It’s not a boat, it’s a ship!

If you’re new to cruising, you might get confused with all the cruise lingo you find on Facebook groups, brochures or cruise line websites. Acronyms such as MDR or OBC will have you scratch your head.

When we first started to cruise, 30 somewhat years ago, there were no social media or Google to enlighten us. It took some time to understand it all. 🙂

I’ve put together this glossary for you because I don’t want you to feel like an outsider! You’ll be speaking like a pro in no time.

A to D cruise terms

ABC islands: these referred to the 3 most Southern islands on a Caribbean cruise itinerary, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, which are located all the way down just above Venezuela.

All Aboard: when the ship is in port and you are going ashore, you will see a sign with the time passengers have to be back onboard.

Aft: the back of the ship. You’ll see the term used in cabin locations, such as aft balcony cabins.

Anytime dining: gives you the option to dine when and with whom you want between a set time. You can make reservations from your cabin, but it might be very hard to get the time you want or just show up when you want to eat and you will probably have to wait. A beeper will be given to you to let you know when your table is ready.

Assigned seating: is the traditional way where you dine every night at the same table, with the same passengers, served by the same waiters and at the same time.

Atrium: the central part of the ship, similar to a hotel lobby. It usually is open up 3 or 4 decks.

Captain's champagne waterfall on Regal Princess
Atrium on Regal Princess

Balcony: you can book a cabin with a balcony, the size of which varies from ship to ship.

Boarding: the process of checking-in and then boarding the ship and get to your cabin.

Bow: the front of the ship.

Cabin/stateroom: you will stay in a cabin, also called stateroom.

Cabin steward: the wonderful staff that will clean your room everyday.

Coffee card: on most cruise ships, you have the option to buy a coffee card which includes a number of specialty coffees at a reduced price.

Cruise Director: the person responsible for all activities and entertainment on the ship and introducing the entertainers of the shows in the theatre.

Decks: a ship has decks not floors.

Disembarkation: the last day of your cruise, the process of getting off the ship. Not everyone disembark at the same time, it would be a disaster 🙂 Passengers are assigned an approximate time when they will be allowed to get off, based on their needs, specifically if they are flying home.

E to K cruise terms

Eastern Caribbean: a cruise itinerary including ports in the upper Eastern part of the Caribbean, typically that would be the Bahamas, Grand Turk , St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Martin/Maarten and St. Lucia.

Embarkation: the process of going through security, registering and then boarding your ship.

Formal nights: there is at least one formal night on a cruise, which means passengers will dress up for dinner and through the evening. I explained here what kind of clothes to pack.

Forward: the front of the ship.

Galley: on a ship, it’s not a kitchen but a galley. If you have the chance to take the tour, you will see that it’s a huge, I mean enormous, space with many stations where specific food is prepared for all meals.

Gangway: a specific area usually located on the 4th deck where you can get off the ship when in port.

Guaranteed: pricing where you pay a specific price for a specific category of cabin, but you cannot choose your cabin. It will be assigned to you some time maybe a week before your cruise.

Inside cabin: a cabin which has no window. The cheapest category you can book. These are on most decks of the ship.

Key card: this is your key to your cabin, your id to get off the ship, your id to buy anything on the ship. Princess now has on a few ships what they call Medallion which replaces the card. This round device can be worn on a chain around your neck or on a bracelet, which you need to buy. It also has other features other than being your key.

L to Q cruise terms

Lido deck: The open top deck on a cruise ship, where you’ll find pools, entertainment, bars, food. On a Caribbean cruise, it is the place to be to enjoy all the outdoor stuff under the sun.

Life boats: they have certainly improved since the Titanic! Nowadays, these have more than one motor, carry survival equipment, and are allowed to carry only a certain number of passengers in the event of emergency. And yes they have more than enough life boats to carry everyone.

Life jacket: similar to life jackets you would use at home. Each person, even children and infants, have their own life jacket in their cabin.

MDR: Main Dining Rooms. This is one of the venues where passengers will eat for free as it is included in the price of their cruise. Depending on the size of the ship, there could be 2, 3 or 4 dining rooms.

Muster drill/muster station: A muster drill is mandatory and is done just before the ship leaves the departure port. You will be advised what time and where you need to go assemble. You will then receive instructions on what to do in an emergency.

