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A virtual balcony in an inside stateroom on Navigator of the Seas.

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

A virtual balcony in an inside stateroom on Navigator of the Seas.

Glossary of cruise lingo

A guide to help you navigate the jargon of the cruising world

Unless you're a cruise veteran, chances are you've come across the occasional term on a cruise or travel website that makes you wonder, Huh? What the heck does that mean?

The cruise landscape is riddled with insidery terms and strange lingo — but don’t feel intimidated! Here’s a quick guide to some of the terms you may encounter.

Come across a term that’s making you cross-eyed? Tell us and we’ll define it, add it to the list and credit you. 

Get a handle on cruise terms

TERM
WHAT IT MEANS
 
adventure cruise
An adventure cruise, more commonly called an expedition cruise, caters to those seeking more off-the-beaten-path itineraries in places like the Galapagos, Antarctica, eastern Russia or Svalbard. The focus is on the experience at the destination — including viewing wildlife and scenery, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking or Zodiac excursions — rather than onboard activities.  Ships range from the high-end Silver Explorer to Lindblad Expeditions, G Adventures and Hurtigruten. They're best for the agile, physically fit and flexible-minded. 
Polar bears in Svalbard
Polar bears in Svalbard
aft
Aft refers to a location or direction — the rear section of a ship. The opposite of aft is bow.
 
all-inclusive
Some upper-tier cruise lines — Silversea, Crystal, Uniworld and others — tout their all-inclusive itineraries. It means you don't pay extra for specialty restaurants, for tipping, for drinks on board. Read the fine print, because some cruise lines cover certain costs while others don't.
Silver Shadow
Silversea's Silver Shadow
alternative restaurant
Your cruise fare covers the cost of the ship's regular dining rooms and buffets. On many ships you have the choice of dining at an alternative or specialty restaurant that offers a higher end or niche dining venue, generally for an additional price.
MSC Orchestra's 4 Seasons
MSC Orchestra's 4 Seasons
anti-rebating
Anti-rebating is a policy maintained by nearly all cruise lines that maintains a floor on pricing and prevents travel providers from engaging in price wars and client poaching. In short, the policy requires travel agents to charge the gross amount for a cruise fare when payment is made by the client’s credit card.
 
assigned seating
Some cruise ships give passengers assigned seating with fixed-time dining for their main dining rooms, letting you get to know the same fellow passengers for the duration of the cruise. Though this is becoming less common, a large ship might offer a first seating (main seating) and second seating. Other ships have open seating or "freestyle" or "anytime" dining, and some cruisers choose to dine in specialty restaurants without assigned seating.
Celebrity Solstice formal night
Celebrity Solstice formal night
atoll
An atoll is a ring-shaped reef, island or chain of small islands formed of coral and encircling a lagoon.
 
atrium
The atrium of a mid-size or large ship is the central passenger area, equivalent to the lobby of a hotel. You'll find the reception desk, shore excursion desk and other guest services in this multi-deck, often glitzy area. Some ships call this area the foyer, lobby or Centrum.
Queen Elizabeth atrium
Queen Elizabeth atrium
beam
A beam is the width of a ship at its widest point.
 
berth
On a ship, a berth means a bed. In a port, it means where the ship is docked.
 
booze cruise
A booze cruise is the term for a cruise, typically only a few days long, that features free or low-cost alcohol and where the vibe is all about partying and drinking both on the ship and in port.
booze cruise
bow
Bow is the front or forward section of a ship. The opposite of bow is aft.
 
calving
Calving is the break-up or splintering of a glacier or iceberg so as to produce a detached piece of ice.
Calving iceberg in Alaska
Calving iceberg in Alaska
canape
A canape (CAN-a-pay) is a small piece of bread or pastry with a savory topping, often served at a reception or to guests on a cruise ship.
Canapes
Canapes
Captain's table
On some ships, it refers to a dinner event in which select passengers are selected to dine with the ship's captain and other guests.
 
cay
Cay (pronounced key) is a small sandy island on the surface of a coral reef. The word is used almost exclusively to refer to islets in the Caribbean. Several cruise lines land for shore excursions at private cays.
 
Centrum
Centrum is the Norwegian name for atrium. Royal Caribbean uses the term for the atrium or hub of its ships, which often features not just reception desks but a lively area for high-wire aerial entertainment, performances and games.
Splendour of Seas' Centrum
Splendour of Seas' Centrum
charter
In a charter, or group booking, any group of individuals — relatives, a company, an organization — can charter all or part of a cruise ship.
 
