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Cruise Lingo Exposed: Don’t Fall for These Tricky Terms!

When I talk about cruising, it is easy for me to fall into the trap of using cruise terms that I assume everyone will be familiar with.

Reading the comments on my post, I often find that people don’t actually understand some of these terms, so here is a quick and easy guide.

Emma Cruises Celebrity Infinity Greece


Embarkation is just the act of getting on to your ship – so when I talk with excitement about “Embarkation day”, it’s just the day I am due to get onboard and start my cruise.

I even have a special T-shirt I wear for the occasion – I never have to think twice about what to wear that day – find it below:

Muster Drill

This is an important one to know!

A Muster Drill is a safety drill completed on a cruise, designed to show passengers what to do in the event of an emergency. The Muster Drill is sometimes referred to as the “Lifeboat Drill” or “Safety Drill.”

It is a legal requirement that all passengers take part in the Muster Drill. It is compulsory.

Rather than going to a set place and listening to the drill, most cruise lines have moved to “E-Musters.”

An E-muster or Virtual Muster Drill involves guests watching safety videos before boarding the ship or on the cabin TV.

Guests then only need to visit their assigned Muster Station once aboard so that they know where to find it in case of a real emergency.

Find out everything you could wish to know about Muster Drills in the article below:

What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise? Everything You Need to Know (REVIEW of Traditional and Virtual Muster Drills)

Lido Deck

A Lido deck is basically another term for the pool deck.

The cruise ship’s Lido deck is the centrally located outdoor area where passengers will find the ship’s pools, along with hot tubs and lounge chairs.

The word “Lido” is Italian. It refers to a beach or seashore where people gather to swim, so you can understand why cruise ships adopted it.

There is often a poolside grill ( included food option) and bars in this area too.

Marella Explorer Top Deck Pool


On ships, you don’t have floors or levels – you have decks.

Often on cruise ships you will find that these decks have names. On Princess ships, the decks have names, not numbers:

  • Gala Deck, Plaza Deck, Fiesta Deck, Promenade Deck, Emerald Deck, Dolphin Deck, Caribe Deck, Baja Deck for example.

It is quite common for cruise ships not to have a deck 13 – they just jump from deck 12 to deck 14 – which is a lovely surprise when you have many flights of stairs to walk.

The Italian cruise line MSC doesn’t have a deck 17 – as 17 is considered to be unlucky in Italy

Find out about this in more detail in the article below:

The Real Reason Why Many Ships Miss Deck 13

On the Mega ship Costa Smeralda, every deck was painted a different, bright colour – easy to find the right deck when looking for your cabin!

Find out more about my memorable bargain cruise on this ship here:

Promenade Deck

A Promenade Deck is a deck located midway through the ship that is open to the fresh air.

It is traditional for cruise ship Promenade Decks to extend fully around the ship – however, many modern cruise ships no longer have this design feature.

A traditional Promenade with a teak deck

There will be Lifeboats and other mechanical equipment on most promenade decks.

On some ships, these will be hanging above the heads of those walking on the Promenade Deck, and on others, they may be between the guests and the ocean.

Modern Promenade Decks often have no view and don’t circle around the entire ship.

Find out everything you need to know about Promenade decks, including history and where they get their name from here:

Cruise Ship Promenade Decks – Photos, Uses, and History


You may have heard the word “Tender” mentioned and wondered what it actually means – Tender Boat, Tender Port, Tender rides, Priority Tendering – I have heard them all.

Tendering refers to when a smaller boat ( often a ship’s lifeboat) is used to transport the passengers from the cruise ship to the port.

This happens when the port doesn’t have a suitable berth for a large cruise ship.

The small ships run back and forth to the land all day. Often cruise ship excursion passengers and suite guests get “Priority Tendering” which means that they get to disembark the ship first.

Other passengers going ashore independently have to wait. They are often given a number or asked to collect a ticket and wait until their time comes before they are called.

