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New to Cruising: Nautical Terms to Know Before You Go



Booking a cruise can be a fairly daunting task. On top of choosing where and when you’d like to go on vacation, there are a handful of terms that may be unfamiliar to you and that you will definitely run into during the booking process. Here’s a list of common cruise jargon to help plan your vacation like a seasoned mariner.



Port and Starboard

Port and starboard are mariner’s terms for the left and right side of the ship relative to the ship itself, rather than the passenger’s perspective. When facing forward, toward the bow, the port is on your left and starboard is on your right. A rule of thumb to remember which is which, port and left have the same amount of letters.

    Bow and Stern

    Like port and starboard, bow and stern are the terms for the front and back of the ship. The bow is the front and the stern is the back. There isn’t as handy of a rule to remember which is bow and which is stern, but there are two terms that are more common and easier to remember, forward and aft.

      A happy couple walking forward to the bow of the ship. Or, are they walking toward the aft?

      Forward and Aft

      Forward and aft are relative directions on the ship. Forward is in the direction of the bow, or the front. Aft is in the direction of the stern, or back. Luckily, remembering forward is front is pretty straightforward (no pun intended), making these easier to grasp than port and starboard. You will run into these terms being used to describe the location of events or venues on board. For example, the main dining room could be on deck 4 in the aft of the ship.

        Deck

        Deck is the term for the different floors of the ship.

          Ports of Call

          Ports of call are the destinations your cruise will be stopping in.

            Tendering vs. Docking

            There are two ways your ship can allow for debarkation in port. The most common method is docking the ship, allowing for easy disembarkation by simply walking down the gangplank onto the pier. The second method, called tendering, is reserved for ports of call that do not have the facilities to fit a large ship at the pier. The ship will drop anchor close to shore and use smaller boats, called tenders, to transport passengers ashore. The tenders can be a bit difficult to board as they will be affected by the waves in the water much more so than your cruise ship, but there will be crew members ready to assist in getting on and off.

              The majestic Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas coming up on the port side of the ship.

              Shore Excursions

              Shore excursions are guided tours or activities that are available to you at the different ports of call you will be visiting. The cruise line will have many different options at each destination to fit the experience you are looking for. There are also third party companies that host even more options for you to consider. Whether you want to enjoy a laid back sightseeing tour of historical landmarks or an exhilarating ride on a zip line high in the air, there is sure to be something to help you find what you are longing for. Shore excursions are available to book before boarding and have limited space, so make sure to plan these before you board.

              Costco members who book a cruise through Costco Travel can save 10% on shore excursions! Once you've booked your cruise, simply go to our shore excursions website - Opens a dialog , enter your booking information and see what we have to offer!

                Shore Excursions

                Shore excursions are guided tours or activities that are available to you at the different ports of call you will be visiting. The cruise line will have many different options at each destination to fit the experience you are looking for. There are also third party companies that host even more options for you to consider. Whether you want to enjoy a laid back sightseeing tour of historical landmarks or an exhilarating ride on a zip line high in the air, there is sure to be something to help you find what you are longing for. Shore excursions are available to book before boarding and have limited space, so make sure to plan these before you board.

                Costco members who book a cruise through Costco Travel can save 10% on shore excursions! Once you've booked your cruise, simply go to our shore excursions website - Opens a dialog , enter your booking information and see what we have to offer!

                  The majestic Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas coming up on the port side of the ship.

                  Stateroom

                  Stateroom is the term for your room on board. You may also run into the term cabin, which means the same thing. There are a wide range of types of available staterooms. An inside stateroom will be located on the interior of the ship, typically the smallest kind of room, and will have no windows. An ocean-view stateroom is similarly sized to the inside rooms but on the exterior of the ship with a window looking out to the ocean. A balcony stateroom will be on higher decks, larger than an ocean-view room, and feature a door leading to an outdoor veranda. Suite staterooms are larger rooms with upgraded amenities that also feature a veranda, in most cases.

                    Dining Terms

                    There are different types of dining venues on most ships ranging from casual to fine dining. Your casual dining options typically include a large buffet, also referred to as the Lido, featuring a wide range of different cuisines which you can enjoy at your leisure. Most ships also feature casual dining in the form of pizzerias, burger joints and things of the like. The main dining room will be a bit more upscale than the buffet, but not as much as specialty restaurants. The main dining room usually has assigned dinner times and tables so you know exactly when and where you will be eating most nights. There are flexible dining options available where instead of one set time, the dining room will act much like a typical restaurant in that you will need to make specific reservations for each night. Finally, there are specialty restaurants onboard most ships. Specialty restaurants come in the form of Steakhouses, French Bistros, Italian Cucinas and many other restaurants focused on one type of cuisine and a fine dining experience. Specialty restaurants require a reservation and will have an upcharge to book. Booking specialty restaurants before you board is highly recommended.

