Cruise Ship Lingo: Bow vs. Stern, Aft vs. Foward Cruise Terminology

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Embarking on a cruise can have you feeling as though you are entering a strange foreign land with a whole new language to learn and decode. English is the onboard language used most often but the cruise ship terminology and lingo used can leave you unable to decipher what is being spoken about.

Thankfully, there is an easy way to get your head around this foreign tongue. This quick guide with on cruise lingo such as Bow vs. Stern and Aft vs. Forward will help you to find your way around these foreign terms and have you familiar with the lingo before you step aboard. Read on to navigate the language of the seven seas with confidence.

Cruise Ship Terms

Aft and Forward: The aft of a ship is the rear, while the front of the ship is referred to as forward.

Atrium: This is a multi-deck area of a cruise ship that is located in the central part of the ship, near to shops, cafes and elevators. The atrium can be of any length and varies from two to even ten decks in height.

Bow vs. Stern: The very front of the ship is referred to as the bow. The bow has been designed for it to easily glide through water. The shape that a bow takes is determined by the type of boat or ship, the speed of the vessel and the type of water it needs to navigate.

The stern is at the rear of the ship or boat and is located at the opposite end from the bow, the front of the vessel. It refers to the area that is constructed around the sternpost, the principal upright post at the rear end of a ship.

Bridge: The bridge is the area from which the captain steers and navigates the ship and from which the ship is commanded.

Grand Princess Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Ceri Breeze /

Crossing: A crossing refers to the voyage a ship takes across water to get to a particular destination.

Deck Plan: The deck plan refers to the plans that show what type of staterooms are located on every deck on a cruise ship, as well as the other facilities and rooms on deck including elevators, shops, restaurants and theaters.

Departure Port: This is the port or point from which your cruise begins and ends.

Galley: The galley is the location of the ship’s kitchen. Cruise ships usually have many galleys because of the large number of meals they need to prepare daily.

Gangway: The ramp that you’ll utilize to enter the ship as well as to disembark.

Gratuities: These monetary amounts are an expression of thanks from passengers for the service they received throughout a cruise. Gratuities for groups are usually included along with the passenger’s final payment.

Hull: The hull is the ship’s exterior.

Keel: This is the middle and central part of a ship that extends from the bow to the stern.

Lido Deck: “Lido” refers to beach in Italian and the lido deck on a ship encompasses the deck that has swimming pools and bars. Much programming based on swimming pool activities happens on this deck and it is one of the upper-most ship’s decks.

Open Seating: This refers to being able to sit anywhere where there are unoccupied tales in the ship’s dining areas. It is an alternative seating arrangement to fixed dining table arrangements.

Port: This is the ship’s left side when viewed from the perspective of it facing forward. The left-hand side and the port side of the ship both mean the same thing.

Port of call: A port of call refers to one of the destinations on a cruise where you will most likely be able to disembark and experience shore excursions.

Port Expenses: Every port of call that you arrive at on your cruise will levy a charge that is based on local taxes and fees. These charges usually come as an additional cruise expense, as cruise companies don’t usually charge for port expenses and other taxes.

Portholes: These are the circular windows in ship’s cabins.

Porthole Cruise Ship Cabin
All Photos By: Melissa Mayntz

Promenade: The promenade is the open area that extends over the entire length on either side of a cruise ship. Some ships have decks that completely encircle the ship.

Repositioning Cruise: A repositioning cruise occurs when a cruise liner has to move from one part of the world to another. These cruises often occur with a change in seasons and are also frequently economically priced.

Single Supplement: This is an additional amount that is charged because cruise fares are based on double occupancy. Some cruise ships can charge double the rate for a single fare while others have a few single cabins available that will cost single travelers the same as double occupancy rates.

Starboard: Starboard refers to the right side of the ship when viewed from the position of the ship facing forward.

Thruster: This is a propulsion device that is fitted either on the bow or the stern of a ship. They are smaller than the ship’s propellers and allow for greater maneuverability at lower speeds, making docking easier. Large ships can have a number of bow and stern thrusters.

Also Read: Port and Starboard: Which Side Is Which?

Cruise Ship Dining Terms

Cruise Casual: This is the term referred to for the dress code at dinner on most nights onboard a cruise ship. Men can wear casual wear such as slacks, jeans, dress shorts and sports shirts. Women are able to wear casual dresses, pants, capri pants as well as dressy jeans.

Cruise Elegant: On these nights it’s advised that passengers wear more formal wear such as dress pants, dress shirts, and sport coats for men. Women should wear cocktail dresses, skirts and more formal pantsuits.

Formal Night: On longer cruises, there will be at least two formal dressing nights. These involve wearing formal suits or tuxedos for men and evening gowns for women. This dress code is not an absolute requirement although it is appreciated.

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