Travel Terms Glossary


  • Aft: Near, toward, or at the rear (stern) of the ship.
  • Ahoy: The traditional greeting onboard ships. The term originated as a Viking battle cry!
  • Atrium: An interior, often sky-lit, multi-deck, open area of a ship. Typically, atriums are centrally located near elevators, shops, restaurants, cafes, and guest services.


  • Beam: The width of a ship at its widest point. Ships in excess of 110 feet are too wide to transit the Panama Canal.
  • Berth: There are two definitions: the dock or pier where you embark or debark from the ship; the bed in which you sleep onboard the ship.
  • Bearing: The ship’s compass direction, such as a “northwest bearing.”
  • Bow: The front part of a ship. The opposite of the bow is the stern.
  • Bridge: The navigation and command center of the vessel. If your cruise offers a tour of the bridge, take it!
  • Bulkhead: Basically, a wall. A bulkhead is an upright partition dividing the ship into compartments or cabins.


  • Cabin: Your room. Call it a cabin, a stateroom, a suite, an accommodation, whatever – it’s your personal space onboard.
  • Category: A price gradient of cabins, usually presented from the most expensive to . the least expensive. Cabins in the same category are usually on the same deck and general location, and provide similar features and amenities, Individual cabin layouts and furnishings may differ slightly.


  • Davit: A shipboard device used in lowering and raising the ship’s lifeboats or tenders. Stroll out onto your ship’s promenade and introduce yourself to the davits.
  • Debark/debarkation: To exit, or the process of exiting.the ship. The term “disembark” is also used.
  • Deck: On a ship, the different floors are called “decks.”
  • Deck Plan: An overhead diagram illustrating cabin and public room locations in relation to each other.


  • Embark/embarkation: To enter, or the process of entering or boarding the ship.


  • Fantail: The rear overhang of a ship.
  • Fore: The front (or bow)of the ship.
  • Forward: Toward the fore (or bow) of the ship.


  • Gangway: The ramp by which passengers embark or debark a ship.
  • Galley: The ship’s kitchen. A mega-ship’s galley may serve over 6,000 passenger meals each day.
  • Gentleman Host: A cruise-sponsored program whereby well-traveled, mature gentlemen (usually retired bankers, businessmen, etc.) are employed shipboard to serve as dance partners, conversationalists, and shore excursion escorts for single women.
  • Gratuities: Basically – tips extended to cabin attendants and dining service personnel.
  • Guarantee: Pay attention here – A “guarantee” is the cruise line’s promise that the passenger will sail on a stated voyage in a specified price category or type of cabin, at an agreed rate no higher than would ordinarily apply for that voyage. Due to space and yield management requirements, a cruise line may “upgrade” guarantee passengers to a higher level of service. Passengers who choose a guarantee arrangement, however, are unable to choose a particular cabin.


  • Inaugural Sailing: The first “official” sailing of a ship with passengers, usually directly following the ship’s “Naming Ceremony.”
  • Inside Cabin: A cabin having no exterior-facing (sea-view) windows or portholes.
  • Inside Passage: The sheltered channels of British Columbia and southeastern Alaska protected from the Pacific Ocean by forested islands.
  • Itinerary:  A ship’s schedule of port stops and days at sea. Most cruise itineraries vary from 3 to 12 days.


  • Jacobs Ladder: A rope ladder lowered from the deck of a ship while at sea, to facilitate the boarding of crew or emergency staff.


  • Keel: The centerline of a ship running from fore to aft. Think of it as the spine, or backbone of a ship.
  • Knot: A unit of speed reflecting one nautical mile per hour, or 1.15 land miles per hour. (A nautical mile is 6,080.2 feet; a land mile is 5,280 feet, hence the speed differential.) Most cruise ships move along at about 18 to 23 knots.


  • Lifeboat: Small boat carried on the vessel and used in case of emergency. By law, the total capacities of all lifeboats far exceed the total number of passengers and crew members onboard.
  • Leeward: The side of the ship sheltered from the wind.


  • M.S.: Abbreviation for “Motor Ship.”
  • Maiden Voyage: The first sailing of a ship following sea trials.
  • Midship: In or toward the middle of the ship; the longitudinal center portion of the ship. Midship cabins tend to be pricier because they generally experience less motion during rough seas.
  • Muster Drill: A safety demonstration conducted by members of the ship’s staff that instructs passengers on the route to and location of their muster station, use of their life preservers, and other important safety information. The muster drill is usually conducted before or shortly after the cruise departure.


  • Nautical Mile: A distance equal to 6,082.2 feet. A land mile is 5,280 feet.


  • Open Seating (or Open Sitting): Access at any time to unoccupied tables in the ship’s dining room, as opposed to specific table assignments.
  • Outside Cabin: A cabin having window(s) or porthole(s) offering an exterior view.


  • Panamax: The Panama Canal permits ships no wider than approximately 110 feet any wider and the ship just won’t fit. Ships that measure under that maximum are often referred to as “Panamax” ships.
  • Pitch: The rise and fall of the ship’s bow while at sea.
  • Port (Portside): The left side of the ship when facing forward.
  • Porthole: Circular “window” in the side of the ship’s hull or superstructure.
  • Port Charges: A charge levied of cruise lines by local government authorities. This charge is passed on to the cruise passenger.
  • Port-of-Call: A country, island or territory, or population center a cruise ship visits.


  • Repositioning: Typically, when a vessel moves from one seasonal cruise area to another i.e. from Alaska in the summer to the Caribbean in the winter.
  • Roll: Sway of the ship from side to side while at sea.


  • Shore Excursions: Shoreside tours operated by independent tour companies specifically for cruise passengers. An extra charge is usually applied to your shipboard account.
  • SOLAS: An acronym for Safety Of Life At Sea. An international convention convened whereby the design, construction methods and materials, life safety equipment, fire protection, and safety training of all cruise ships and staff were implemented. The result? SOLAS. All major cruise lines abide by all SOLAS requirements.
  • Stabilizers: Wing-like retractable devices extending form the sides of the vessel to reduce roll and produce a more stable ride.
  • Starboard: The right side of the ship when facing forward.
  • Stem: The extreme bow or prow of the ship.
  • Stern: The rearmost part of a ship.


  • Tender (or launch): A smaller vessel used to move passengers to and from the ship and shore when the ship is at anchor. Some cruise ports, due either to limited docking facilities or harbor depths, require ships to anchor offshore, necessitating the use of tenders to transport passengers ashore. Passengers with certain disabilities may be restricted in their use of tenders.
  • Theme Cruise: Any cruise that offers or suggests a specific onboard “theme” such as sports or 70’s disco music. Other themes include history, cooking, arts & crafts, or even lunar eclipses or comet watching.
  • Transatlantic: A cruise that crosses the Atlantic Ocean.


  • Underway: A ship in motion. Once your ship has left the pier or its anchorage, the ship is considered “underway.”


  • Windward: Facing into or the direction from which the wind is coming. (Opposite: Leeward)