Christmas market
During the holidays, river cruise lines offer itineraries of Christmas markets, or holiday markets, featuring town squares festooned with the traditional sights, smells and tastes of Christmas.
Prague
Christmas market, Prague
code orange, code red
In recent years, some cruise lines have adopted some informal terms to refer to norovirus outbreaks. Code Orange refers to early stages of a reported infection, where the buffet is no longer self-service but pools and public rooms remain open. Code Red refers to a wider outbreak of norovirus, which results in the closure of pools, the spa and other areas. (Remember to repeatedly wash your hands.).
 
cruise director
On larger ships, a cruise director heads up the ship's entertainment staff and often emcees events.
 
cruise to nowhere
A cruise to nowhere is a sailing in which a ship will sail in open waters for one to three days without reaching a destination. Guests get the chance to experience the amenities of a cruise, including its casino. These are popular choices for family reunions, romantic getaways, bachelor or bachelorette parties, girlfriend retreats or to get a quick casino fix.
 
Try your luck at Casino Royale's games of chance, on deck 5 of Grandeur of the Seas.
Cruise ship casino 
cruiser
A passenger or guest on a cruise ship.
 
cruisetour
A cruise tour, or cruisetour (as the cruise lines call it), is a full land and sea vacation combining a cruise with a land journey before or after the cruise. Sometimes it comes with a host or guide. 
Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska
debark
To go ashore — and definitely don't do this to your dog!
 
disembark/
disembarkation
To leave a ship and go ashore is to disembark.
 
double occupancy
Double occupancy is a type of travel accommodation for two persons sharing the same room. On a cruise, the rate may be $500 per person, double occupancy, or $800, single occupancy, for a room. Some cruise lines offer special fares for solo travelers.
 
dry-dock
Dry-dock is the period when ships are taken out of the water so external surfaces can be cleaned and machinery can be serviced. A minor refurbishment may take a short time, while a major refurbishment can cost millions, last months and involve major upgrades to the entire ship.
 
duty-free shopping
There is no tax or duty due on goods purchased at a duty-free shop on a ship sailing in foreign waters. Passengers can purchase liquor, cigarettes, perfume, jewelry and electronics tax free. Goods for sale will depend on ship. The rules are different for air travel, where travelers can purchase goods at duty-free shops without paying tax on the items if they're on their way out of a country (usually a 48-hour window applies); U.S. citizens traveling by air are limited to $800 of duty-free merchandise.
Silver Spirit duty-free shop
Silver Spirit duty-free shop
embark/
embarkation
To board the ship is to embark.
 
enrichment
Many cruise ships offer enrichment programs, which let passengers sign up for short courses for self-improvement in art, cooking, digital photography, computers and other subjects, usually taught by art instructors, guest lecturers, chefs and other experts. Enrichment programs are sometimes free, often not.
enrichment class
Enrichment class
expedition cruise
Expedition cruises, or adventure cruises, cater to those seeking more off-the-beaten-path itineraries in places like the Galapagos, Antarctica, eastern Russia or Svalbard. The focus is on the experience at the destination — including viewing wildlife and scenery, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking or Zodiac excursions — rather than onboard activities.  Ships range from the high-end Silver Explorer to Lindblad Expeditions, G Adventures and Hurtigruten. They're best for the agile, physically fit and flexible-minded. 
Gentoo penguin in Antarctica
Gentoo penguin in Antarctica
flightseeing
Flightseeing is a form of sightseeing from the air, generally done in a small aircraft.
Flightseeing in Alaska
Flightseeing in Alaska
FlowRider
An onboard surf pool on some Royal Caribbean ships where guests can try their hand at surfing or boogie-boarding.
FlowRider
FlowRider
flyboard
flyboarding
A flyboard looks like a snowboard that you strap on to go flying over the water for sport. You mostly go straight up and down. It’s powered by water pumped through a hose connected to a Jet Ski. Also see: hoverboard and kiteboard, two other hydro-sports.
flyboard
flyboard
Freestyle Cruising
Norwegian Cruise Line's style of cruising, featuring casual dress and no set dinner times or assigned seating in restaurants. The idea is that you can dine when, where and with whomever you want. Other cruise lines offer this as well. (Freestyle Cruising is a registered trademark of NCL Corp.)
Norwegian Breakaway
Norwegian Breakaway
French balcony
A French balcony is not really a balcony. It's a glass door or wall-to-wall window that opens to give you fresh air and the feel of a veranda, minus the veranda, tables and chairs. Many river ships (constrained by width limitations) use them to give the feeling of turning your cabin into a veranda.
  French balcony
French balcony
funicular
A funicular is a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope. Travelers use them to ascend and descend steep walkways or to get to the top of hills, especially in some European cities.
Funicular
Funicular
funnel
A funnel is the smokestack on some cruise ships.
 
gateway
A gateway is a place or stop travelers use to reach their final destination. On an international trip from Miami to Rome, your gateway city might be Houston for the first leg of your journey to Miami.
 
