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Travel advice

Cruise jargon: your glossary guide to cruising

Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure sailing on the open ocean

Adult-only cruise

Does cruise jargon leave you all at sea? Do nautical terms tie you in knots? Make it plain sailing with our easy guide to cruise terminology!

A cruise that doesn’t allow children, therefore guests are able to enjoy a more peaceful holiday with entertainment geared around grown-ups.


The back of the ship.

All-inclusive cruise

A cruise where meals, snacks, drinks, activities and entertainment are all included in the price – like Saga’s boutique cruises.


When the ship is docked beside the pier or next to another ship.


On land.


The central passenger area on a cruise ship, similar to a hotel lobby. Here you’ll usually find the reception desk and purser’s desk.

Back-to-back cruises

As it says on the tin – you can book two or more consecutive cruises, so you can enjoy a longer voyage. Some cruise lines offer a discount up to 10% as an incentive (Saga Cruises does this).

Balcony cabin

A cabin on a ship with its own private balcony accessible only by the guests – on Saga’s ocean ships all cabins have a balcony as standard.


The width of the ship at its widest point.


The compass direction from a ship to a particular destination, in degrees.


The dock or quay where a cruise ship ties up to the shore – or another name for the bed in your cabin!


Saga’s ocean cruises are boutique – they take place on smaller yet spacious ships, with all-balcony cabins and a choice of complimentary speciality restaurants.


The front of the ship.


The elevated platform where the captain steers and navigates the ship.


A floating object in the sea used for marking a channel or highlighting a hazard, for example a


A crew member who is allocated to a cabin and will look after general daily tasks, such as unpacking a suitcase and booking dining reservations, as well as serving snacks and drinks.


The sleeping compartment or room on a cruise ship. Can also be referred to as a stateroom.

Cabin steward

A crew member who cleans and looks after the housekeeping of your room.


The number of passengers that can be accommodated on a ship.


The person in charge of a cruise ship and giving directions to all other members of the crew.

Cast off

To release a ship for its mooring.


The direction in which a ship is heading.

Crew to passenger ratio

The total number of passengers divided by the number of crew members – on Saga’s ships there is one member of crew to every two guests.

Cruise Director

The crew member who is responsible for all the ship’s activities and entertainment. Often acts as the emcee at events too.<


The floor of the ship. A deck plan will show passengers what they can find on each level.


The process of leaving the ship, either on an excursion or when returning home after the cruise.


A berth or quay where a cruise ship ties up to the shore.

Double occupancy

Two people sharing one cabin, whether in a double or twin room. Most cruise fares are based on double occupancy.

Dress code

Cruise lines often have different dress codes, from smart casual to formal. These are required to enter select venues on some nights. See formal night.

Drinks packages

A selection of alcohol and soft drink bundles, available to buy upfront as an extra – this is not required on Saga’s boutique cruises as all drinks are included in the price.

Dry dock

A special dock for a ship, where the water can be drained away. Ships attend these to inspect the hull, and to undergo repairs and maintenance.


The process of boarding a cruise ship.

Expedition cruise

A cruise usually on a small ship, often with an ice-strengthened hull, which takes passengers off the beaten track. Hosted by expedition leaders and expert lecturers. Also known as an adventure cruise.


A number of ships operating under the same ownership.

Fly cruise

A cruise that you jump on a plane and join in foreign climes, rather than cruising from your home country.

Formal night

Getting smartly dressed up for the occasional formal night has long been part of the fun of cruising. These can be held once (or perhaps twice) a week, depending on the cruise line.


Towards the front or bow of a cruise ship.


The kitchen on a ship.


The ramp or staircase from the ship to the quay or pier used by passengers to get on and off the ship.


Traditionally ships have a Godmother (sometimes a Godfather!) who attends the naming ceremony, smashes a bottle on the hull, and who brings good luck and protection to the ship. In the UK, this honorific title is usually given to someone with royal or military connections.


A tip. Sometimes included in the price of a cruise (every Saga cruise includes gratuities).


