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An A-Z of cruising

Author: Saskia Den Boon

Published on:

Updated on:

Clueless about cruising? We’re here to help. Our A-Z of cruising terms will get you clued up in no time.

Ever wondered what an aft is? Or what starboard actually means? Nautical terms can tie us in knots – especially if, like me, you’re new to the cruise scene.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a comprehensive A-Z of cruising terms to help us both find our sea legs. Think of it as your essential guide to cruise ship terms. Take a little look, and soon we’ll all be speaking fluent sailor.

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Let's get cruising on learning cruise terms. Credit: Scenic.

Cruise lingo revealed

Aft
The back of the ship, also known as the stern.

Anytime dining
This is ideal for passengers who want a little bit more flexibility in their schedules. Anytime dining allows you to choose your dining time.

Bow
The front of the ship.

Bridge
No... this is not an actual bridge. Or the card game. Rather, the term refers to where the captain and crew steer and navigate the ship.

Cabin steward
The team member who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining your stateroom during the cruise. Make sure to say thanks when you spot them!

Fred. Olsen's first-class crew truly go above and beyond in everything they do. Credit: Fred. Olsen

Capacity
The number of passengers a ship can hold.

Captain
Jack Sparrow. Just kidding – otherwise known as 'the Master' this is the person who oversees the ship, as well as crew and passenger safety.

Coastal cruise
When the ship hugs the coastline for the entire sailing.


Not your captain. Credit: Gaurav.

Coastal cruise
When the ship hugs the coastline for the entire sailing.

Crossing
A voyage from one port to another on the open water. If you’re on an ocean cruise, you’re likely on a crossing.

Cruise casual
This dress code generally refers to a relaxed dress code: casual skirts and trousers are permitted but swimwear, ripped jeans, and tank tops aren’t. That said, check your cruise line's dress code – some do allow denim.

Cruise director
Basically, the cruise’s social planner. The person who schedules activities organises the entertainment and acts as the ship’s master of ceremonies.

Cruise elegant
Cruise lines typically up the ante for one or two nights and invite guests to don something a little fancier – think cocktail dresses for women – for the evening.

Deck
The ship’s equivalent of floors in a building.

Dock
Where ships land, unload, and board. Usually a large platform.

Expedition cruise
A specialised, smaller ship built to explore areas off the beaten track. Often featuring an ice-strengthened hull, this sort of vessel takes the daring and adventurous to remote – and usually chilly – regions of the planet.

Life on a smaller expedition cruise means ice and close-up wildlife. Credit: Mundy Adventures.

Fly-cruises
When you must book a flight to and from the port city where your cruise departs/ends.

Galley
The ship’s kitchen area. *Yum*

Gangway
The ramp/staircase you’ll use to embark and disembark the vessel.

Gratuities
The extras – read food, drink, and tips – that aren’t included in your up-front cruise fare.

Helm
Crew only, thank you! This is the part of the bridge that houses the steering wheel and a whole other bunch of buttons, bits, and bobs that only the crew knows how to operate.

Home port
Where the ship begins the cruise journey. All aboard!

Hull
The belly of the ship.

Inaugural cruise
A ship’s maiden voyage… queue the pomp and circumstance.

Itinerary
A schedule of all the fabulous places your ship will be visiting, including all the fun on-shore expeditions.

Jetty
Basically, a dock, except it’s slightly more fun to say. Jetties are usually wooden or stone and are often used to protect harbours from rough tides.

The Queen Mary 2 is the last remaining ocean liner. Credit: CNN.

Keel
The bottom centre of the ship.

Knot
Here’s some true nautical lingo for you! A knot is the unit of speed at which your cruise is cruising, equal to one nautical mile per hour.

Leeward
Too windy? Has your hat blown off? Head to the leeward side of the ship – the term for whichever side is sheltered from the wind.

Lido
The deck which typically houses the cruise’s pools. The place for a dip and a chance to cool off.

Liner
A ship built to withstand rough seas while journeying through the open ocean. There is only one ocean liner in the world: step forward Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, the last of her kind.

Maître d’
The crew member you’ll see first when you enter a cruise restaurant. Maître d’s are the hosts, supervisors, and managers of fine dining experiences onboard your cruise.

Midship
The middle of the ship (surprise surprise).

Muster drill
A mandatory safety drill during which crew members help passengers familiarise themselves with safety measures onboard the ship, including life vests and lifeboats.

No-fly cruises
When you don’t have to book a flight to or from the port city where your cruise is launching. The opposite of Fly-cruises.

TUI cruises will take you to see the iconic Budapest parliament building. Credit: Kafkadesk.

Ocean cruise
Any cruise traversing the salty seas.

Ports of call
Any destination listed on your itinerary where your cruise plans to stop. Here, you’ll hop off the ship for shore excursions, city strolls, beach days, museum visits, and more.

Quarter
The part of the boat midway between the stern and the beam.

Repositioning cruises
When a one-way cruise transitions to sail in a new region, with an entirely new itinerary.

River cruise
Any cruise a-rolling on the river.

Break out the champagne for a sailaway party. Credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Sailaway party
An enormous party on deck to celebrate the start of a ship’s sailing. Break out the champagne.

Sea day
A day on which a ship remains at sea, with stopping at ports of call. Ah, relaxation.

Ship
Also known as a vessel – whatever you do, don’t call her a boat. That’s just rude.

Shore excursion
Time to hop off the ship and explore, be it on an organised excursion or under your own steam.

An luxurious oceanview Stateroom. Credit: Royal Caribbean.

Single supplement
A single supplement is a premium charged to people who take a room alone. However, times are changing and more cruise lines are scrapping single supplements for solo travellers.

Specialty restaurants
Many cruise lines now feature specialty dining options that are, well, special. They tend to be higher-end options, often involving partnerships with such world-renowned chefs as Thomas Keller, Daniel Bouloud, and Eric Lanlard, and a cover charge applies.

Starboard
Aha. That one’s right. Right?

Staterooms
A stateroom is the nautical term for your cabin or accommodation on a ship. Usually, you’ll have four categories to choose from: Inside, oceanview, balcony, and suite.

Stern
The back of the ship.

Tender
A small ship used to carry passengers from the ship to the dock when the cruise ship is unable to dock alongside the pier.

Themed cruise
Spice up your holiday with a themed cruise. From history and wine tasting to painting and yoga, themed cruises bring like-minded people onboard to explore both their interests and the world together.

Turnaround day
The changing of the guard, cruise style. This is the day when one set of passengers disembarks, and another set embarks.

The upper deck (also known as the Lido deck) on board Seabourn Encore. Credit: Seabourn.

Upper deck
Where you’ll find me soaking up the sun and sipping bubbles once onboard.

Wake
The lovely trail of water behind the ship as it sails.

Windward
The side of the ship where your hat blows off into the water and, sorry to say, you’ll probably never see it again.

World cruise
Your ticket to see the world. World cruises can last for three, four, nine (or more) months, taking guests all over the globe. Passengers can join for the entire sailing or book a segment.

X-tras
Actually, it’s just extras – the term for any additional activities, meals, or experiences which aren’t included in the overall cost for the cruise.

Yacht
Some cruise lines have a collection of yachts that offer guests the most intimate of cruising experiences. Because these yachts are smaller ships, they can often take guests to more remote destinations.

Zenith
A navigation term referring to the point which joins the centre of the earth, the observer, and the celestial sphere in a straight line. You don’t really need to remember this one… I just needed a Z.

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