Last Updated on November 16, 2023

There is a whole set of cruise lingo, expressions, and terminology that is used in cruise travel and at sea so these 100 glossary terms below might be really useful.

Cruise line terminology and expressions

A

Aft

This is the rear portion of the ship, and it’s a place often chosen by passengers seeking a quieter location to read or relax, with less foot traffic.

Atrium

The atrium is the grand central area of the ship, and that often features impressive architecture, shops, and entertainment. The reception desks can also often be found here, along with a staircase to a bar.

Many ships these days are designed with an atrium as this creates a focal point that is easy to find mid-ship.

Atrium Bar

There is very often a bar that is located in the central atrium area, often serving as a meeting point for passengers.

Atrium Entertainment

Performances and events are also often held in the ship’s atrium area, often featuring live music and dance. It is not unusual to hear some jazzy music being played by a pianist n the atrium.

B

Balcony Cabins

A Balcony Cabin, also known as a Balcony Stateroom, is a type of accommodation on a cruise ship that includes a private balcony or veranda attached to the cabin.

These cabins are designed to provide passengers with a private outdoor space from which they can enjoy the views, fresh air, and tranquility of the ocean while cruising.

Beverage Package

Many cruise lines offer a ‘Beverage Package’ option when you are booking the cruise. These package options usually include unlimited drinks, including alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.

You can also though choose a non-alcoholic package or a tea and drinks package.

Bow

This is the front of the ship, and it is a place offering fantastic views of the ocean ahead and is often a popular spot for photos.

Butler Service

If you can afford it, you can pay for the high-end accommodation option, meaning that you will get a very sizeable suite, along with your own butler service. A bit like Downton Abbey at sea!

Bridge Tour

This is a guided tour of the ship’s navigation area, providing insights into how the ship is operated. These tours are sometimes available on some ships.

Bridge Simulator

A training facility onboard where officers can practice ship handling in various conditions.

Bridge Cam

Cameras installed on the ship’s bridge that provide live views of the ship’s surroundings.

Bridge Cam Feed

Live video feeds from onboard cameras that are broadcast on cabin TVs. If you are in an inside cabin, you can turn on the TV and see the front of the ship (something we do when waking up each day so that we can see what it looks like weather-wise for the day and to see if we are docked).

Bridge Officer

Senior officers responsible for navigation and ship operations, including the Staff Captain and Chief Engineer.

Bridge Wing

Extending areas on the ship’s bridge, often open to passengers, offering panoramic views.

C

Cabana

Private, often rentable, relaxation spaces with amenities like shade, lounges, and beverage service.

Cabin

Your home away from home on the ship, where you’ll sleep and relax during the cruise.

Cabin Categories

Different room types based on location, size, and amenities, with corresponding price levels.

Captain’s Welcome Reception

A formal event where you can meet the ship’s captain and enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Captain’s Dinner

A special formal dinner hosted by the ship’s captain.

Captain’s Log

A record kept by the ship’s captain, detailing daily events and navigational information.

Captain’s Quarters

The private living quarters of the ship’s captain.

Connoisseur Club

A cozy lounge area on some ships, ideal for cigar and fine liquor enthusiasts.

Cruise Card

A key card used for onboard purchases, access to your cabin, and more.

Cruise Director

A cruise director is normally the person in charge of the ship’s entertainment and is the person you will often hear on the tannoy when entertainment takes place, i.e. the person directing the pool parties.

Cruise Itinerary

This is a detailed plan of the cruise, including ports of call and scheduled activities.

Cruise Ship Wayfinding

Wayfinding on a cruise ship refers to how we find our way and how we are guided around the ship.

There are some many hidden cues to guide us such as via the way colour is used and through subtle arrows and guidance mechanisms.

Cruise Terminal

This is the dock area where the cruise ship sits whilst you board and disembark and it is part of the cruise port.

D

Deck

Each level of the ship. Each deck typically houses various amenities and staterooms.

Director’s Staff

A team of entertainers and activity organizers working under the Cruise Director.

