Cruise Ship Vocabulary

Basic terms and phrases that cruise guests need to know

Ship personnel

Cabin steward: The crew member with the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining your cabin.

Captain: The master of the vessel, who has complete responsibility and command of the ship. The ship captain and crew control the ship from the bridge.

Cruise Director: The crew member designated as Master of Ceremonies for onboard entertainment and guest activities. The Cruise Director and his staff manage onboard entertainment, activities and events.

Maître D’: The crew member responsible for dining room operations.

Purser: The crew member responsible for guest services and handling billing services (onboard accounts). The purser’s desk is located in the atrium of the ship.

Areas of the ship

Aft: The part of the ship which is towards the back/rear of the ship.

Atrium: A lobby-like space where you’ll find the purser, reception desk, shore excursion desk and other guest services.

Bridge: The area of the ship, typically located in the bow, from where the captain and crew navigate and control the vessel.

Beam: The maximum width of a ship at its widest point.

Bow: The forward/front section of the ship.

Decks: The decks of a ship is what floors or levels are to a building. Just like in a building decks are numbered from bottom to top.

Forward: It means toward the direction of the bow (front of the ship).

Funnel: The smokestack on some cruise ships.

Gangway: Bridge connecting the ship to land. This is the means by which guests embark and disembark the ship.

Galley: The ship’s kitchen – the place where food for all guests onboard is prepared. Some cruise ships will have a large galley located close to the main dinning area as well as smaller galleys to serve the specialty restaurants.

Lido Deck: An outdoor area where most of the daytime activities take place. Depending on the ship, on this deck you might find one or more pools, hot tubs, water slide or splash park, sunchairs, a stage for a band to play on and outdoor projection screens for movie nights. This deck, depending on the cruise line and layout of the ship, will also have a dessert station, bars and the buffet.

Muster drill: A safety drill normally conducted at the beginning of a cruise to instruct guests about where to go to get into lifeboats in case of an emergency.

Muster station: The area of the ship where passengers gather for safety drills and in cases of an emergency.

Port: Refers to the left side of the ship, when facing forward.

Promenade deck: This deck traditionally serves as the lifeboat boarding area in the event of an emergency, for that reason this deck is distinguishable by the lifeboats hanging overhead. The promenade deck also serves as an outdoor walkway circling the ship.

Some of the modern mega-ships have done away with the outdoor promenade, moving it instead to the inside of the ship where it is a walkway past various bars and restaurants, shops and other entertainment areas. Giving guests a shopping mall experience while on a ship.

Starboard: Refers to the right side of the ship, when facing forward.

Stern: This is the back end of the ship – directly opposite from the bow.

Other cruise phrases

Docking port: a port where a ship is able to berth (park) so that passengers can embark and disembark.

Guarantee cabin: You book a cabin of a specific type – inside, outside or balcony or suite – on your preferred voyage, however, the allocation of a specific cabin number, deck and location on the ship is done by the cruise line. Allocation of a specific cabin can happen up until a week before date of departure.

Itinerary: a day-by-day plan of a journey, including the route and the places that the ship will stop at. The itinerary is made up of a mix of sea days and days in port (ports of call).

Obstructed view cabin: These are either outside or balcony cabins that have a view which is either partially or fully blocked. The view can possibly be blocked by lifeboats or any other structure of the ship.

Port of call: A destination, normally indicated on the cruise itinerary, where a cruise ship is scheduled to stop so that guests can go ashore.

Porthole: A round window found in most outside cabins. This window does not open, it only affords guests a view of the outside.

Repositioning cruise: A one-way sailing in which a cruise ship moves from one geographical region to another. These sailings are normally done to reposition cruise ships as one season comes to an end and another is about to begin.

Sea day: A day when the cruise ship is out at sea and is not scheduled to call at any port. On this day the ship will be travelling from one port on the itinerary to the next.

Single supplement: An extra charge levied specifically on solo guests by some cruise lines. This charge is a means by which cruise lines try to make up revenue potentially lost from having a single guest occupying a cabin that could have accommodated at least 2 guests. This is because cruise fares are usually based on double occupancy.

Tender port: A port where the cruise ship drops anchor a short distance from shore and small boats ferry passengers in groups to the shore. A ship will tender instead of docking for various reasons including: 1) the particular port having shallow waters, 2) the port being too full to allow the ship to dock or 3) adverse weather conditions.

Tender boat: small boats that ferry guests between the ship and shore at ports where the ship is unable to dock – tender port.

Theme cruise: A voyage where the entertainment, activities and events are tailored towards a specific interest, passion or hobby. The objective of a theme cruise is to bring together like-minded people together. On a theme cruise the cruise line will still operate the ship but the entertainment, activities and events will be run by organisers of the theme. A theme cruise can either be a full takeover of all entertainment, activities and events on a particular voyage or it partially takes over. A partial takeover would mean the cruise line program will run parallel to the them.