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Cruise ship jargon

You may have cruised more than once, but the cruise ship jargon still escapes you.

I just read a great article from cntraveler.com that gives you the lowdown on the terms you may hear on your next cruise!


The navigational control center of the ship is called the bridge. This area is usually off limits to passengers although smaller lines—like Windstar Cruises and Un-Cruise Adventures—do invite their guests to visit the bridge at certain times throughout the voyage.

Dock vs. tender:

When you read your cruise brochure, the itinerary will list the ports of call and a note next to them will indicate either “dock” or “tender.” Dock means that the ship will actually pull up to the pier and deploy the gangway. You’ll simply walk off the ship into port. A tender port indicates that the ship will anchor in the bay near the port. You will board a smaller vessel that will ferry you between the cruise ship and port.


When you first board your cruise ship, you are embarking. You disembark the ship at the end of the cruise.

First seating/second seating:

In the old days, almost all cruise ships had set dining times. You sat with the same people every night and ate your evening meal at the same time. First seating refers to the early dinnertime while second, or late, seating happens thereafter. But this sort of fixed seating arrangement has become less popular, as cruisers now tend to prefer open seating.


A ship’s kitchen is called the galley. Sometimes larger cruise ships offer fun galley tours.


The gangway is the ramp or staircase you use to embark or disembark from the ship.

Muster/muster station:

Every cruise passenger is assigned to a “muster station.” This is where you are instructed to gather—with your life jacket (only on some ships) —in case of emergency. You will be called to your muster station at the beginning of your cruise so the crew can explain what to do in case of emergency.

Open seating:

Many of today’s cruise ships have segued from fixed dining times to open seating, which means you can dine whenever you want and with whomever you want.


In rougher seas you might feel a little “roll,” the side-to-side movement of the ship.

Ship locations:

Specific words are used to describe locations aboard watercraft. The stern is at the very back of the ship (aft is the back portion of the entire ship). The bow is the very front. Forward is near the front of the ship while midship is—you guessed it—the midpoint of the boat. Portside is the left side of the ship (as you face forward) while the starboard side is on the right. If you’re looking for the pool, head to the “lido” deck.

Specialty restaurant:

A specialty, or alternative, restaurant requires a per person fee in addition to your cruise fare.

For the full story, click here: https://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-09-18/a-cruise-lingo-glossary-to-make-you-sound-like-a-pro

About Scott Lara

Navy Veteran, Travel Agent, love to cruise!

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