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.
Beam: the width of a ship, distance from side to side.
Berth: a bed on the floor (used to determine a ship's "official" capacity).
Bow: the front, leading edge of the ship. 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 false wave thereby reducing resistance.
Capacity: the number of berths on a ship, not including pull-down and rollaway beds. Therefore, a ship can carry several hundred more passengers than its registered capacity. This is why cruise lines regularly report their quarterly capacity at well over 100%.
Cruise-tour: a land trip, usually of 3-5 days added. onto either end of a cruise.
Disembark: "to leave," as when a passenger leaves a ship.
Draft: how deeply a ship floats in the water; the distance from the waterline to the deepest portion of the ship. It is the minimum depth of the water that required to float the ship.
Embark: to come aboard a ship.
Forward: in the direction of the front (bow) of the ship.
Galley: the "kitchen" area where the food is stored and prepared.
Gangway: a stairway or ramp passengers and crew use to board the ship.
Gross Tonnage: a common way to convey the size of a ship depicting the total internal volume of a ship.
Homeport: the main port where the ship begins and ends its cruise.
Keel: a 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 along the length of the ship, between bow and stern.
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 go if an emergency bell sounds.
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.
On board credit (OBC): credit applied to your on board purchases.
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.
Port: a facility for a ship to interface with land; or 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. Good value cruises.
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 "credit card" that works as your room key, boarding pass, identification card and onboard charge card during the cruise.
Shorex: short for "shore excursion," 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: an ocean wave when out at sea; the up and down motion of the surface of the sea.
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.
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.
Care to add to our Cruise Glossary? If so, post your suggestions here: Cruise Glossary.