CruiseMates readers help us assemble a list of the most commonly used terms in cruising.
Aft: in the direction of the back (stern) of the ship.
Bar Setup: full size bottles of alcohol available for in room consumption. Some cruise lines sell these.
Beam: the maximum width of a ship, distance from side to side.
Berth: a bed on the floor, a term used to determine a ship's "official" capacity, usually two per stateroom.
Bow: the front, leading edge of the ship, aka the "pointy end."
Bridge: the room where the navigational staff (captain) steers the ship.
Bulbous Bow: a forward extension of the keel which creates a frontal wave to reduce resistance.
Capacity: the number of passengers carried usually including pull-down and rollaway beds. A ship can usually carry more passengers than the number of berths so cruise lines often report quarterly capacity at well over 100%.
Captain's party: a cocktail party for all cruisers usually held before dinner the first formal night.
Cruise-tour: a land trip, usually of 3-5 days, added onto either end of a cruise.
Direct booking: booking with the cruise line yourself rather than using a travel agent.
Disembark: usually refers to a passenger leaving a ship, can also refer to a ship leaving port.
Document Dance: the intuitive response to seeing your cruise tickets arrive in the mail.
Double digit midgit: a cruiser scheduled to sail in 99 days or less - politically incorrect message board term abbreviated DDM
Draft: how deeply a ship floats in the water; the distance from the waterline to the deepest portion of the ship.
e-docs: the computer paperwork printed after completing your cruise reservation over the Internet
Embarkation: the process of loading passengers aboard a cruise ship
Forward: in the direction of the front (bow) of the ship.
Free-style Cruising®: a term invented by NCL that generally means no assigned dining times or tables in restaurants. The idea is that one can dine when, where and with whom they want.
Friends of Bill W.: onboard meetings following the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Friends of Dorothy: onboard gatherings of gay cruisers. Dorothy is from the Wizard of Oz.
Galley: the "kitchen" area where the food is stored and prepared.
Gangway: a stairway or ramp passengers and crew use to access the ship.
Gross Tonnage: a standard term to convey the size of a ship by measuring its total internal volume.
Homeport: the regional port where passengers join a ship's cruises a majority of the time.
Keel: the heavy steel shaft along the bottom of the ship that keeps it upright.
Key card: the magnetic strip plastic card used as your room key and to make onboard purchases. Also called "Sign and Sail card."
Knot: (nautical mile): a measure of a ship's speed, a common expression is one knot equals 1.1506779 statute (land) miles. Technically, it is a measure of distance or location where one knot equals one minute of latitude along any meridian.
Midship (amidships): the area of the ship generally halfway between bow and stern along the length of the ship.
Minibar: usually just a small refrigerator containing alcoholic beverages and a cabinet with glasses, ice bucket, etc.
Muster Drill: a safety drill run at the beginning of every cruise. Passengers are shown where to find their life vests, and where to assemble to prepare to enter their assigned lifeboats (muster station).
Muster Station: the place crewmembers and passengers are instructed to assemble if an emergency bell sounds. From the muster station passengers would be guided to lifeboats in an emergency.
Norwalk Virus: a common gastro-intestinal virus causing vomitting and diarrhea that can break out on cruise ships. To avoid it wash your hands often.
Onboard account: a running bill for purchases made on the ship, usually delivered to your room the last night and paid just before leaving the ship.
Onboard credit (OBC): credit applied towards your onboard purchases. Often an incentive or reward, or compensation.
Past passenger program: cruise line programs to reward repeat passengers. Benefits increase with frequency, perks include free laundry, get-togethers, ship credit, etc. Aka loyalty programs.
Pilot: a local navigation specialist who comes aboard to assist the captain in navigating certain ports.
Pilot boat: the small boat which brings the pilot to or retrieves the pilot from the ship.
Pitch: up and down motion of ship usually as it sails perpendicular to the ocean swells. Most obvious at the bow of the ship.
Pod: a self-contained ship's engine and propellar mounted onto the hull at the back of the ship. Pods can rotate to steer the ship, replacing traditional propellar and rudder systems.
Port: a facility for a ship to interface with land; (2) the left side of the ship when facing forward.
Purser: officer in charge of financial accounting on a ship, works at the passenger service's desk, or "front desk." Watches your onboard spending and tallies your final bill.
Repeater's party: a cocktail party hosted for passengers who have sailed the cruise line before (past passenger party).
Repositioning Cruise: Fall and Spring journeys from one seasonal cruising region to another; known for many days at sea while you cross the world's major oceans. Generally good value cruises on a per diem basis.
Room Steward: the person who cleans your stateroom, delivers towels, etc.
Rocking: side to side motion of the ship, usually as a ship sails parallel to the ocean swells.
Sail & Sign Card: a magnetic stripe plastic card that works as your room key, boarding pass, identification card and onboard charge card during the cruise.
Shore Excursion: a tour sold onboard a cruise ship, (shorex) the staff who offers and manages land tours.
Starboard: the right-hand side of the ship when facing forward.
Stern: the rounded, back end of the ship.
Swell: the rising and rolling motion of the surface of the sea away from shore, a non-breaking ocean wave.
Tender: a small boat used to get passengers ashore when a ship is at anchor instead of alongside a dock. Tenders are used regularly in islands with no dock facilities. Tenders often look like lifeboats.
Theme cruise: a cruise geared toward people with a common interest, i.e. sports, culinary, music, etc.
Thruster: small perpendicularly mounted propellers in the keel that move the ship sideways, usually located both forward and aft.
Traditional dining: the system where passengers eat at the same time and table each evening with the same tablemates and waitstaff each night. This is largely being replaced by open-seating, anytime dining.
Transatlantic: a cruise that crosses the Atlantic ocean in either direction
Transcanal: a cruise that sails through a canal, most often used in reference to the Panama Canal
Travel insurance: insurance to cover various aspects of loss before or during your vacation.
Underway: the time when the ship is sailing from one port to the next
Windward: exposed to the wind, as on one side of an island prone to prevailing winds
Last Updated 8-2009. Care to add to our Cruise Glossary? If so, post your suggestions here: Cruise Glossary.