A type of cruise fare where a passenger books a specific grade of accommodation but is not given a specific room number. If that cabin category sells out, passengers may be given a cabin upgrade, although this is possible, it’s never part of the deal.


The wheel that steers the ship, located on the bridge.


The outside shell of a ship from the main deck down to the keel.

Inaugural cruise

A ship’s first cruise with paying guests on board. See maiden voyage.

Inside cabin

Also known as an ‘interior’ cabin – one without a window or porthole and therefore no natural light. Saga’s ships do not have any inside cabins.


The schedule of destinations and days at sea on your cruise.

Juliette balcony

Also known as a French balcony, these are not really a balcony you can sit on, rather a floor-to-ceiling sliding door with a small ledge.


The main structure of a ship that extends lengthwise along the centre of the ship’s bottom.


A unit of speed equivalent to one nautical mile per hour.


The side of the ship sheltered from the wind.


An outside deck with a swimming pool and sunbeds, usually near the top of the ship.


An official book for recording daily events.

Loyalty clubs

Some cruise lines reward guests who keep coming back for more cruises. With Saga, this is called the Britannia Club.

Maiden voyage

The first journey of a cruise ship. See inaugural cruise.

Maître d’

The crew member in charge of the dining room.


The middle of the ship.


The means of tying a ship to a dock, quay or buoy.

Muster drill

A lifeboat safety drill where all passengers must follow instructions and learn what to do in an emergency. A muster station is the location where passengers must gather.

Nautical mile

A unit used in measuring distances at sea, equivalent to 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet.

Ocean cruise

A cruise on the open sea.

Open seating

When no fixed time or fixed seating arrangement is given for dining.


Over the side of the ship.

Passenger space ratio

The enclosed space per passenger – how much room there is on the ship per guest.


The left side of the ship when facing forward, marked by a red light. Easy to remember as the words ‘port’ and ‘left’ both have four letters.


A round window on a ship.


The crew member responsible for looking after all the monetary transactions on the ship.

Repositioning cruise

A one-way cruise that beings and ends in different ports. For example, a ship could depart from Portsmouth but later return to Southampton. Sometimes called an ‘open jaw’ cruise.

River cruise

As it says on the tin, a cruise along a river.


The movement of a ship when it sways side to side. Rarely experienced on modern, stabilised cruise ships.

Sail away party

An on-board event to toast the start of a cruise, usually while ‘sailing away’ to the first destination.

Sea day

A day where the ship stays out at sea and does not visit a port, the time to make use of the facilities such as the spa, lido and on-board entertainment.


A ‘shore excursion’ – a guided day trip off the ship to explore ashore. Every Saga cruise includes a number of shore excursions in the price at no extra cost.


A traditional game played on a ship’s deck that involves pushing discs with a long-handled shovel over a grid. Think curling, but at sea!

Sister ships

Ships who share an identical – or very close – layout and size. They are often named similarly too.

Solo occupancy

One person in a cabin. As cruise fares are based on double occupancy, travelling solo may incur a single supplement.


A wine steward who specialises in all aspects of wine service, as well as matching wine with different types of food.

Speciality restaurant

A smaller restaurant on a ship, an alternative to the main dining room such as an Italian or steakhouse. Reservations are often necessary, and most cruise lines charge extra – however on Saga’s ships all speciality restaurants are included at no extra cost.


The right side of the ship when facing forward, marked by a green light.


Another word for cabin.


The very back of a ship.


A small boat that transports passengers from a cruise ship to the shore when the ship is unable to dock at a quay or berth and is therefore anchored in a harbour. Also refers to the ship’s lifeboats.


A bus or taxi ride from the airport or hotel to your docked cruise ship. Usually included in the price if you’ve bought your flight and cruise together from one cruise company.


The trail of waves at the stern of the ship created as the ship moves forward.


The side of the ship facing the wind.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this guide to cruise ship terminologies from A to Z – well almost Z.

Take a look at the current season of all-inclusive cruises aboard Saga’s own boutique sister ships.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.