Cruise Terminology – What Does it All Mean?!

If you’re relatively new to the world of cruise, you might be unfamiliar with some of the cruising terminology that you might encounter when setting sail. But don’t worry, Holiday Hypermarket have got you covered! Familiarise yourself with these nautical words and phrases and your cruise will be nothing short of ‘plain sailing!’


The back of the ship.


The central passenger area on a cruise ship, similar to a hotel’s main lobby. This is where you’ll usually find reception.


The width of the ship at its widest point.


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


The beds in your cabin – for example you might have a 4-berth Balcony Cabin. It also refers to the dock or quay where a cruise ship ties up to the shore.


The front of the ship.


This is where you’ll find the Captain – it’s the elevated platform where he/she 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.

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.

Cruise Director

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


This refers to a floor of the ship. A deck plan will show passengers what they can find on each floor/deck of the ship.


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


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

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 cruise line – Marella Cruises’ fleet now totals six ships!


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. You’ll usually see gratuities referred to more often with American cruise lines. Marella Cruises are great in that they cover all tips/charges in the cost of your cruise, so you don’t have to worry about it.


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


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

Inaugural cruise

This is typically the first time a cruise ship sets sail with paying passengers onboard.


The schedule of destinations you’ll visit on your cruise in a day-by-day format, including any sea days you have.


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.

Lido deck

The deck of a cruise ship with outdoor pools.


The midpoint of the ship.

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.

Open seating

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


Usually refers to your destinations – a town or city that has a harbour or access to navigable water where ships can dock for a period of time.

Port side

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. You’ll find these in an Outside Cabin, which usually features a porthole giving you sea views.

Repositional cruise

A one-way cruise that begins and ends in different ports as a ship moves from one region of the world to another, at the start/end of a cruising season. Meaning you might get stops in the Med and the Caribbean, all in one sailing!

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.

Sea day

A day where the ship stays out at sea and does not visit a port – a day to fully appreciate the ship’s facilities!

Single supplement

As cruise fares are based on double occupancy, travelling solo may incur an additional cost. This is best avoided by booking a Single Cabin.


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


Some cruise lines use this as 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.


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


The side of the ship facing the wind.

Ready to put your knowledge to the test?

By no means will you have to use all of these when you cruise, but they’re always handy to know! Chuck a few of these terms out to your new cruise buddies around the pool and you’ll sound like a pro sailer in no time!

Find your perfect cruise here.