A to Z cruise ship guide: It's as easy as ABC

Sally ‘‘the Cruise Director’’ Macmillan decodes the language of seafarers, so even a novice can bluff their way around any cruise ship in the world.

Whether you're a seasoned cruiser or contemplating running away to sea for the first time, you'll find there's always something new on the horizon. The language of mariners is complex and often very funny (who knew that a pollywog – it means "tadpole"  – was a virgin Equator-crosser?) and there are vast tomes written about maritime terminology going back hundreds of years.

Our A to Z of cruising offers a kaleidoscopic view of the highlights of this booming business and takes a look at why cruising is no longer something that you wouldn't openly admit to doing in the company of cool friends.

A is for Anthem of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's (royalcaribbean.com.au) newest ship is virtually identical to Quantum of the Seas, which launched in a blaze of publicity last November. Like its 4180-passenger sister ship, the third-largest in the world, Anthem boasts a host of exciting features that are firsts for any cruise line. Take a ride in the NorthStar viewing capsule for astonishing 360-degree views 90 metres above sea level; have a go at skydiving in the iFly simulator; and enjoy a bumper-car session or flying-trapeze lesson in the amazing Seaplex venue. At night Seaplex transforms into a disco roller-skating rink.

Like several other Royal Caribbean ships, Anthem has plenty of activities to keep sporty passengers busy. It has a FlowRider surf simulator, rock-climbing wall, sports court, outdoor movie screen, outdoor and indoor swimming pools, and a huge gym equipped with the very latest fitness machines.

Robotics play a big role on the ship. Robot bartenders serve drinks at the Bionic Bar (a digital system prevents underage drinkers sneaking in an illicit cocktail) and in Two70, the vast, multi-use entertainment area, robotically controlled digital screens provide an ever-changing backdrop to spectacular shows.

On board Anthem and Quantum are numerous bars, 18 restaurants and the Royal Theater and Music Hall, as well as Two70.

Anthem's maiden voyage is from Southampton to France and Spain on April 22; it will sail Mediterranean cruises for the northern summer season, then reposition to the Caribbean.

ALSO: Alaska. The cruise season runs from May to September and the biggest cruise lines sailing there are Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com) and Princess (princess.com). Go off the beaten track with smaller expedition or luxury lines such as Lindblad (expeditions.com), Silversea (silversea.com) and Seabourn (seabourn.com).

Advertisement

B is for Britannia.

At 330 metres long and 38.4 metres wide, P&O Cruising World Cruises' (pocruises.com.au) new, 141,000 ton [subs not tonne], 3600-passenger flagship that Queen Elizabeth II launched in March is the biggest ship built for the British fleet.

The 97-metre Union Jack on the bow is the longest version of the famous flag in the world and used 420 litres of paint. Britannia has 15 passenger decks that are home to 1837 staterooms (including 27 solo cabins), 13 restaurants and cafes, 13 bars, nine entertainment venues, four swimming pools, The Oasis Spa and the adults-only Retreat spa and pool area.

The ship boasts P&O's first cookery school at sea, The Cookery Club. This state-of-the-art kitchen has 12 cooking stations that cater for a maximum of 24 students and classes are taught by top chefs Rob Cottam and Lizzie Kennedy or, on select cruises, popular UK celebrity chefs including James Martin, who designed The Cookery Club.

The 13 restaurants include wine expert Olly Smith's Glass House; Indian chef Atul Kochhar's Sindhu; and the classy Market Cafe in the atrium, where you can sample cheese plates selected by international cheese judge Charlie Turnbull and confections created by master patissier Eric Lanlard. Marco-Pierre White has designed menus for gala nights in the main restaurants, Peninsula, Oriental and Meridian.

Britannia is cruising out of Southampton to the Mediterranean and northern Europe until October, then it repositions to the Caribbean.

ALSO Bridge, from where the captain and first officers run the ship; and beam, the width of a ship at its widest point.

C is for captain…

...the boss of everyone on the ship; cruise director, the "face" of a ship, coordinating entertainment, activities and shore excursions; cabin steward, the very important person who keeps your cabin clean and tidy; and cargo cruises. The latter attracts independent travellers who love life at sea but not resort-style cruising. As a paying passenger, you can join ships delivering goods to ports all over the world. Cargo (or freighter) ships accommodate from eight to 200 passengers; Aranui (aranui.com) in French Polynesia is one of the best-known operators.

D is for drinking and dining.

