Glossary of Cruise Terms

Going on a cruise can feel like walking into a foreign country. Even if English is the onboard language, people are bound to be speaking Cruise-ese, a hybrid of nautical terms and cruise-specific lingo. Suddenly, your room is a cabin, your maid a cabin steward — and heaven forbid you call the ship “a boat.”

While you’ll need to know many terms to become fluent in cruise speak, here are some basics — a phrase book, if you will — to enable you to speak with the natives on your first sailing.

Aft/forward: 
The back of the ship is aft and the front of the ship is forward. These terms are used as adjectives, such as “aft balcony cabins” or “Deck 8 forward.”

Bow/stern: The front part of the ship is called the bow. The back part of the ship is called the stern.

Cabin steward:
The person who cleans your cabin and turns down the room at night. A steward can assist with minor tasks such as bringing you ice and taking your laundry to be cleaned.

Closed-loop sailing: An itinerary that begins and ends from the same port – a roundtrip cruise.

Cruise director:
The emcee of the cruise who heads up the entertainment staff and might handle passenger requests and complaints.

Cruisetour:
A cruise that is preceded or followed by a bus tour, operated by the cruise line.

Friends of Bill, Friends of Dorothy:
Friends of Bill W. is the code name for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Friends of Dorothy denotes Gay/Lesbian activities.

Galley:
A ship’s kitchen.

Gangway:
The ramp or stairway that leads from the ship to the pier, allowing passengers and crewmembers to get on and off the ship.

Guarantee:
A fare class that allows the cruise line to select your cabin number, often at a lower price point than an assigned cabin in the same cabin category.

Lido deck:
The pool deck.

MDR: 
Main dining room.

Muster drill/muster station:
A muster drill is a mandatory event where passengers assemble in a specific location and receive instructions on what to do in an emergency. The muster station is the location passengers must go to during a drill or in an actual emergency.

OBC:
Onboard credit — a credit added to your onboard account, either as a perk of booking or as compensation for an unforeseen event.

Open-jaw sailing:
An itinerary that begins and ends in different ports — a one-way cruise.

Port/starboard:
The nautical terms for left (port) and right (starboard). You can remember because both “left” and “port” have four letters.

Porthole:
A round window, often smaller than the standard picture window found in most outside cabins.

Purser:
The officer in charge of financial accounting, who handles billing issues, as well as general customer service.

Repositioning or repo cruise:
A cruise that begins and ends in different ports as a ship moves from one cruising region to another.

Tender:
A small boat that ferries cruise passengers from the ship to shore when docking isn’t possible. Also can be used as a verb; i.e. we tendered to shore in Grand Cayman.