The Top 12 Cruise Terms to Know

Learn the lingo before you set sail.
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Freedom of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's larger vessels.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

You’ve found the cruise that perfectly fits your adventure personality, picked the right staterooms for you and your crew, and packed all the cruise essentials. What now?

As you count down the days ‘til you set sail, you’ll want to add cruise lingo to your packing list. We’ve rounded up the 12 most useful terms to know before you go, so you’ll have the rundown of your Royal Caribbean ship (no, it’s not a boat!) and more:


When you cruise with Royal Caribbean, you’ll hear the captain refer to the vessel as a “ship” rather than a “boat.”

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Boat: Let’s start with the most important stuff. Your cruise is on a ship, not a boat. A boat is what you will sometimes take to get back to your ship while tendering (more on that later!) or during some shore excursions. Boats carry far less people than ships, but can take you to shore for all the adventures that await.

Bridge: You may not notice the bridge right away, but it is vital to your vacation. This is the driver’s seat, the upper deck where the captain and his team safely navigate the ship from one destination to the next.

Muster Drill: Before you get started on your well-deserved R&R, all guests must take part in a mandatory drill that covers the safety procedures on board the ship. It takes place before departure on every cruise—but don’t worry, it won’t take long—and it’ll probably be the only serious part of your vacation.

Tendering: To begin your day of exploring, you may need to board a tender (a small boat) to get from the ship to one of your destinations. Piers around the world vary in size, and tendering is how some of the shallower places are able to accommodate larger ships like Symphony of the Seas—the world’s largest cruise ship.


You can use your “cruise credits” to purchase anything on board a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Onboard Credit: A type of “cruise cash” you may receive as part of a special offer when you book your cruise, or credits you may purchase beforehand for friends and family. You can use these credits for nearly anything you want on the ship, from beverage packages and specialty dinners to spa treatments.

Here’s how the onboard credits work (and shopping ideas).

SeaPass: This one-of-a-kind ID card is given to each guest before they board a Royal Caribbean ship. It’s your key to getting around: you’ll need it to get on or off the ship, to get into your stateroom and for your onboard purchases (you’ll also need it when using your onboard credit). Take it from us, you’ll want to have it with you wherever you go.

Gangway: A mobile walkway for getting on and off a ship while you’re dockside at a destination.


When you hear the captain refer to the starboard side of the ship, he’s talking about the right side.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Ship Speak:

  • Aft: At or near the back (or stern) of the ship. On some Royal Caribbean ships, you can find some of our most thrilling onboard experiences here like the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea.
  • Bow: The front or “nose” of the ship. It’s the point that will often lead you into picturesque ports.
  • Starboard: You probably know it is one of two sides of the ship but which? It’s the right side when you’re facing forward. This term came from “steer board,” since long ago steering oars were often used on the right side of boats (simply because most people are right-handed).


When you pull into ports like Perfect Day at CocoCay, pay attention to the announcements to learn if you’ll be disembarking on the port or starboard side of the ship.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Port: An easy tip to remember this term is that “port” and “left” both have four letters. However, it’s not just the left side of the ship, you’ll also hear “port” used to describe where the ship docks, like at our private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas pictured here and opening in 2019.


Chefs work all day in the galley to prepare thousands of meals for the guests on board each of Royal Caribbean’s ships.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Galley: The ship’s kitchen is where our wide array of fantastic foods—from casual pizza and burgers to upscale Italian and sushi—are prepared. Catch a glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes by reserving your spot at the Bottomless Galley Brunch!

Now that you know the lingo, plan your cruise here to see all of the more than 260 destinations Royal Caribbean can take you.