You may also like
Ship Exterior on Norwegian Sky
Ship Exterior on Norwegian Sky

How to Talk Like a Sailor: A Glossary of Cruise Terms

Ship Exterior on Norwegian Sky
Ship Exterior on Norwegian Sky
Erica Silverstein

Last updated
Jan 8, 2020

Read time
3 min read

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 W/Friends of Dorothy: Friends of Bill W. is the code name for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings onboard. Friends of Dorothy denotes GLBT 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.

And if you need a guide to understanding all the acronyms used on the message boards, here is a thread that will allow you to "talk the talk."

Publish date January 08, 2020
How was this article?

Get special cruise deals, expert advice, insider tips and more.By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

© 1995—2024, The Independent Traveler, Inc.