag and an identity. Ships also have a port of registration, and this is shown on the stern of a vessel.
  • S.S: Abbreviation for “Steam Ship”
  • STARBOARD: The right side of the ship.
  • STERN: The very back of the ship.
  • TENDER: A small vessel used to move passengers between the ship and shore when the ship is at anchor. This is because some cruise ships cannot access the land directly and dock, due to coral reefs and other reasons. In these cases, you will be tendered to the port in tenders or lifeboat which double up as Tenders in these situations.



  • AGENTS RATES: These are special fares that some agents are given access to by the cruise lines so that they may package a cruise with other option.
  • AIR/SEA: A package that includes airfare to and from the port of embarkation as well as the cruise. Sometimes known as “Fly/Cruise.”
  • ALL-INCLUSIVE CRUISE: This is where your cruise fare includes almost everything such as gratuities, alcoholic beverages and with some cruise lines the shore excursions are also included. Compare All Inclusive versus Pay as You Go Cruising.
  • BACK TO BACK CRUISE: This is where you book 2 distinct voyages that sail one after the other. Many cruise lines offer discounts of 10% or more when you choose to do this.
  • BALCONY CABIN (VERANDA CABIN): Any cabin accommodation with a private, exterior balcony
  • CABIN: The passenger’s sleeping room, stateroom or private accommodation.
  • CATEGORY: A group of cabins categorised by type or size sold at the same fare (i.e. Inside, outside, balcony, min-suite, suite).
  • CHARTER: Also referred to as a full ship charter, a term used when an organisation books an entire vessel for a complete sailing. This sailing is then not for sale to the public at large. Especially popular for meetings or incentive programs, a ship charter allows flexibility for onboard activities, entertainment and customised itinerary.
  • CRUISE BIBLE: The Berlitz Guide to Cruising is considered to be the “bible” when it comes to cruise information.  Read our comprehensive review.
  • CRUISE DOCUMENTS: Set of documents sent by the cruise line to passengers before sailing. Typically this would include the cruise ticket, and airline tickets (if air-sea), pre-cruise information booklet (“What to Know Before You Go”), luggage tags, and information on shore excursions.
  • CONDUCTOR’S TICKET: a free cruise ticket associated with groups of passengers travelling together, the entitlement to which is governed by each line’s policy.
  • DRINKS PACKAGES: A selection of alcohol and soft drink bundles, available to buy upfront as an extra. Sometimes these are offered as Freebies to get you to book.
  • EMBARKATION DAY: The first day of your cruise and the best day in a cruiser’s life.
  • EXPEDITION CRUISE: A cruise usually on a small ship, often with an ice-strengthened hull, which takes passengers off the beaten track. Hosted by expedition leaders and expert lecturers. Also known as an adventure cruise. Typical itineraries include Alaska, Antarctica and the Arctic.
  • FORCE MAJEURE: The clause in a contract that exempts parties from fulfilling obligations under it in the event of such contingencies as acts of God, earthquakes, war, floods or other items beyond their control.
  • GRATUITIES: The passenger’s personal expression of thanks (tips) for the service received on board, sometimes automatically added to their account. Gratuities for groups are generally pre-paid and included with final payment. Understanding Cruise Gratuities is a must!
  • GUARANTEE: Sometimes known as GTY. The cruise line’s promise that the passenger will sail on a stated voyage in a specified price category or type of cabin, at an agreed rate no higher than would ordinarily apply for that voyage.
  • FAMILY STATEROOM: Specific accommodations vary, but family staterooms usually provide for 4-6 passengers in lower bed configurations (i.e. no bunk beds)
  • FCC: Future Cruise Credit – when booking a future cruise on board or where the cruise line offers this if they cancel your trip.
  • FRENCH BALCONY: A large window with a sliding door that opens to a shallow balcony and railing, allowing passengers to breathe the salt air but not deep enough to stand or sit outside. Usually found on river ships or added to ships post-construction.
  • INAUGURAL CRUISE: Typically refers to a cruise on a brand new ship. These cruises typically attract a significant premium as there is a certain prestige for sailing on the first voyage of a new vessel which creates a huge demand to be included.
cruise ship jargon 1040318

