Cruise Ship Terminology: All the Phrases You Need to Know


Just like any industry, the world of cruising has its very own vocabulary. While lifelong cruisers soon become seasoned speakers of this strange code, newbies can find the terminology akin to a different language entirely. Navigating a cruise line’s website means coming across phrases and words you may never have seen before, or are at least unfamiliar with the meaning of.

Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide that lists some of the most popular cruise terms and what they mean, perfect if you’re a first timer confused by all these new words. We’ve broken it down into topics (booking, onboard, the ship, and in port/excursions) to make it easier to get around, too!


Adventure cruise

Also known as an expedition cruise, these cater to the veteran cruisers looking for something off the beaten track. With a focus on the destination itself – think activities such as snorkelling, kayaking, hiking and viewing wildlife – adventure cruises are for those looking to truly expand their horizons in far-flung locations like the Galapagos, Antarctica, Russia or Svalbard.


Many cruise lines make mention of their all-inclusive itineraries, meaning you don’t pay extra for specialty restaurants, tipping or your drinks on board. If you see this, make sure you go through the terms and conditions with a fine-tooth comb, as the actual meaning of all-inclusive differs from line to line.


Also known as group booking, any group of individuals – relatives, a company or an organisation – can charter all (or part) of a cruise ship journey.

Cruise tour

Sometimes written as one word, cruise tours are a full land and sea holiday offering the best of both worlds i.e. a cruise with a land journey either before or after a cruise, sometimes a host or guide joins you on the adventure.

Double occupancy

A type of travel accommodation for two persons sharing the same room. The fee paid is per person, so if a solo traveller wants to travel alone in one room, they face a fairly hefty fee. That’s why some cruise lines offer special fares for individuals.


Programmes offered by cruise ships that let passengers get involved in art, cooking, photography and computer classes, amongst a host of others. Often free, but some lines charge.


A place or stop used to reach the cruise ship’s final destination.

Shore excursion

A tour or guided activity that passengers can enjoy while the ship is in port and they’re ashore.

Shoulder season

The middle period between the high prices of a country’s peak season and the sometimes-bad weather of its low season.

Single supplement 

The dreaded charge that solo travellers have to pay in order for a single person stay in a stateroom. Some lines waive or reduce it – be on the lookout for this when booking.


The term the cruise industry largely uses to refer to a cabin. 


Usually refers to a top-of-the-line stateroom that features separate sleeping and living areas. Often the most luxurious accommodation option available.


Alternative restaurant

Also called a specialty restaurant. While the cost of the ship’s standard dining rooms and buffets are included in the price, many cruise lines give you the opportunity of dining at higher—end, more specialised restaurants for an additional fee.

Assigned seating

The fixed time period of dining for a cruise ship’s dining rooms that allows travellers to dine with and get to know their fellow passengers for the cruise’s duration. Open seating is the opposite, where seating is not assigned.


The process of leaving a ship.


The process of boarding a ship.

French balcony

A wall-to-wall window that opens up much like a veranda does.

Hosted cruise

Usually only offered by luxury cruise lines, a hosted cruise pairs you with a welcoming expert who acts as both an onboard host and on-shore tour guide. Special perks include cocktail receptions and extra shore excursions.

Virtual balcony

Offered by Royal Caribbean in some interior cabins, these floor-to-ceiling 80-inch high-definition TV screens mimic the outside view of the ship, so you don’t miss out if your room has no balcony.


A brand of inflatable boats that are popular on luxury ships; used on shore excursions.

The Ship


The rear of the ship.


Where the captain and crew navigate and steer the vessel.


The front or forward section of the ship.


The name given to each level of a ship.


The outside shell of a ship.

Lido deck

Usually the top deck, this is the open pool deck of a ship.


The left-hand side of the ship when you’re facing the front of the vessel.


A deck large enough for passengers to walk around. Often a public space complete with shops and restaurants.


The right-hand side of the ship when you’re facing the front of the vessel. 


The back end of the ship where ship names are often placed.

In Port/Excursions


A ring-shaped reef, island or chain of small islands made up of coral that encircles a lagoon.


A small, sandy island on the surface of a coral reef, almost exclusively found in the Caribbean.


Formed by the collapse of bedrock, cenotes are natural swimming holes that have pure, clear water for you to swim and dive into.


A cable railway that moves tram-like, rail-based vehicles up and down steep slopes so travellers can ascend and descend steep walkways and hills.

Ports of call

The ports you’ll visit during your cruise itinerary, not counting the port of embarkation and disembarkation.

Now that you’ve learned the lingo, why not head over to our homepage for our full list of cruise deals across the globe. Alternatively, give us a call on 1300 419 005 and our friendly customer care team will be more than happy to help.


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