GPS
GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a satellite navigation system that can be used to locate positions anywhere on the earth. It's widely used in mobile devices, vehicles, planes, ships — almost anything that moves these days.
 
gross registered ton (GRT)
A measurement of enclosed passenger space, including the space in cabins, lounges, showrooms and dining rooms. Although frequently misunderstood, GRT is a measure of volume, not weight.
 
holiday market
During the holidays, river cruise lines offer itineraries of Christmas markets, or holiday markets, featuring town squares festooned with the traditional sights, smells and tastes of Christmas.
Vienna
Holiday market, Vienna
home port
The port where passengers join a ship's cruises a majority of the time. Some ships make a home port out of Miami, Baltimore or Galveston, while other ships with more wide-ranging itineraries have no home port.
Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas
hosted cruise
A hosted cruise, chiefly offered on certain sailings by luxury cruise ships, offers a personable expert who serves as a an onboard host and on-shore tour guide. It also comes with special perks such as a cocktail reception or shore excursion. All of this comes as part of your base fare. On a hosted cruise you get a more personal, in-depth, intimate experience on board and in port because there are no crowds or lines.
Invitation-only party
Invitation-only party
hoverboard
As a water sport, a hoverboard lets you glide over the surface of the water. It’s powered by water pumped through a hose connected to a Jet Ski. You'll often find them in tropical destinations. Also see: flyboard and kiteboard, two other hydro-sports.
hoverboard
hoverboard
Inside Passage
The Inside Passage is a seagoing route along the U.S.-Canadian coast, extending from Seattle to Skagway, Alaska. It's a popular route for cruise ships.
The Inside Passage
The Inside Passage
inside stateroom
A stateroom that does not have a porthole, window or balcony.
 
International dateline
The International Dateline is an imaginary line running down the Pacific Ocean that separates one day from another. If it's 5 pm Monday in Los Angeles, it's already noon Tuesday in Sydney. When you travel from the United States to Australia, a day is "lost," but when you travel back, a day is "gained," and you'd set your watch back a day — so you get to relive the day again, like on "Groundhog Day." 
null
kiteboarding/
kitesurfing
Kiteboarding, sometimes called kitesurfing or sailboarding, is a new extreme sport that combines windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding. It's especially popular in tropical climates. Sure looks fun!
Kiteboarding in Tulum
Kiteboard in Tulum
knot
The measurement of a ship's speed. 1 knot = 1.15 mph on land, so 20 knots = 23 mph.
 
leeward
The side of an island (or ship) that is sheltered from the wind. In Hawaii, the leeward side faces west or south and is hot, dry, sunny; it tends to have more beaches than the windward side.
Kaena Point, Oahu
Kaena Point, Oahu
Lido deck
The open pool deck on a cruise ship, typically the top deck.
 
Loyalty program
Many cruise lines offer loyalty programs or past passenger programs that reward repeat customers. Benefits increase with frequency and perks might include shipboard credit, free laundry, get-togethers, etc.
 
Mexican Riviera
The Mexican Riviera refers to the string of popular cruise ports along Mexico's Pacific Coast, including Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.
Mazatlan.
Mazatlan
Michelin
The "Michelin Star" is a hallmark of fine dining and top-tier restaurants based on the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to select establishments.
Michelin star ratings .
Michelin star ratings
moor
To hold the ship in place with lines at a berth.
 
muster
muster drill
muster station
To muster is to assemble the passengers and crew of a ship for a safety drill. A muster drill is typically done at the beginning of a cruise to instruct the guests about where to go to get into lifeboats in case of an emergency. A muster station is where everyone meets.
A  lifeboat aboard Celebrity Solstice.
Cruise ship lifeboat
norovirus
Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, causing vomiting and diarrhea. To avoid it, wash your hands often and use the antiseptic gel available around the ship. Norovirus gets wide coverage in the media when an outbreak occurs on a cruise ship, though the Centers for Disease Control points out that your chances of coming down with norovirus are much greater on land — it affects 20 million people a year in all age ranges.
 
oceanview cabin
A stateroom with a porthole, window or balcony that overlooks the ocean.
 
onboard credit
A credit added to your onboard bill during your cruise. (Think of it as spending money, or as a credit on your credit card statement.) You might get it as a discount at the time of booking — say, as a thank-you from Cruiseable for booking with us — or from the cruise line as compensation for an unforeseen event. In general, onboard credits may be used toward the bar, spa, gift shop or shore excursions from the cruise line, but not gratuities. Also called a shipboard credit.
 
open seating
A dinner seating in which tables are not assigned — the opposite of assigned seating.
 