Disembarkation

The bittersweet moment when your cruise comes to an end, and you must leave the ship. Hopefully the end of what was a great adventure and experience.

Disembarkation Process

This is information from the cruise line on how you need to disembark. This information, for example, will include the time slot for when you need to leave the boat, and directions on the process for getting off the boat, at the end of the trip.

E

Embarkation

The exciting start of your cruise, when you board the ship; make sure to arrive early to avoid long lines.

Excursion Desk

This is the place you head to in order to ask about and book any excursions you want to do in ports of call.

Normally though you can also review and book excursions through the cruise lines website, if you so prefer.

F

Fare

The total cost of your cruise ticket, which may include accommodations, meals, and some activities.

Formal Night

An evening where passengers dress up for a fancy dinner, often with a theme.

G

Galley

The ship’s kitchen, where the culinary team prepares delicious meals for passengers.

Gangway

A movable bridge connecting the ship to the dock during embarkation and disembarkation.

Guest Services Desk

The central location for passenger inquiries, bookings, and issue resolution.

Grand Suite

One of the most luxurious and spacious room categories available onboard.

I

Itinerary Change

Occurs due to weather, safety concerns, or other factors, impacting scheduled ports or activities.

In-Cabin Dining

The convenience of ordering meals, snacks, and beverages to enjoy in your cabin.

K

Kids’ Club

On ships where it is not adults only, i.e. on which kids can be on the cruise, many cruise lines will provide a kids club.

This tends to involve cruise line staff who supervise the kids and provide appropriate entertainment, games, and help for the kids

L

Lanyard

A lanyard is a necklace-like cord used to hold your cruise key card, which is your room key and identification.

Lido Deck

The deck on the ship featuring outdoor pools, lounges, and sometimes casual dining options.

Loyalty Program

Information on rewards and perks for repeat cruisers offered by many cruise lines.

Luggage Forwarding

A service that ships your luggage directly to your stateroom, making embarkation smoother.

Lifeboat Drill

A part of the muster drill where passengers learn how to board lifeboats in case of an emergency.

Life Vest

Personal flotation devices provided in staterooms and at muster stations.

Luggage Valet

A service that allows you to check your luggage directly to your home airport.

M

Midship

The central part of the ship, often the most stable area during rough seas.

Muster Drill

A mandatory safety drill that is conducted at the beginning of the cruise, ensuring passengers know the emergency procedures and assembly points.

Muster Station

The specific location where passengers gather during the muster drill and in case of an emergency.

O

Oceanview Cabin

An Oceanview Cabin, sometimes referred to as an Ocean View Stateroom or simply an Oceanview Room, is a type of accommodation on a cruise ship. It is a category of cabin that provides passengers with a window or porthole to view the ocean or the scenery outside the ship.

P

Passenger Manifest

A list of all passengers onboard, used for safety and immigration purposes.

Photo Gallery

An area where professional photos taken during the cruise are displayed for purchase. Most cruise ships have a photo gallery as it is a chance for extra income for the cruise line.

Pinnacle Suite

The most luxurious and spacious suite category offered on some cruise ships.

Pool Deck

The pool deck is very often on the top desk or one of the top decks and it is where you will usually find facilities such as a swimming pool, hot tubs and jacuzzis, and sun loungers.

Port

The left side of the ship when facing forward; it’s essential to know for identifying your location on board.

Port of Call

Fascinating destinations where the ship docks, allowing passengers to explore and enjoy local culture.

Port Shopping

Opportunities to shop for duty-free items and local souvenirs at ports of call.

Port Authority

Local authorities who are responsible for managing and regulating port operations.

Port of Departure

This is the place where you first get on the boat with all your luggage ready to start your cruise.

Some of the most popular ports of departure include the Port Miami (USA), Port of Southampton (UK), Port of Barcelona (Spain), Port of Helsinki (Finland), and Port of Nassau (Bahamas).

Port Tax

Fees imposed by local authorities at some ports, often included in the cruise fare.

