Knowing the lingo!
Before you book your cruise vacation, it’s good to learn the proper names for the parts of your ship, the crew, the ports and more! That way, you’ll sound like an experienced cruiser even before you board the ship!
Let’s begin! The thing upon which you’ll be cruising is called a SHIP! It’s not a boat. You can put a boat on a ship (and they do – the lifeboats!) but you can’t put a ship on a boat!! The pointy end, or front is called the BOW. The direction you walk to get to the bow is FORWARD. The other end of the ship is called the STERN and you’ll walk AFT to get to the back.
The SHIP known as MSC Dvina, with her orange life BOATS in Jamaica – photo by Meg Ryan
When you’re facing the front of the ship, the PORT side of the ship is to your left. This is easy to remember as both words – port and left – have four letters! The right side, when facing forward is STARBOARD. In this case, both the words “right” and “starboard’ have the letter R in them – R for right!!
Easy enough, correct? The ramp that you’ll use to board and exit the ship is called a GANGWAY, not a gangplank. You’ll WANT to walk on a gangway. As for walking a gangplank? Probably not a good idea!! The place that you’ll sleep is your cabin or stateroom and the people who clean them are called Cabin Attendants or Cabin Stewards. They’re not cabin STEWARTS, unless of course, their name happens to be Stewart!
Gangway, Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne, NJ – photo by Meg Ryan
While you’re on your cruise, there are very few things that you MUST do. One of these is the mandatory lifeboat or MUSTER drill. Required by the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS), the emergency evacuation drill is required by law for all passengers sailing, regardless of how many times you’ve cruised in the past. It’s not the MUSTARD drill by the way-save that for the buffet!
Seriously though, the emergency evacuation drill takes 30 minutes or less and you’ll hear important information about where to report in the unlikely event of an emergency. Arrive on time, remain quiet, listen to crew instructions, watch the demonstrations of how to wear your lifejacket and the drill will be over before long and you can get back to your fun!
The places you’ll visit while on your cruise are called ports of call. You may see a very small boat coming close to, and actually alongside, your ship! Don’t panic, that’s the pilot boat! It’s supposed to be next to your ship as a local harbor pilot will board your cruise ship (via a very small ladder) and then go to the bridge and assist in docking the ship. The bridge is the navigation center of the ship. The Captain (also called the Master) is the one in charge and he or she, along with other bridge officers, will sail the ship safely between ports!
St. Maarten Harbor Pilot Boat – photo by Meg Ryan
Many ports of call have piers build over the water and your ship will tie up to the pier, the gangway will be set and you’ll be able to head out for a day of touring. But sometimes, you will be at a port that does not have a pier. Grand Cayman is, currently, a tender port as are several ports in Europe. You’ll reach the port of call by riding on a small boat, called a tender that will pull up to the side of your ship. The crew will assist you.
Those are just some of the basic terms that you’ll hear on and around the ship. There will be additional terms that you will hear when booking and sailing, and we’ll discuss those in later installments!