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Understanding Cruise Ship Language

Updated on November 12, 2018
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Debbie owns a scrapbook business and loves to take cruise vacations. Photography is her #1 passion when she travels.

Learning the Terms of a Cruise Vacation

When we went on our very first cruise, some of the terms used during our vacation were words that we were not quite sure of the meaning. Luckily my in-laws had cruised several times, before we did, and they filled us in, before leaving for our cruise vacation. Here's a few terms, and words that we knew, and some that we weren't quite sure of.

AFT - This is the back part of the ship.

BOW - This is the front part of the ship.

PORTSIDE - This is the left-hand side of the ship. You will not hear the captain refer to the portside of the ship, as the left side of the ship.

STARBOARD - This is the right-hand side of the ship.

PROMENADE DECK - This is the deck that enables you to walk along the outside of the ship, usually from the front to the back. Some ships allow you to walk all the way around the entire ship, and some only allow you to walk along the side, and in order for you to get to the other side, you have to go inside the ship, and walk across to the other side. Some have lounge chairs for you to sit on the promenade deck. All the ships I've been on, the promenade deck is located usually on deck 6 or deck 7. Usually the lifeboats are located above them, so as you walk along the side, the lifeboats are above your head.

Carnival Cruise Ship
Carnival Cruise Ship | Source

MUSTER DRILL - This is required by all ships, and it consists of the cruise line picking a particular time before the ship leaves port, for you to go to the designated area of the ship, to learn how to put your life jacket on. It's not called a "Mustard Drill", as some people refer to it.

Muster Drill
Muster Drill | Source

TENDERING - This is when the ship is not going to be docked at port, and in order for you to get to the island or place that you're going to, you have to get on a smaller boat, which pulls up to the side of the ship, and transfers you to the place that you are to be going. The boats are referred to as "tender boats" on some cruise lines, but as of November of 2018, Carnival is now referring to them as "Water Shuttles".

Being tendered from ship to island
Being tendered from ship to island | Source

GANGWAY - This is the term used for the area that you'll be getting off and on the ship. Usually they are located near Deck 4.

STATEROOM: This is what the cabin is called that you'll be staying in. They are usually available as Inside rooms, Outside OV (oceanview rooms), Balcony rooms, and Suites.

ATRIUM or CENTRIUM - These are usually names that are given to the center area of the ship, and usually the customer service is located here. Most are on decks 5 or 6, or both.

DOCK or DOCKING - When you hear this term, it refers to where the ship will be docked at port. It means you will not be tendered to a port, and you'll actually be walking off the ship at a pier.

PORT - This is the actual place that the ship will be taking you.

Carnival ship docked in Cozumel, Mexico
Carnival ship docked in Cozumel, Mexico | Source

SHIP - This is the vessel that you'll be traveling on. Note: Ships do not like being referred to as "boats". This gives them a complex, and makes them feel bad. ;)


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