The A-Z of Cruising: All the Onboard Lingo You Need to Know


Originally posted by Claire Wilde on 21 May 2017 | Updated by Darcy Alexander on 24 January 2020

Whether you’re booking a cruise for the first time or you’re about to embark on your maiden voyage, you might want to brush up on some of the terms you might hear during the booking process or whilst out-and-about on the decks.

Our A-Z of cruising terms covers all the phrases you’ll need to navigate your way through the booking process and sound like a cruise ship pro on board.

Cabin Lingo

  • Accessible room: thoughtfully designed for guests with mobility problems. Including features such as wider doors, roll-in showers and accessible balconies to make getting around much easier
  • Balcony room: a balcony offers a great space to relax, soak up the sun and take in the ocean views. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your ship and put your feet up on your own private balcony with your favourite drink.
  • Butler: Yes, you really can have your very own butler on board! Whilst cruising, a butler helps with tasks such as packing and unpacking, making reservations for you in the restaurants or spas and can also deliver meals, snacks and drinks to your room. You’ll tend to find Butlers in the swankiest suites, although Silversea has them in every cabin.
  • Cabin attendants: Your cabin will be cleaned by a cabin attendant who may also be referred to as a steward or stewardess.
  • Connecting cabin: If you’re travelling in a group, you can often connect cabins, allowing you to stay together whilst maintaining privacy with a private bedroom/bathroom.
  • Inside cabin: a cabin with no window or balcony. Some Royal Caribbean ships have virtual balconies which stream real-time footage from the deck into your room which makes your room feel more spacious.
  • Loft suite: typically set over two levels, giving you a mezzanine sleeping area and a separate living area. Giving the room a more spacious feel
  • Oceanview: either a porthole or panoramic windows.
  • Pullman bed: a bed which pulls down from the wall and folds up when not in use. Some cruise lines offer sofa beds with the same idea.
  • Stateroom: another word for a cabin on a ship.
  • Suite: Suites are the most luxurious, spacious and most expensive rooms on the ship. They can either be slightly larger than balcony cabins or anything up to a gigantic, multilevel room which is big enough to live in. Typically find spacious bathrooms, generous storage space and giant balconies including lounges, maybe a dining table or hot tub (see Holland America’s Penthouse Veranda Suites or Norwegian Sky’s slightly more affordable Owner’s Suite). You’ll also enjoy higher standards of services like a butler and concierge, priority boarding, access to exclusive areas and a lot more besides.
  • Veranda room: another word for a balcony.

General Lingo

  • Bridge: home to the ship’s navigational controls and is therefore off-limits to passengers. Some smaller lines allow visits to the Bridge at prearranged times.
  • Charter: To hire a ship. Often find groups or companies will charter some or all of a particular ship for a get-together or event. Before you book, check with your agent to see if there will be partial charters on your sailing. Large groups sometimes book out an entire restaurant on particular nights leaving them unavailable to other passengers.
  • Crossing: a sailing that will cross either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.
  • Cruise contract: your booking will be subject to certain terms and conditions. These are contained in the ‘Cruise contract’. The contract covers matters such as what happens if your cruise is delayed or cancelled. Although they tend to be full of legal jargon, it is worth reading them before booking to ensure that the terms meet your requirements – for example, if you are pregnant, you may not be able to travel or may need to provide a letter from your Doctor.
  • Cruise director: the public face of the cruise ship and will host as master of ceremonies at high profile events such as the captain’s reception.
  • Cruise fare: the amount you pay for your cruise. This will include or exclude items such as food/drink and excursions.
  • Deck plan: Cruise ships can be huge! Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Sea is a staggering 1,188 ft in length, catering for up to 6,780 passengers. A deck plan is a map of the ship and will help you find your way around, locating your stateroom and other key areas such as the restaurants, shops and elevators.
  • Disembarkation: to leave the ship when the cruise is finished.
  • Dock: If a ship is due to dock at a destination, this means it will sail into the port and deploy the gangway so you can walk off the ship. Compare this to ‘tender’ below.
  • Double occupancy: Cruise fares are typically quoted based on double occupancy – i.e two people in one cabin. An increasing number of cruise ships now have solo cabins – otherwise, if you’re a solo traveller you may find yourself paying a ‘single supplement’ which can almost double the cost of your cruise.
  • Embarkation: to board the ship at the beginning of the cruise.
  • First seating: Ships used to provide fixed dinner times – the first seating was dinner served early on, while the second seating was later. It is less common to see these arrangements now with open seating being the norm.
  • Guarantee: a type of cruise fare. It means that you book a type of cabin but you aren’t assigned a particular cabin number. If that type of cabin sells out, you may find your cabin is upgraded. If not, you’re guaranteed to get the type of cabin you requested.
  • Itinerary: informs you what will happen from day to day – including sea days and ports of call.
  • Port expenses: Each port that you stop at will charge the cruise company a fee that is based on local rates. The cruise company passes this charge on to you under the heading ‘port expenses’. Cruise fares don’t usually include port expenses or any other local taxes/fees.
  • Purser: The purser, as you might expect from the name, deals with the money on board. You’ll find there are both Crew Pursers who help passengers and perform regular duties such as emptying vending machines – together with a Chief Purser who is a senior officer. The Chief Purser manages the crew pursers and also typically allocates customers’ tips to the relevant department or crew member.
  • Repositioning cruise: when a cruise line needs to move the cruise ship from one part of the world to another. The cruise is a one-way itinerary so if you take it, you’ll have to fly home. Repositioning cruises often occur as the season’s change and they are worth watching for as they typically offer great value.
  • Run of ship: same as a ‘guarantee’ – see above.
  • Sea day: a day when the cruise ship will not visit any ports and will there be sailing in open water. During a typical 21-day cruise, you might, for example, have 6 sea days as you travel between ports.
  • Shorex: a shore excursion. Some excursions are included in the price of the cruise – while others can be booked individually or in packages. You can also book shore excursions independently of the cruise line although care should be taken as these may not have been evaluated for quality and safety.
  • Single supplement: As noted under ‘double occupancy’ above, if you’re travelling solo you are likely to pay a single supplement. Look out for the cruise lines that have solo cabins with no extra charge.
  • Tender: If one of your ports of call says ‘tender’ next to it, it means the ship will not actually go into the port. Instead, it will anchor in a nearby bay and you will be taken to and from the shore on a smaller vessel.
  • Transatlantic: this means the ship will cross the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Transfer: If you’ve flown abroad before, you’ll know that transfers take you from the airport to your accommodation. In a cruising context, a transfer might take you from the airport to your ship, or from the ship to a hotel at the end of your break. If you book flights through the cruise line, transfers are usually included.
  • Transpacific: A transpacific cruise will cross the Pacific Ocean.

Now that you’ve got the lingo sorted it’s time to book a cruise! Take a look at our fantastic cruise deals here. Alternatively, you can give our friendly sales team a call on 0808 2746 777

The A-Z of Cruising: Learn Common Cruise Ship Phrases
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The A-Z of Cruising: Learn Common Cruise Ship Phrases
Do you know your inside cabins from your pullman beds? Take a look at our list of common phrases you'll hear on your next cruise holiday.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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