Knowledge Center

Cruise Terminology

Glossary of Cruise & Ship Terms

In addition to nautical lingo, you might come across some unfamiliar terms when planning and contracting your cruise program, as well as during your cruise. Here are some of the most common you need to know:

AFT: Near, towards or in the rear (stern) of the ship

AIR/SEA: A package that includes airfare to and from the port of embarkation as well as the cruise portion. (Also referred to as “Fly/Cruise”)

ALTERNATIVE DINING: Dining option offered in addition to ship’s main dining room, especially at dinner. The venue is usually a more intimate, specialty or themed restaurant. Reservations are often required and additional gratuity charges may apply.

ANYTIME DINING: Princess Cruises' flexible evening dining option that allows passenger to select from a variety of onboard restaurants during their cruise, as opposed to their "Traditional Fixed Seating" program.

ATRIUM: An interior, multi deck, open area of a ship. Typically, atriums are centrally located near lifts, shops, cafes and guest services. Shipboard atriums can extended anywhere from two to ten decks or more.

BACK-TO-BACK: Most often, two consecutive cruises booked for groups or individual passengers on the same ship from the same home port.

BALCONY CABIN (VERANDA CABIN): Any cabin accommodation with a private, exterior balcony

BERTH: The dock or pier where you embark or disembark from the ship. Term also used by cruise lines to refer to passenger bed.

BOARDING PASS(CRUISE CARD): Issued at 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.

BOW: Toward or in front (fore) of the ship

BRIDGE: The navigation and command center of the ship, usually found high up and forward.

CABIN: The passenger’s sleeping room, stateroom or personal accommodation.

CAPTAIN'S COCKTAIL PARTY: Usually occurs on the second day of the cruise; held so that passengers may meet the Captain and cruise staff. All guest are invited and cocktails are usually complimentary.

CATEGORY: A group of cabins categorized 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, term used when an organization 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 customized itinerary.

CONDUCTOR'S TICKET a free cruise ticket associated with groups of passengers traveling together, the entitlement to which is governed by each line’s policy.

COURSE: The direction the ship is headed in, typically expressed in compass degrees.

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 boarding pass to embark and debark the ship.

CRUISE DIRECTOR: The Cruises Director is in charge of all onboard entertainment and social events.

CRUISE DOCUMENT: Set of documents sent by the cruise line to passengers prior to sailing. Typically includes 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.

DEADHEAD: Positioning voyage of a ship where the ship is empty.


DECK PLAN: An overhead diagram illustrating cabin and public room locations in relation to each other.

DEPLOYMENT: Scheduled ship itinerary for a specific period of time. This term is also used to describe the operations of an entire fleet.

DRY DOCK: (1) A sealed docking facility from which water is pumped in and out, enabling maintenance and repairs to be performed on a ship's hull and keel. (2) Generic term for a vessel’s maintenance period when a ship actually enters a dry dock to maintain it’s underwater hull and to undergo onboard refurbishment and upgrades to hardware and soft furnishings.

EMBARKATION: Entering or boarding the ship

FAMILY STATEROOM: Specific accommodations vary, but family staterooms usually provide for 4-6 passengers in lower bed configurations (i.e. no bunk beds)

FORCE MAJEURE: The clause in a contract that exempts parties from fulfilling obligations under it in the event of such contingencies as earthquakes, war, floods or other items beyond their control.

FORWARD: Toward the fore or bow (front) of the ship.

FIRST SITTING: In ships with traditional or “fixed” seating, the earlier of the two evening meal times in the main dining room – usually around 6.30pm.

FREE-STYLE DINING: Norwegian Cruise Line's term used to describe their flexible onboard program whereby passengers have freedom to choose where and when they dine.

FRECH BALCONY: A large window with a sliding door that opens to a shallow balcony and railing, allowing passengers to breath the salt air but not deep enough to stand or sit outside. Usually found on river boats or added to ships post-construction.

GALLERY: The ships kitchen.

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.

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.

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'

GUARANTEE: 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.

HARDWARE: Expression used to describe the structure and furnishings of a vessel rather than the software, most often used to refer to the cuisine and service. A part of the hardware, ironically, are the soft furnishings, or carpets, bedding, seat cushions, tablecloths etc.