Owners Suite
An Owners Suite is a marketing terms for a high-end class of stateroom on a cruise ship, typically marked by a large living area, large separate bedroom and extra amenities. By the way, you don't really get to own it.
Owners Suite on Seabourn Spirit
Owners Suite on Seabourn Spirit
passenger capacity
There are two ways to calculate the passenger capacity of a ship: (1) Double occupancy. One way is to take the total number of rooms and multiply by two, with two people sharing one stateroom (Cruiseable uses this method). (2) Maximum capacity refers to the potential number of passengers for a full sailing, given that ships add convertible sofas, pull-downs or rollaway beds. For instance, Quantum of the Seas has 4,180 passengers at double occupancy and 4,905 passengers at maximum occupancy. Most ships sail near or above capacity — the industry average is 104%.
Quantum of the Seas
Quantum of the Seas
port
Port can mean (1) the port cities you visit on a cruise (also called ports of call); (2) port is the left side of the ship when you're facing toward the front of the vessel.
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia
pre- or post-
This is travel agent jargon for adding a few days to the beginning or end of your cruise, often at the port of departure or the port where the cruise ends or as a second component of your vacation.
 
promenade
Promenade refers to a deck big enough to allow passengers to walk around. On some ships the promenade serves as a jogging path, while on others it serves as a public space where you might encounter shops, restaurants or a carousel. 
Allure of the Seas
Allure of the Seas
repositioning cruise
A repositioning cruise is a one-way itinerary that brings a ship from one region of the world to another — say, from the Caribbean to Mediterranean or Alaska to the South Seas — when a cruise season ends and another begins. (You'll often find bargains when booking a repo cruise.).
Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam
sailing
A sailing is a cruise. Yes, it's still called a sailing even if the ship has no sails. But some do!
 
Sea-Band
Sea-Band is a knitted elasticated wrist band that can help prevent seasickness. It operates by applying pressure on an acupressure point on each wrist by means of a plastic stud. Because the bands don't contain drugs, they don't cause any of the side effects associated with anti-nausea drugs and can be used by adults and children. But not all people react favorably to Sea-Bands and some suggest they're counter-productive.
Sea-Bands are soft, comfortable bands you can fit on your wrist to avoid motion sickness on a ship or in a moving vehicle.
Sea-Bands
shipboard credit
A credit added to your onboard bill during your cruise. (Think of it as spending money, or as a credit on your credit card statement.) You might get it as a discount at the time of booking — say, as a thank-you from Cruiseable for booking with us — or from the cruise line as compensation for an unforeseen event. In general, shipboard credits may be used toward the bar, spa, gift shop or shore excursions from the cruise line, but not gratuities. Also called an onboard credit.
 
shipboard inspection
Cruise lines regularly make their ships available for shipboard inspections when the ship is in dock. The event, which lasts only a few hours, is invitation only and generally geared to travel agents and select guests. A shipboard inspection provides agents with a way to stay abreast of the ship's current features and amenities. (A ship inspection, conducted by agents with the Coast Guard or Centers for Disease Control, is a different matter altogether.)
 
shore excursion
A tour or guided activity that passengers take part in while ashore. You can book an independent shore excursion or one arranged by the cruise line.
 
shoulder season
Shoulder season is a travel period between the high prices of peak season and the lousy weather of the low/off-speak season.
 
single supplement
An extra charge solo travelers pay (alas!) to have just one person stay in a stateroom. Some cruise ships waive the single supplement, or reduce it, for certain sailings. Many river cruise lines offer sailings that don’t cost extra for solo travelers.
 
smartship
A smartship refers to a new generation of cruise ships that have been built to include new digital technologies such as faster, more widespread Internet (usually including video streaming and online social sharing), faster check-ins, bracelets or medallions that communicate passenger preferences or allow people to make reservations or purchases, and other advances.
 