Inaugural Cruises are always very special occasions and in huge demand

  • ITINERARY: The route the ship will travel, detailing arrival and departure times and ports visited.
  • INSIDE CABIN: A cabin with no windows or portholes offering a view of the sea or river.
  • OBC: Onboard 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.
  • OPEN JAW SAILING: An itinerary that begins and ends in different ports, aka a one-way cruise.
  • OPTION: The cruise lie’s offering of a specific cabin (or guarantee) for a specified time, usually a few days, during which the passenger decides where or not to accept. Acceptance is confirmed either by a deposit or final payment.
  • PORT OF DEPARTURE: This is the port from which your cruise will depart (ie. Southampton, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Vancouver, Barcelona etc)
  • PROMENADE: Usually, the deck with an open walkway that runs almost the entire length of each side of the cruise ship. Some promenade decks encircle the ship.
  • PORTS OF CALL: This is an individual destination where you will stop at for the day or overnight. Examples of cruise ports of call on a Caribbean cruise include Cozumel, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and so on.
  • PORT CHARGES: An assessment which also includes port taxes, collected by the line and paid to a local government authority. These are normally included in your cruise fare, but some lines add these as an extra.
  • REPOSITIONING CRUISES: Cruises operated to move a ship between cruise areas. Many of these are tale place in the spring and fall as seasons change, and are often offered as shorter 3-4 night one-way cruises.
  • SINGLE OCCUPANCY: Sole occupancy of a cabin which is designed to accommodate two or more passengers, in which instance a premium is charged – generally between 150 – 200% of the per person cruise fare based on double occupancy.
  • TRANSFERS: A motorcoach or taxi ride to and from the airport or hotel to your docked cruise ship. Usually included in the price if you’ve bought your flight and cruise together from one cruise company.
  • WAITLIST: Not a guarantee, but the cruise line’s endeavour to obtain accommodation for passengers on a first-come-first-served basis when all cabins are presently sold.



These are some of the technical things you may hear when on a cruise. They are not always what they seem!

  • CREW TO PASSENGER RATIO: The total number of passengers divided by the number of crew members. Our detailed article explains all.
  • PANAMAX: Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The restrictions and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled “Vessel Requirements”. These requirements also describe topics like exceptional dry seasonal limits, propulsion, communications, and detailed ship design.
  • PASSENGER SPACE RATIO: The enclosed space per passenger gives you an indication of how crowded the ship will be. Please refer to our article entitled The Importance of the Passenger Space Ratio.
  • STABILISERS: A fin-like device extending beneath the waterline of the ship from both sides of the vessel rather like mini aeroplane wings. These computer controller devices make the ship more stable.



You have finally made it onboard your cruise ship, and there are even more new words to learn!

  • 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!
  • ALTERNATIVE DINING: Dining option offered in addition to the ship’s main dining room (MDR), especially at dinner. The venue is usually a more intimate, speciality or themed restaurant. Reservations are often required, and additional gratuity charges may apply.
  • ANYTIME DINING: A flexible dining option that allows passengers to select from a variety of onboard restaurants and dine whom and when they want.
  • BLOCK PARTY: On smaller cruise ships, once embarkation is completed, there is sometimes a little party out in the hallway called a block party. Usually an ice breaker at the beginning of the cruise. You take a glass outside your door, around 6 p.m. and staff comes through with wine and canapes, then at some point the captain and Cruise Director come running by to say hello. People seem to love it!
  • BOARDING PASS (CRUISE CARD): Issued at the time of check-in, this enables passengers not only to board the ship initially but to re-board the vessel throughout the cruise. Usually, a plastic card that is also used for shipboard charge accounts.
cruise ship jargon block party