HOMEPORT: The port in which a ship is based and most often sails from.

INSIDE CABIN: A cabin with no windows or portholes offering a view the sea or river

ITINERARY: The route the ship will travel, detailing arrival and departure times and ports visited.

KEEL: The ships "backbone" extending underneath from bow to stern.

KNOT: A unit of speed equal to one nautical mile

LIFEBOAT: Small boats carried on the ship and used in case of emergency.

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

M.S: Abbreviation of "Motor Ship"

MAIDEN VOYAGE: The first sailing of a ship with passengers on board.

MIDSHIPS: In or toward the middle of the ship

MINI SUITE: A larger passenger cabin that offers separate sleeping and sitting areas, but smaller than a suite.

MUSTER DRILL: The process by which passengers, by law, are acquainted with ships safety regulations

MUSTER STATION: The location where groups of passengers are asked to report in the vent of an emergency at sea (or, as during a muster drill). Usually, muster stations are either interior public rooms or open deck or promenade spaces familiar to passengers. Every passenger is assigned a muster station

NAUTICAL MILE: 6,080.2 feet, versus a land mile of 5,280

ON BOARD ACCOUNT / SHIPBOARD ACCOUNT: Account that is opened for you at the beginning of a cruise, you will normally register a credit card so your account can be settled at the end of your cruise. All purchase on board, shore excursions, gratuities etc are added to your on board account. Most ships operate this kind of 'cashless' system

ONBOARD REVENUE: All money spent by passengers onboard the ship, including bars, casino, spa, shops, shore excursions, specialty 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.

OPTION: The cruise lie’s offering of a specific cabin (or guarantee) for a specified period of time during which the passenger decides where or not to accept. Acceptance is confirmed either by a deposit or final payment.

OUTSIDE CABINS: A cabin having a window or porthole offering an exterior view of the sea or river.

PANAMAX: The Panama Canal permits ships no wider than approximately 110. Ships that are under this maximum size are often referred to as "Panamax" ships. Post-Panamax refers to a generation of larger cruise ships that have abandoned the panamax standard.

PASSENGER CONTACT: Detailed terms of responsibility and accountability found in the cruise ticket.

PASSENGER SPACE RATIO: Gross tonnage divided by number of passengers. This measure is often equated to the amount of space onboard for passengers.

PORT CHARGE: An assessment which also includes port taxes, collected by the line and paid to a local government authority.

PORTHOLES: Circular "windows" in the side of the ship

PORT SIDE: The left or port side of the ship as you face forward

PROMENADE: Usually the open walkway that runs almost the entire length of each side of the cruise ship. Some promenade decks encircle the ship.

PURSER: In charge of onboard accounts & guest relations

REGISTRY: The country with a ship is registered. The ship and its crew are obliged to comply with their Registry laws

REPOSITIONING CRUISES: Cruises operated to move a ship between cruise areas. Many of these are operated n the spring and fall as seasons change, and are often offered as shorter 3-4 night one way cruises.

REVIEW DATES: A periodic evaluation of the progress of the sale and promotion of a group combined with attendant cabin utilization.

S.S: Abbreviation for "Steam Ship"

SECOND SITTING: In ships with traditional or “fixed” seating, the later of the two evening meal times in the main dining room – usually around 8.30pm.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Off-the-ship tours at ports of call for which extra charges usually apply.

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.

STABILIZERS: A fin like device extending beneath the ships waterline from both sides of the ship to the front, making the ship more stable.

STARBOARD: The right side of the ship as you face forward.

TENDER: A small vessel used to move passengers between the ship and shore when the ship is at anchor.

TRANSFERS: Usually a coach transfer from the Airport to ship, and visa versa.

UPPER BED: A single size bed higher from the floor than usual (similar to a bunk bed) often recessed into the ceiling or wall during the day.


VERANDA CABIN (BALCONY CABIN): Any cabin accommodation with a private, exterior balcony.

WAIT LIST: Not a guarantee, but the cruise line's endeavor to obtain accommodation for passengers on a first-come-first served basis when all cabins are presently sold.