snuba
Snuba is one part snorkeling, one part scuba diving. It's a form of surface-supplied diving in which the swimmer uses swim fins, a diving mask, weights and an underwater breathing system.
Snuba in Cozumel
Snuba in Cozumel
specialty
restaurant
Your cruise fare covers the cost of the ship's regular dining rooms and buffets. On many ships you have the choice of dining at a specialty or alternative restaurant that offers a higher end or niche dining venue, generally for an additional price, but not always. For example, Oceania Marina has four free and two for-a-fee specialty restaurants.
Crystal Serenity's Prego
Crystal Serenity's Prego
stabilizers
Stabilizers are winglike retractable devices that extend from the sides of a ship to reduce roll and produce a more stable ride.
 
starboard
Starboard is the right side of the ship when you're facing toward the front of the vessel.
 
stateroom
The cruise industry's preferred term for cabin.
 
stern
The stern is the physical back end of a ship where ship names are often placed. Aft, on the other hand, refers to either a direction or area toward the rear of a ship.
HMS Bounty's stern
HMS Bounty's stern
suite
On a cruise ship, a suite typically refers to a top-of-the-line stateroom with separate sleeping and living areas.
Penthouse Suite on Seabourn Odyssey
Penthouse Suite on Seabourn
tender
A small boat used to transport passengers from the ship to shore. Tenders are used when the harbor isn't deep enough for the ship to dock.
 
Thalassotherapy
A lot of upper-end cruise ships offer Thalassotherapy as part of a spa package. It refers to the therapeutic use of seawater and marine products to restore and remineralize the body. A lot of folks swear by it.
Canyon Ranch Spa on Queen Mary 2.
Canyon Ranch Spa on QM 2
theme cruise
A theme cruise, sometimes called an affinity cruise, is one that's geared toward people with common interests, such as a particular kind of music (rock legends, groove cruise), sports, history, politics, cooking, wine, computers, stargazing and so on. There are even zombie cruises (watch out!).
Styx
 
transatlantic cruise
A cruise that crosses the Atlantic Ocean, sometimes with longer itineraries, sometimes for repositioning cruises.
 
transfer
When you book a cruise, a transfer might be the bus ride from the airport to your cruise ship or from the ship to a hotel you’ve booked through the cruise line for a post-cruise stay. If you buy your air fare directly from the cruise line, it will often include transfers to and from the ship. Independent travelers can ask about paying extra for the ship-sponsored transfers.
 
trunk show
A trunk show is a short-term sales event that gives passengers the ability to buy merchandise not normally carried on board the ship. Diamonds and jewelry are popular items sold at trunk shows.
turnaround day
A turnaroud day is the day that a cruise ship is docked, usually in its home port, on the day of departure and the day of return. Imagine 5,000 or more passengers disembarking, another 5,000 getting on board with their luggage, new provisions that need to be loaded — it's a challenge for the crew!
 
veranda
A fancy name for the private balcony that comes with many staterooms on the exterior of a ship.
Veranda on Paul Gauguin
Veranda on Paul Gauguin
virtual balcony
Pioneered by Royal Caribbean, a virtual balcony is offered in interior cabins on its newer ships. It's a floor-to-ceiling 80-inch high-definition TV screen showing live views from the outside of the ship. Pretty cool!
 
voluntourism
Voluntourism allows you to engage in tourism while doing meaningful work as a volunteer. Organizations like Projects Abroad and businesses like Carnival's Fathom enable travelers to spend part of their vacations doing volunteer work with local communities.
Voluntourism in action
Voluntourism in action
whirlpool
A whirlpool, spa or Jacuzzi is a fiberglass or acrylic mini-pool filled with heated water with jets providing a swirling water action. Cruiseable uses the term whirlpool because spas refer to a treatment room aboard many ships, while  Jacuzzi is a company that makes whirlpools and it's not a generic term for whirlpool. A hottub is something different altogether. Just relax and don't worry about it.
Whirlpool on Crystal Symphony
Whirlpool on Crystal Symphony
windward
The side of an island that is facing the wind, or the side of a ship against which the wind is blowing. In Hawaii, the windward side faces east or north and is moderate, lush and green, often with waterfalls and lush jungle.
Maui's windward side
Maui's windward side
world cruise
A cruise that can take 3, 4 months or longer and that sails around the world. The cool thing is that guests can choose to cruise the entire time or just on select one-way segments.
Oceania Insignia
Oceania Insignia
zipline/
ziplining
Ziplining is a thrilling outdoor activity during which a rider wears a harness that is securely connected to a cable suspended high above the ground. The rider then glides along the zipline cable for an exhilarating experience.
Ziplining
Ziplining
Zodiac
Zodiac is a brand of inflatable boats that are especially popular on luxury ships and expedition cruises and used as tenders.
Paul Gauguin Zodiac

Cruiseable team
The Cruiseable editorial team consists of award-winning travel writers, cruise bloggers and journalists.

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