                      Muster Drill

                      The muster drill is a required safety briefing where you will be made familiar with your muster station. The muster station is the place on a ship where passengers should assemble in the event of an emergency. The briefing generally consists of a roll call, how to properly us a lifejacket, as well as other safety tips. The muster drill typically will last around 30 minutes.

                        Disembarkation information can usually be found with the ship's newsletter. Here's a friendly crab-towel showing off the Freestyle Daily on Norwegian Sky.

                        Embark and Debark/Disembark:

                        Embarkation and disembarkation simply means to get on (embark) or get off (disembark) of the ship. The embarkation process includes showing all documentation necessary to board, receiving and activating your key card, giving your bags to the crew to be delivered to your stateroom, and includes many welcomes from the crew. The key card you receive will serve as your stateroom key, credit card, and ID, as they will take a picture of you to associate with your card.

                        To increase efficiency, the disembarkation process will begin the last night of your cruise. You will be instructed to leave your bags outside your room to be picked up by the crew. You and your fellow passengers will be given a time to disembark the ship based on your flight schedule. You will be allowed to disembark when your group has been called. You will scan your key card one last time to indicate you have left the ship, and exit onto the pier where your luggage will be placed with the all of the other passenger’s bags from your group. A brightly colored bag tag or suitcase will make this process much easier! There are also expedited options available for those needing to make an early flight where you will carry your own luggage, but this will need to be requested beforehand.

                          Guarantee (GTY) Booking

                          A guarantee stateroom or cabin is an unassigned room on a ship. It can be the perfect choice for some people, but you need to know the difference between an unassigned room and an assigned room. Being informed of your cabin means there are no surprises when you board the ship. If you book a guarantee stateroom you are guaranteed to have a stateroom in the desired category but will have to wait until close into the sail date to actually have a cabin assigned to you. Even though you won’t know your actual stateroom assignment until shortly before the sail date, you will be guaranteed a stateroom of equal or better than what you paid for.

                            It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the details that go into choosing your cruise vacation. Armed with the terminology of a cruiser, you should be able to take it all in a little bit easier. Now, all that's left is to find the sailing you’ve been dreaming of!

                              Port and Starboard

                              Port and starboard are mariner’s terms for the left and right side of the ship relative to the ship itself, rather than the passenger’s perspective. When facing forward, toward the bow, the port is on your left and starboard is on your right. A rule of thumb to remember which is which, port and left have the same amount of letters.

                                Bow and Stern

                                Like port and starboard, bow and stern are the terms for the front and back of the ship. The bow is the front and the stern is the back. There isn’t as handy of a rule to remember which is bow and which is stern, but there are two terms that are more common and easier to remember, forward and aft.

                                  A happy couple walking forward to the bow of the ship. Or, are they walking toward the aft?

                                  Forward and Aft

                                  Forward and aft are relative directions on the ship. Forward is in the direction of the bow, or the front. Aft is in the direction of the stern, or back. Luckily, remembering forward is front is pretty straightforward (no pun intended), making these easier to grasp than port and starboard. You will run into these terms being used to describe the location of events or venues on board. For example, the main dining room could be on deck 4 in the aft of the ship.

                                    Deck

                                    Deck is the term for the different floors of the ship.

                                      Ports of Call

                                      Ports of call are the destinations your cruise will be stopping in.

                                        Tendering vs. Docking

                                        There are two ways your ship can allow for debarkation in port. The most common method is docking the ship, allowing for easy disembarkation by simply walking down the gangplank onto the pier. The second method, called tendering, is reserved for ports of call that do not have the facilities to fit a large ship at the pier. The ship will drop anchor close to shore and use smaller boats, called tenders, to transport passengers ashore. The tenders can be a bit difficult to board as they will be affected by the waves in the water much more so than your cruise ship, but there will be crew members ready to assist in getting on and off.

                                          The majestic Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas coming up on the port side of the ship.

                                          Shore Excursions

                                          Shore excursions are guided tours or activities that are available to you at the different ports of call you will be visiting. The cruise line will have many different options at each destination to fit the experience you are looking for. There are also third party companies that host even more options for you to consider. Whether you want to enjoy a laid back sightseeing tour of historical landmarks or an exhilarating ride on a zip line high in the air, there is sure to be something to help you find what you are longing for. Shore excursions are available to book before boarding and have limited space, so make sure to plan these before you board.