MUTS: Movies Under the Stars. This one belongs to Princess only. There is a huge outdoor screen on most of Princess cruise ships. There is most of the time something playing on it during the day, such as concerts or children’s movies. At night, you can go and watch the latest movies, sitting on lounge chairs, eating popcorn under the stars. On the day of the Super Bowl, fans (like my husband) find their chair early in the morning and spend the day there. It’s quite the experience to watch the game on the huge screen.

OBC: Onboard credits. I explain in details here how to earn them.

Obstructed view: a category of outside cabin where your view will be obstructed by lifeboats.

Oceanview cabin: a cabin with a window/porthole.

Outside cabin: a category of cabins which would include those with porthole/window, balcony, mini-suites and suites

Pier runners: those passengers that are late coming back to the ship. Some do miss the ship! Many of us line up the promenade deck to watch for those.

Port of call: a port cruise ship will dock at.

Port pilot: every port in the world has port pilots. There is one on each cruise ship leaving or entering a port. The pilot disembark once the ship has passed the buoys, and yes while the ship is still sailing. The same procedure happens once a ship arrives at a port, the pilot gets on and helps maneuver the ship through the ‘channel’ and ‘park’ the ship at the port.

Port side: the left side of the ship as you look forward. I never could figure out which side I was on, until someone told me how to remember: Port has 4 letters and Left has 4 letters.

Porthole: A round window, usually smaller than the standard picture window of an outside cabin.

Princess Patter: the daily guide of activities on Princess ships. It is delivered to your cabin so you can plan what you want to do every day.

Private island: islands owned or leased by cruise lines offering passengers exclusive use. The islands are the extensions of the ship in the sense that they have free beach chairs, free BBQ lunch, free children’s area. You can also rent snorkeling equipment, book excursions, have a drink at the various bars ($). For example, Princess Cays is on the southern tip of the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. Holldand America owns a 2,400-acre island known as Half Moon Cay.  Disney, RCCL and NCL also have their own private island.

Promenade deck: the name of the deck that is usually located around the 7th floor and would wrap around the whole ship. It is often used by passengers wishing to walk and stay fit. All ships have a promenade deck but not all of them will go all around the ship.

R to Z cruise terms

Repositioning or repo cruise: as the seasons change, cruise lines need to move ships from one region to another, as example, from the Caribbean to Alaska. These cruises are often less expensive as there are less ports involved.

Sail away: the beginning of your cruise vacation, when the ship leaves the departure port and the sail away party on deck.

Sea days or days at sea: the days of the cruise when your ship is sailing from one port to another taking one or 2 days to reach the next port. I love these days, sitting on my balcony, reading and listening to the sound of the waves!

Ship account: on a cruise ship you do not use cash. You have an account where the charges accumulate and at the end of the cruise you will be billed on your credit card that was given at the time of booking.

Ship not boat: 🙂 a boat is a small to midsized vessel. Ships are specifically made to carry cargo or passengers or boats.

Shore excursions: tours offered at each port by either local operators or by the ship’s excursion desk.

Southern Caribbean: an itinerary that will take you further down into the Caribbean to more remote islands like Dominica, Grenada, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These cruises are longer than 7 days as you need more days at sea to reach the ports.

Specialty Restaurants: your cruise fare includes the dining room and buffet restaurants. Nowadays, many cruise lines offer the option of dining at a specialty restaurant for a small fee, such as the Crown Grill on Princess, an amazing steak house, or Sabatini also on Princess, an Italian restaurant.

Starboard: the right-hand side of the ship, facing forward.

Stern: the back or aft-most part of a ship.

Tender: some ports’ water is too shallow for the cruise ships, so in order to bring the passengers to land, the lifeboats and/or local water taxis are used to get you from the ship to land. For example, Grand Cayman is a tender port so is Belize.

Transfers: your transport from airport to ship, ship to airport, or ship to hotel. Each cruise line offer transfers but you pay for it and you have to wait until the whole bus is full. We take a taxi in Fort Lauderdale, much cheaper than cruise line transfers.

Transatlantic cruise: a cruise that crosses the Atlantic Ocean, leaving from Florida to take you to Europe.

Western Caribbean: cruise itineraries that would include Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cuba, Mexico, Belize City and Roatan.

You are now a cruise lingo expert or at least feel like an insider!

Enjoy your cruise whenever and wherever you sail!