These activities are usually high priority for cruisers. The variety of eateries on board contemporary cruise ships is incredible and even when you opt to pay for lunch or dinner at a specialty restaurant you'll enjoy gourmet dining at far lower prices than at an equivalent city restaurant.

ALSO Disembarkation, the worst day of a cruise – when you have to get off the ship.

E is for equator.

It's the imaginary circle around the earth's surface that divides the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. For centuries, crossing the equator has been celebrated on board all sorts of ships. On a cruise you can expect a ceremony involving someone dressed as King Neptune, pollywogs (first-time equator crossers) and shellbacks (those who've been there done that), plus fish-kissing and dunking in water (or worse).

ALSO Europe. According to CLIA Australasia's 2013 figures, this is the most popular long-haul destination for Aussie cruisers.

F is for FlowRider

This is a surfing simulator installed on several Royal Caribbean ships, including locally based Voyager of the Seas. Water jets create a wave-like water flow that allows you to bodyboard or surf standing up.

ALSO funnel. In the old days, funnels on steamships let smoke and excess steam escape from the boiler rooms. Today, funnels expel gases into the atmosphere and cruise lines are competing to build more environmentally friendly engines to reduce pollution.

G is for galley

The nautical word for kitchen, and a key part of a ship – see D for dining. Not only does the galley crew prepare meals virtually 24/7 for sometimes thousands of passengers, the crew needs to be well fed too. A large ship such as the 3560-passenger Regal Princess has 14 galleys.

ALSO Galapagos. This is one of the world's top spots for up-close encounters with wildlife. The main operators in the region are Celebrity Cruises (celebritycruises.com.au) (Celebrity Xpedition); Lindblad Expeditions (National Geographic Endeavour, National Geographic Islander) and Silversea (silversea.com)(Silver Galapagos).

H is for hull

It's the frame or body of the ship from the top deck down to the keel.

ALSO holiday. Every year more and more Aussies take a cruise holiday – according to the Cruise Lines International Association, numbers have risen by an average 20 per cent a year for the past 11 years and every year the record is broken as the "cruising is cool" message filters out.

I is for islands.

Many popular cruises call at Pacific island nations such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga. Cruise lines are also venturing to the neighbouring islands of Indonesia, the Solomons and Papua New Guinea.

ALSO inside cabins, the cheapest accommodation on a ship because they have no ocean view or balcony.

J is for just relax.

Not so hard when pretty much everything is taken care of, including all your meals, accommodation and transport to a series of different destinations.

ALSO Japan, which is becoming increasingly popular with cruise lines since Princess Cruises (princess.com) started operating round-trip itineraries from Tokyo (Yokohama) and Kobe. Diamond Princess, which was built in Japan and now has a traditional-style Izumi Japanese bath, will be based in Japan from April to September this year.

K is for Koningsdam, Holland America Line's (hollandamerica.com) newest and biggest ship, which will be officially named in Rotterdam in May 2016. "Koning" means king in Dutch and every HAL ship's name ends in "dam" – although it's difficult to find a definitive reason why that is so.

The 2650-passenger MS Koningsdam will be the first in the fleet's Pinnacle class of vessels and, like its 15 sister ships, will have familiar features, such as the Culinary Arts Center, Explorations Cafe, Digital Workshop and a teak promenade deck, but all will be given a contemporary design treatment. HAL has been in the cruise business since 1873 and its ships are designed to reflect its history and traditions.

While restaurants such as the Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto will offer the same style of menus as on other HAL ships, new dining options will include Sel de Mer, a French brasserie-type restaurant specialising in seafood, and the Grand Dutch Cafe.

Koningsdam will have family-friendly ocean-view cabins, HAL's first dedicated single cabins (12) and a big range of staterooms and suites.

After its christening, Koningsdam will sail Mediterranean, Baltic, British Isles and Northern Europe itineraries.

ALSO keel, the structural beam that runs from a ship's bow to its stern and forms the ship's "spine".

L is for Le Lyrial, French cruise line Ponant's (en.ponant.com) new 264-passenger luxury adventure ship, which launches in April. It will be virtually identical to its sister ships Le Boreal (2010), L'Austral (2011) and Le Soleal (2013).

ALSO latitude and longitude. These are north-south and east-west lines used when reading charts and maps to define positions.

M is for midships.

It's the best place on a ship to book a cabin if you're prone to seasickness as there's the least amount of movement there.

ALSO maiden voyage, a new ship's first cruise.

N is for Norwegian Escape.

