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Cruise jargon: your glossary guide to cruising

Lorna Cowan / 08 August 2016 ( 17 March 2021 )

Does cruise jargon leave you confused? Do nautical terms tie you in knots? Make it plain sailing with our glossary guide to cruising.

Deck chairs on a cruise ship
Meet me on the port side deck? Knowing your port from your starboard is a must for cruise goers!

Adult-only cruise

A cruise that doesn’t allow children, therefore passengers are able to enjoy a more peaceful, and perhaps more romantic, holiday.


The back of the ship.

All-inclusive cruise

A cruise where you pay for meals, snacks, drinks, activities, entertainment, gratuities, travel and transfers upfront.

All-inclusive cruising: what you need to know


When the ship is docked beside the pier or next to another ship.


On land.


The central passenger area on a cruise ship, similar to a hotel’s lobby. Here you’ll usually find the reception desk and purser’s desk.


The width of the ship at its widest point.


The compass direction from a ship to a particular destination, in degrees.


The bed in your cabin. Also refers to the dock or quay where a cruise ship ties up to the shore.

Boutique ship

A luxurious elegant cruise aboard a small ship.


The front of the ship.


The elevated platform where the captain steers and navigates the ship.


A floating object in the sea used for marking a channel or highlighting a hazard, for example a reef. Smaller vessels can also be moored or tied to a buoy.


A crew member who is allocated to a cabin and will look after general daily tasks, such as unpacking a suitcase and booking dining reservations, as well as serving snacks and drinks.


The sleeping compartment or room on a cruise ship. Can also be referred to as a stateroom.

Cabin steward

A crew member who cleans and looks after the housekeeping of your room.


The number of passengers that can be accommodated on a ship.


The person in charge of a cruise ship, responsible for steering the ship and giving directions to all other members of the crew.

Cast off

To release a ship for its mooring.

Coastal cruise

A cruise that stays close to dry land.


The direction in which a ship is heading.

Crew to passenger ratio

The total number of passengers divided by the number of crew members.

Cruise director

The crew member who is responsible for all the ship’s activities and entertainment. Often acts as the emcee at events.


The floor of the ship. A deck plan will show passengers what they can find on each floor of the ship.


The process of leaving a cruise ship at the end of the voyage.


A berth or quay where a cruise ship ties up to the shore.

Double occupancy

Two people sharing one cabin, whether in a double or twin room. Most cruise fares are based on double occupancy.

Drinks packages

A selection of alcohol and soft drink bundles, available to buy upfront as an extra.


The process of boarding a cruise ship at the start of the voyage.

Cruise embarkation: what you need to know about boarding a cruise ship

Expedition cruise

A cruise usually on a small ship, often with an ice-strengthened hull, which takes passengers off the beaten track. Hosted by expedition leaders and expert lecturers. Also known as an adventure cruise.


A number of ships operating under the same ownership.

Fly cruise

A cruise that you jump on a plane and join in foreign climes, rather than cruising from your home country.

Our smaller ocean cruise ships allow us to go where other ships can't. Find out where we sail.


Towards the front or bow of a cruise ship.


The kitchen on a ship.


The ramp or staircase from the ship to the quay or pier used by passengers to get on and off the ship.


A tip. Sometimes included in the price of a cruise.


A type of cruise fare where a passenger books a specific grade of accommodation but is not given a specific room number. If that cabin category sells out, passengers may be given a cabin upgrade.


The wheel that steers the ship, located on the bridge.


The outside shell of a ship from the main deck down to the keel.

Inaugural cruise

A cruise on a refurbished or reconstructed ship.


The schedule of destinations and days at sea on your cruise.

Juliette balcony

Also known as a Juliet or French balcony, these are not really a balcony you can sit on, rather a floor-to-ceiling sliding door with a small ledge.


The main structure of a ship that extends lengthwise along the centre of the ship’s bottom.


A unit of speed equivalent to one nautical mile per hour.


The side of the ship sheltered from the wind.


The deck of a cruise ship with outdoor pools.

Britain's best lidos


An official book for recording daily events.

Maiden voyage

The first journey of a cruise ship.

Maître d’

The crew member in charge of the dining room.


The midpoint of the ship.


The means of tying a ship to a dock, quay or buoy.

Muster drill

A lifeboat safety drill where all passengers must follow instructions and learn what to do in an emergency. A muster station is the location where passengers must gather.

Nautical mile

A unit used in measuring distances at sea, equivalent to 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet.

Ocean cruise

A cruise on the open sea.

Find out more about Saga's ocean cruises

Open seating

When no fixed time or fixed seating arrangement is given for dining.


Over the side of the ship.

Passenger space ratio

The enclosed space per passenger.


The left side of the ship when facing forward, marked by a red light. Easy to remember as the words ‘port’ and ‘left’ both have four letters.


A round window on a ship.


The crew member responsible for looking after all the monetary transactions on the ship. Will deal with any issues regarding your onboard bill.

Repositioning cruise

A one-way cruise that beings and ends in different ports as a ship moves from one cruising region of the world to another.

River cruise

As it says on the tin, a cruise along a river.


The movement of a ship when it sways side to side. Rarely experienced on large cruise ships.

Sail cruise

A cruise aboard a sailing ship with masts and sails.

Sea day

A day where the ship stays out at sea and does not visit a port.


A tour or excursion sold onboard a cruise ship.

Solo occupancy

One person in a cabin. As cruise fares are based on double occupancy, travelling solo may incur a single supplement.

Find out more about solo cruises with Saga


A wine waiter in charge of helping passengers choose their wine.

Speciality restaurant

A restaurant aboard a ship, perhaps a pizzeria, steak and grill house or à la carte restaurant, which offers alternative dining to the main restaurant. Reservations are often necessary and dining there can be an added extra.


The right side of the ship when facing forward, marked by a green light.


Another word for cabin.


The very back of a ship.


A small boat that transports passengers from a cruise ship to the shore when the ship is unable to dock at a quay or berth and is therefore anchored in a harbour. Also refers to the ship’s lifeboats.


A bus or taxi ride from the airport or hotel to your docked cruise ship. Usually included in the price if you’ve bought your flight and cruise together from one cruise company.


The trail of waves at the stern of the ship created as the ship moves forward.


The side of the ship facing the wind.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.