Emma Cruises Celebrity Infinity Greece Tendering
Tendering in From Celebrity Infinity in Greece

On one memorable Tender Boat ride from Portofino in Italy, the Captain of the Celebrity Edge came onboard and sailed us back to the ship.

On the newest Celebrity “Edge Class” ships, they have what is known as a Magic Carpet – an orange platform that doubles up as a restaurant and bar/ tender platform, depending on where it is situated.

Find out all about that amazing cruise ship and watch the Captain piloting the tender boat here:


The Galley is just another name for a kitchen on a ship, train or aircraft where food is prepared and cooked.

Most cruise ships will have one main galley, usually located by the main dining room, where the majority of food prep is done.

There may also be additional, smaller galleys for the speciality restaurants and the buffet.

Health and safety are key in a cruise ship galley. Countertops and appliances are stainless steel, and there are no open flames, as fire is especially dangerous on a ship.

There are designated prep and storage spaces for specific types of food and often a separate space for preparing foods for special diets. 

Viking Sea Galley Tour Kitchen Salad Chefs
I took a Galley Tour onboard the Viking Sea

The Bridge

The Bridge on a cruise ship is where the Captain and their crew manage the navigation and speed of the ship, along with other critical functions of the vessel.

Under some circumstances, you can visit the Bridge – usually as part of a paid ship tour or if you are specially invited for some reason.

Symphony of the Seas Bridge visit
I was lucky enough to be invited on a Bridge visit on the Mega ship, Symphony of the Seas

Find out more about the Bridge and Bridge Tours here:

Can You Visit The Bridge on a Cruise Ship? – Real Experiences & Prices


Stateroom is just another name for a cabin. This is your own personal space onboard, where you should find everything you should need for a comfortable stay.

Whether you choose the cheapest inside stateroom or a multi-layer suite, cruise ship staterooms are well-designed to make the most of the available space.

Find out about the cheapest, smallest cabins I have stayed in on Cruise ships in the video below:

Cruise Director

If you have been on a cruise, you have probably seen a member of staff called the Cruise Director on board.  You may be wondering who they are and what they do on board the ship.

A cruise director is a high-ranking member of the cruise line staff who oversees the entertainment and activities happening on a cruise ship.

The cruise director’s role is passenger-focused, and the cruise director spends a lot of their day interacting with guests. 

On the Azamara Onward, our cruise director Eric went above and beyond – as well as having his own show, at one point he roller-skated around the dance floor in a sparkly dress!

Watch that happen in the video below:

I interviewed a Royal Caribbean Cruise Director to find out more about their duties onboard, you can read that interview here:

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Interview – Daily Duties, Salary, and Career Progression


The gangway is the means of getting on and off a cruise ship.

The gangways on cruise ships allow Passengers to embark and disembark easily at the ports they visit.

On embarkation and disembarkation day the gangway will often be an enclosed raised bridge – similar to the ones used in airports to allow you to reach the airplane without going outside onto the tarmac.

The gangway often connects the main deck of a ship directly to the cruise terminal.

When visiting ports, the ship is docked at the quayside, and the gangway is usually on a lower deck, where a metal walkway bridges the gap between the ship and the dockside.

You can see the two Gangways coming out of a lower deck level when the Celebrity Infinity was docked in Greece

Shore Excursion

As the name suggests, this is a sightseeing trip you take in port to see the local area.

You can book a cruise line excursion – which tends to be the most expensive option, but they do guarantee to get you back to the ship safely before she sails.

You can get an independent excursion at a cheaper price, but make sure you are back at the ship long before she sets sail or risk being left behind.

Often my preferred option is to get off in port and explore on my own. I can research the port online before I leave home and make a wish list of things I want to see.


This can have two meanings!

Port is either is the town, city or harbour you visit by cruise ship – or Port can mean the left side of the ship, depending on the context.

