Considering a cruise? Learn the lingo!

Every industry has its own special vocabulary, and cruising is no different. So, with the summer cruise season getting underway, travelers considering or booking a cruise would do well to bone up on cruise industry terminology. Cruising-specific lingo defines the ships, their amenities and itineraries, plus a variety of cruise-related activities.

It is important to understand the terminology so you can weigh your options and make the best choice for your next cruise vacation. To help decipher this often-arcane language, the travel experts at CruiseCompete have put together this list of 10 cruise industry terms.

Holland America's ms Zuiderdam in port in Talin, Estonia

How many do you recognize?

Bespoke - Simply a fancy word for "custom." This is a type of travel experience in which a trip is designed specifically for a client with a focus on unique, highly local experiences.

Cay - Pronounced "key" A small sandy island on the surface of a coral reef, usually referring to islets in the Caribbean. Several cruise lines offer shore excursions at private cays (i.e., "private islands.").

Cruise to nowhere - A short sailing in which a ship will cruise in open waters for one or more days without reaching a destination. Usually fairly short, guests get the chance to experience the amenities of the ship.

French balcony - A glass door or wall-to-wall window that opens to give you fresh air and the feel of a veranda, minus the veranda, tables and chairs. Often a feature of cabins on river cruise ships.

Veranda Stateroom with French balcony
Photo courtesy Viking Cruises

Holiday market - During the holidays, river cruise lines offer itineraries of holiday or Christmas markets that feature town squares festooned with the traditional sights, smells and tastes of Christmas and holidays.

Loyalty program - A program offering rewards to repeat cruisers, with benefits that increase with frequency or spending. Perks might include shipboard credit, free wi-fi, exclusive get-togethers, etc.

Promenade - Refers to a deck on a ship that has open decking allowing one to walk all the way around the vessel (though there are ships with decks called "Promenade" that do not allow circumnavigation of the ship.) On some ships the promenade serves as a jogging path, while on others it serves as a public space where you might encounter shops and restaurants.

Promenade deck on the Zuiderdam

Segments - Portions of a long cruise itinerary. Breaking a long cruise into segments allows passengers to select which sections of the journey to travel, letting them join or leave the voyage at ports of their choosing. These options are seen often on World cruise itineraries.

Shoulder season - A travel period between peak season and low/off-peak season. When this occurs depends on the destination.

Wave season - January through March time period during which cruise lines and travel agents book a disproportionately large number of cruises with promotional deals.

But wait; there's more! For a full listing of cruise terms, click here. For more information, visit

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Photos by Carl Dombek unless otherwise noted
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