                                          Costco members who book a cruise through Costco Travel can save 10% on shore excursions! Once you've booked your cruise, simply go to our shore excursions website - Opens a dialog , enter your booking information and see what we have to offer!

                                            Shore Excursions

                                            Shore excursions are guided tours or activities that are available to you at the different ports of call you will be visiting. The cruise line will have many different options at each destination to fit the experience you are looking for. There are also third party companies that host even more options for you to consider. Whether you want to enjoy a laid back sightseeing tour of historical landmarks or an exhilarating ride on a zip line high in the air, there is sure to be something to help you find what you are longing for. Shore excursions are available to book before boarding and have limited space, so make sure to plan these before you board.

                                            Costco members who book a cruise through Costco Travel can save 10% on shore excursions! Once you've booked your cruise, simply go to our shore excursions website - Opens a dialog , enter your booking information and see what we have to offer!

                                              The majestic Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas coming up on the port side of the ship.

                                              Stateroom

                                              Stateroom is the term for your room on board. You may also run into the term cabin, which means the same thing. There are a wide range of types of available staterooms. An inside stateroom will be located on the interior of the ship, typically the smallest kind of room, and will have no windows. An ocean-view stateroom is similarly sized to the inside rooms but on the exterior of the ship with a window looking out to the ocean. A balcony stateroom will be on higher decks, larger than an ocean-view room, and feature a door leading to an outdoor veranda. Suite staterooms are larger rooms with upgraded amenities that also feature a veranda, in most cases.

                                                Dining Terms

                                                There are different types of dining venues on most ships ranging from casual to fine dining. Your casual dining options typically include a large buffet, also referred to as the Lido, featuring a wide range of different cuisines which you can enjoy at your leisure. Most ships also feature casual dining in the form of pizzerias, burger joints and things of the like. The main dining room will be a bit more upscale than the buffet, but not as much as specialty restaurants. The main dining room usually has assigned dinner times and tables so you know exactly when and where you will be eating most nights. There are flexible dining options available where instead of one set time, the dining room will act much like a typical restaurant in that you will need to make specific reservations for each night. Finally, there are specialty restaurants onboard most ships. Specialty restaurants come in the form of Steakhouses, French Bistros, Italian Cucinas and many other restaurants focused on one type of cuisine and a fine dining experience. Specialty restaurants require a reservation and will have an upcharge to book. Booking specialty restaurants before you board is highly recommended.

                                                  Muster Drill

                                                  The muster drill is a required safety briefing where you will be made familiar with your muster station. The muster station is the place on a ship where passengers should assemble in the event of an emergency. The briefing generally consists of a roll call, how to properly us a lifejacket, as well as other safety tips. The muster drill typically will last around 30 minutes.

                                                    Disembarkation information can usually be found with the ship's newsletter. Here's a friendly crab-towel showing off the Freestyle Daily on Norwegian Sky.

                                                    Embark and Debark/Disembark:

                                                    Embarkation and disembarkation simply means to get on (embark) or get off (disembark) of the ship. The embarkation process includes showing all documentation necessary to board, receiving and activating your key card, giving your bags to the crew to be delivered to your stateroom, and includes many welcomes from the crew. The key card you receive will serve as your stateroom key, credit card, and ID, as they will take a picture of you to associate with your card.

                                                    To increase efficiency, the disembarkation process will begin the last night of your cruise. You will be instructed to leave your bags outside your room to be picked up by the crew. You and your fellow passengers will be given a time to disembark the ship based on your flight schedule. You will be allowed to disembark when your group has been called. You will scan your key card one last time to indicate you have left the ship, and exit onto the pier where your luggage will be placed with the all of the other passenger’s bags from your group. A brightly colored bag tag or suitcase will make this process much easier! There are also expedited options available for those needing to make an early flight where you will carry your own luggage, but this will need to be requested beforehand.

                                                      Guarantee (GTY) Booking

                                                      A guarantee stateroom or cabin is an unassigned room on a ship. It can be the perfect choice for some people, but you need to know the difference between an unassigned room and an assigned room. Being informed of your cabin means there are no surprises when you board the ship. If you book a guarantee stateroom you are guaranteed to have a stateroom in the desired category but will have to wait until close into the sail date to actually have a cabin assigned to you. Even though you won’t know your actual stateroom assignment until shortly before the sail date, you will be guaranteed a stateroom of equal or better than what you paid for.

                                                        It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the details that go into choosing your cruise vacation. Armed with the terminology of a cruiser, you should be able to take it all in a little bit easier. Now, all that's left is to find the sailing you’ve been dreaming of!


                                                          About the Author: The above piece was written by Jack D., a lifelong cruiser with 2 years of experience in the travel industry.


                                                           
                                                           
                                                           
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