Port & Starboard

The starboard side is the right side of the ship

Starboard is thought to combine two old words, stéor (steer) and bord (the side of a boat.)

The origins can be traced back to the early sailing days when Germanic peoples’ ships had steering oars or rudders mounted on the right side.

Consequently, the ship’s left side would face the port or harbour during docking to ensure the rudder was not damaged.

The predecessor term to “Port” when referring to a ship was “Larboard.” Understandably, this was changed as it was easily misheard as Starboard.

In 1846, a British Naval order changed the term Larboard to “Port”, and it has been known as this ever since.

Aft or Stern

The rear of a ship is referred to as the Aft or the Stern.

Strictly speaking, the Aft is in the inside area at the back of the ship, whereas the Stern is outside, but the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Celebrity Infinity
The stern of the Celebrity Infinity


The Bow is the pointy end at the front of the ship!

When saying “Bow,” it might be useful to know it rhymes with Cow and Now. (Not as in Bow that rhymes with Toe or Go!)

It usually has a pointed or tapered shape and an upward slope because its main function is to cut through the water and reduce drag on the ship.

This shape allows the boat to move more efficiently through the water. The shape of the bow may vary depending on the type of boat.

Queen Mary 2
The Bow of the last Ocean Liner, Queen Mary 2 is pointed and streamlined in shape.

Find out other interesting differences between an Ocean Liner and a Cruise Ship here:

Cruise Ships vs Ocean Liners – Measurable Differences You Need to Know


Your cabin – or Stateroom is your own personal space onboard, where you should find everything you should need for a comfortable stay.

It has a bed, storage, an en suite bathroom -and sometimes a window or a balcony, depending on the grade of cabin you have booked.

Whether you have booked the cheapest inside stateroom or a multi-layer suite, cruise ship staterooms are well-designed to make the most of the available space.

Find out about my favourite balcony cabin onboard Norwegian Prima in the video below. ( Spoiler alert -Not all cabins are as nice as this one!)


Gratuities are tips that are often charged daily on top of your cruise fare. It can come as a nasty shock if you are not aware of them. An amount will be charged daily to your onboard account. This amount is per person, not per cabin, and children are also charged a reduced fee.

Some cruise lines, particularly British cruise lines like P&O and Marella, include gratuities within their cruise fares, so there are no more tips to pay.

It is important to know which cruise lines charge additional gratuities – and how much they will be – before you book your cruise.

Find out everything you will need to know about gratuities in the post below:

Cruise Gratuities: A Simple Step by Step Guide For First Time Cruisers

Speciality Meals

Speciality meals are meals that are not included within your cruise fare.

These meals are seen as being “better” or more premium than the included food served in the ship’s main dining rooms.

Whether these meals are worth the upcharge is your personal preference.

Meals can either be charged per item, or there is a cover charge – a flat rate cost to eat a meal at that restaurant.

Speciality restaurants, such as the ones found on P&O, charge a very reasonable £10 or £15 per meal. More premium cruise lines, such as Celebrity, can charge over £100 per meal.

For me, this isn’t good value. I have already paid for the included food onboard, I wouldn’t want to pay hundreds of extra pounds for me and my family to eat out at a Speciality restaurant.


This is the term used when you get off your ship, either at the end of the cruise or in port.

If you do something against the Cruiselines Terms and Conditions onboard, they are entitled to “Disembark” you at the next available port! No one wants to find themselves in that situation!

Find out some reasons why people were banned and disembarked early from their cruise ship here:

These People Were Banned From Cruise Lines For Life – What Went Wrong?

This is My Disembarkation Day T-Shirt


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Before You Go

If you are interested in cruise facts, have you ever wondered why ships are often red below the waterline? It’s fascinating. Find out why here:

Why Are Ships Red Below The Waterline? – I Went Under One to Find Out!

Find out why one of my favourite features on cruise ships is dying out here:

My Favourite Cruise Ship Design Feature Isn’t Being Built Anymore – Here’s Why

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.