Cruise Ship Terms: How to Sound Like a Crew Member

The next time you’re on board a cruise ship, I dare you to refer to the vessel as a boat. Go ahead, give it a try. The nearest crew member will almost definitely correct you. “It’s not a boat, it’s a ship!” To help prevent these embarrassing slip-ups, in this post I’ll describe some of the most commonly heard cruise ship terms. You’ll learn the meaning of a few important cruise ship terms, and in the process, learn how to sound as experienced as a crew member on your next cruise.

Cruise Ship Terms for First-time Cruisers

People on Board the Ship

Crew–Any person who lives and works on board the ship is a member of the crew. Regardless of his or her home country, this includes officers, guest services staff, bartenders, servers, stateroom attendants, engineers, doctors and everyone else!

Directions on Board the Ship

Forward–In the direction of the bow (front) of the ship. For example, the spa might be on deck 9, forward.

Aft–In the direction of the stern (back) of the ship.

Midship–The center part of the ship, whether you’re on the top deck, or on a lower deck. Your cabin may be on deck 3, midship.

Port–When you’re facing forward, port is the left side of the ship. This means you could technically point right to refer to the port side of the ship. In addition, a port is also the commonly-used term for a port-of-call, which is a location where the ship will dock so that guests can visit and explore.

Starboard–When you’re facing forward, starboard is the right side of the ship. You could also point to the left side of the ship to refer to the starboard side (if you are facing aft).

Places on Board the Ship

Deck–Much like a floor or level of a hotel, a ship’s deck is the floor or level on board. Your cabin could be on deck 7, while the main dining room is on deck 5 and the pool is on deck 12.

Tender–At some destinations, it’s impossible for the ship to pull up alongside a pier. Consequently, a tender boat is a small boat that the cruise ship uses to carry guests from the ship to shore. Think of a tender boat as a water taxi. Tendering is the action of moving the ship’s passengers from the ship to the shore.

Gangway–The gangway is the ramp that guests and crew use to walk from the ship down onto the pier in order to visit a port-of-call or go on an excursion.

Bridge–The bridge is the place where the ship’s crew navigate the ship. Some ships offer a tour of the bridge to its guests.

Muster Point–During the mandatory safety drill that takes place at the beginning of every cruise, this is the location where you must meet up prior to embarkation.

Bow–The front of the ship. This is not to be confused with “forward,” which is a directional word.

Stern–The back end of the ship. This is not to be confused with “aft,” which is a directional word.

Galley–The kitchen on board the ship, where food is prepared for a variety of restaurants. Sometimes multiple restaurants share a galley. The galley is a very busy place on board.

Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a regular cruiser, the next time you’re on board a cruise ship, try incorporating these common cruise ship terms into your conversation with fellow guests and crew members. You’ll feel more at home and comfortable on board once you’ve mastered these cruise ship terms. In conclusion, remember, “It’s not a boat!”


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