Port Shopping Ambassador

An onboard expert who provides shopping tips and recommendations at port-of-call shops.

Promenade Deck

A deck encircling the ship, perfect for leisurely walks and enjoying sea views.

Porthole View

Cabins with porthole windows often have obstructed views due to their lower placement.

Porthole

A small, round window in some cabins, offering limited sea views.

Ports of Call

The ports of call are the places you plan to stop off and visit on your cruise itinerary.

So, on a typical 10-day cruise in Europe, you might stop off at 4 or 5 ports of call.

Pullman Bed

A Pullman bed, also known as a Pull-Down Bed or Fold-Down Bed, is a type of additional sleeping arrangement in cabins on cruise ships. These beds are designed to maximize the occupancy of a cabin and provide extra sleeping space when needed.

R

Reboarding Time

The designated time by which passengers must return to the ship at each port of call.

S

Sailaway Party

A lively event as the ship leaves port, typically featuring music, dancing, and drinks.

Sailaway party of P&O Ventura from Southampton
Sailaway party of P&O Ventura from Southampton

Serenity Deck

A quiet, adults-only area for relaxation and peaceful contemplation.

Shore Excursion

Pre-planned tours or activities at a port of call.

Single occupancy

Single occupancy on a cruise ship refers to the situation where a passenger occupies a cabin or stateroom all by themselves, without sharing it with another person.

In the context of cruising, cabins are typically designed to accommodate two or more passengers, so single occupancy means that one person is paying for and staying in a cabin that is normally intended for multiple occupants.

Spa Menu

A list of available spa treatments and services, along with their descriptions and prices.

Steward

This is the person you will see every day and who is allocated to cleaning your cabin every day.

It is worth being friendly with your steward as they can provide you with the support you need such as extra sheets, any guidance you need, and general help.

Starboard Side Cabins

The starboard side of the boat is on the right so when you hear the term ‘Starboard Side Cabins’, this refers to cabins situated on the right side of the boat.

Staterooms located on the right side of the ship when facing forward.

Specialty Dining

Exclusive restaurants onboard offering gourmet cuisine for an additional fee.

Every cruise line I have been on has specialty dining options such as you see here with Royal Caribbean.

Stabilizers

Cruise ship stabilizers are devices or systems designed to reduce the rolling motion (side-to-side movement) of a cruise ship or other large vessels.

These stabilizers help improve the comfort and safety of passengers and crew members by minimizing the effects of rough seas and waves.

Starboard

As discussed in respect to starboard cabins, starboard relates to the right side of the ship (when facing forward).

Starboard is a common term in shipping.

Stateroom

Another term for a cruise cabin or room. It is available in various categories like inside, oceanview, balcony, and suite.

Sundeck

A higher deck that provides unobstructed panoramic views and more private sunbathing spots.

T

Tender

This is a small boat that is used to ferry passengers between the cruise ship and the port, when the cruise ship cannot pull up right alongside the port.

In some ports, for example, the water is too shallow for the cruise line to dock too closely to the port, so a tender is needed.

Tender Port

Ports where the ship can’t dock directly, requiring passengers to use tenders to go ashore.

Teen Lounge

In the same way that there are facilities for kids onboard many ships, they also provide for older children and hence the teen lounge, where teenagers can meet up and socialize.

W

Wine Packages

Offers allowing passengers to enjoy a selection of wines throughout the cruise at a set price.

You can read our post on whether cruise drinks packages are worth it here.

Weather Deck

An outdoor area on upper decks for observing and experiencing the weather at sea.

Z

Zodiac Boats

Sturdy, inflatable rafts with shallow drafts (meaning that the bottom of the raft does not go too far below water), used in adventure cruises to allow passengers to access hard to navigate environments.

Zodiac Cruising

These use small boats called zodiacs, which can transport you to areas that are challenging to reach.

Adventure cruises use zodiac boats to run excursions for their passengers in places such as the polar regions that are dotted with floating ice, or mangrove isles in the Caribbean.

Paul Symonds