The Block Party is a well loved feature for some cruise lines

  • CAPTAIN’S COCKTAIL PARTY: Usually occurs on the second day of the voyage. This is held so that passengers may meet the Captain and cruise staff. All guest are invited, and cocktails are usually complimentary.
  • CRUISE CARD: Credit card-size personal I.D document, given to each cruise passenger to charge shipboard purchases, use as their cabin key-card, and secure boarding pass to embark and debark the ship.
  • CRUISE DIRECTOR: The Cruises Director is in charge of all onboard entertainment and social events.
  • DAILY PLANNER: Different cruise lines use different terms for their daily newsletter of information scheduled activities (Cruise Compass, Princess Patters, Today, Freestyle Daily)
  • DECK PLAN: An overall diagram, a bit like a map, showing cabin and public room locations.
  • DISEMBARKATION: The saddest day in a cruiser’s life is the day that you need to disembark and the cruise is over.
  • FIRST SITTING: In ships with traditional or “fixed” seating, the earlier of the two evening meal times in the main dining room is usually around 6.30pm.
  • FRIENDS OF BILLW/FRIENDS OF DOROTHY: Friends of Bill W. is the code name for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings onboard. Friends of Dorothy denotes GLBT activities
  • 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.
  • LIFEBOAT DRILL: All passengers must participate in this departure day drill. Passengers and selected crew must go to their assigned area of the ship or “muster” station on the sounding of the general emergency alarm where they are given instructions concerning emergency procedures.
  • LOWER BED: A single bed placed at the standard height from the floor
  • MDR: This refers to the Main Dining Room on the ship.
  • MUSTER DRILL: The process by which passengers, by law, are acquainted with ships safety regulations.
  • MUSTER STATION: An assigned location where groups of passengers are asked to report in the vent of an emergency at sea. Usually, a muster station is either one of the interior public rooms, open deck or promenade spaces familiar to passengers. Every passenger is assigned a muster station
  • ONBOARD ACCOUNT / SHIPBOARD ACCOUNT: Account that is opened for you at the beginning of a cruise, you will typically register a credit card so your account can be settled at the end of your voyage. All purchase onboard, shore excursions, gratuities etc. are added to your onboard account. Most ships operate this kind of ‘cashless’ system
  • ONBOARD BOOKING: Booking your next cruise onboard can give you some excellent 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.
  • ONBOARD REVENUE: All money spent by passengers onboard the ship, including bars, casino, spa, shops, shore excursions, speciality dining charges.
  • OPEN SEATING: Free access to unoccupied tables in the ship’s dining room, as opposed to specific table assignments. An alternative to the traditional fixed dining style.
  • PURSER: In charge of onboard accounts & guest relations
  • 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.
  • SAILAWAY: The time that your Cruise Ship actually sails away from the shore. Often there will be a Sailaway party on the top pool deck. However, some cruisers enjoy it from their own balcony.
  • SAILAWAY PARTY: Check your daily planner for information. Generally, these are held around the main pool area and will include some drinks, a DJ or band playing and plenty of dancing.
  • SEA DAY: Also know as a Relaxing Day at Sea. A day when your ship is out at sea and not visiting a port. There are plenty of activities to choose from if you don’t want to simply relax by a pool.
  • SHORE EXCURSIONS: Off-the-ship tours at ports of call for which extra charges usually apply. Read our comprehensive article on shore excursions.
cruise ship jargon shore excursions

Shore Excursions can be amazing experiences


Cruise Ship Jargon or Cruise Speak as some would call it are words that at a cruiser,
our 99 words associated with cruising certainly make you think! Hopefully, this list will help you with your new cruise language 
To all cruiser’s, hopefully, you found this article interesting and if you have any more you think should be added to the list, then please leave a comment below.

Happy cruising!


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Mike & Anita

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