It's the first in Norwegian Cruise Line's (norwegiancruiseline.com.au) new Breakaway Plus class of ships. It launches in October and, at 163,000 tons, and carrying 4200 passengers, will be the biggest in the fleet. An identical sister ship, Norwegian Bliss, is due to make its debut in early 2017, bringing the total number of ships in the NCL fleet to 15.

Norwegian Escape will incorporate several features popular on the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway (launched in 2013 and 2014 respectively). These include 678 Ocean Place, a three-deck dining and entertainment area; studio cabins for single cruisers (82 altogether) and the Studio lounge, exclusively for people in studio cabins; the private Haven area that features its own pool, restaurant, spa and suites; and even bigger versions of the ropes course and aqua park.

New restaurants on Escape include the Private Room at Taste (an extra-charge, 100-seat venue); the Jimmy Buffet-inspired Margaritaville; and Food Republic, where you can sample tasting plates of international dishes.

Entertainment is a big deal on NCL's big ships. Escape will offer more than ever before. A supper club will feature music from famous 1980s movies and there will be two Broadway shows.

There will be age-appropriate kids clubs for three- to 17-year-olds; NCL is introducing childcare for babies and toddlers from six months to three years in its new Guppies program.

Norwegian Escape will sail seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries from its home port of Miami from November 2015.

ALSO nautical mile, which is 1.852 kilometres or 1.1508 miles.

O is for oceanview cabins.

They have a porthole or window but not a balcony.

ALSO ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the largest, followed by the Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic Oceans. Plenty of scope for cruising!

P is for P&O Cruises.

P&O (pocruises.com.au) is adding Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden to its fleet later this year. The line will then have five ships operating cruises from every Australian state. The former HAL ships MS Ryndam and MS Statendam will undergo major refurbishments before they re-emerge as Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden. Each will accommodate 1500 passengers and be designed for singles, couples and families aged 30-plus. They will have 15 bars and restaurants. The traditional buffet will be a thing of the past as The Pantry comes online; this will host a selection of options, including a gourmet delicatessen, fish and chips, and Mexican street food. There will be Asian fusion in Dragon Lady and Angelo's Italian will serve, naturally, Italian dishes.

The ships' Open Kitchen will feature a cooking school as well as dining, and the Chef's Table will be offer a more intimate experience. Salt Grill by Luke Mangan will have a Salt Grill Bar added and the traditional Waterfront restaurant will continue to serve main meals.

The overall look of the ships, judging from the artist's impressions, will be fresh and contemporary and bookings are already going gangbusters.

ALSO pilot: a highly qualified local navigation expert who comes on board to help the captain steer the ship into ports or through difficult seaways, such as the Barrier Reef.

Q is for Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

Cunard (cunardline.com.au) is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year and on March 12, QM2 and Queen Victoria will create a royal spectacle when they rendezvous on Sydney Harbour.

ALSO quadshare. Generally the cheapest cabins, which accommodate four people.

R is for romance.

You can get married on many ships, celebrate special vows, and, of course, enjoy a blissful honeymoon at sea. Check with your favourite cruise line about its citizenship rules and regulations for weddings, as they vary in different countries.

ALSO repositioning cruises. Often marketed as "transoceanic" voyages, they're offered when a ship moves from one region to another as the seasons change. There are usually lots of sea days involved and while fares are often bargain-priced, remember that you have to factor in your airfare from the end destination.

S is for sunrises and sunsets.

Where else but at sea can you enjoy so many of nature's spectacular shows?

ALSO stabiliser. Most modern cruise ships are fitted with stabilisers, a retractable "arm" that is extended when the ship is sailing through rough seas to reduce the rolling motion.

T is for tender, a small boat that ferries passengers from ship to shore when the ship cannot dock in a port.

ALSO transatlantic crossing, a ship's passage across the Atlantic Ocean between Britain and America.

U is for upgrade

Everyone wants one but it rarely happens. However, there's no harm in asking and when you are a frequent cruiser with a particular cruise line, upgrades can be offered as a reward in the loyalty program.

ALSO Ushuaia, jumping-off port at the southernmost point of South America for Antarctic expedition cruises.

V is for Viking Star.

Viking Cruises (vikingrivercruises.com.au) is best-known for its prolific production of river cruise ships and now the company is branching out into ocean ships. Viking Star is the first of three identical, 930-passenger vessels and it will launch in Bergen, Norway, in May. Viking Sea and Viking Sky will follow next year.

Viking Cruises conducted extensive research among its river cruisers and other interested potential ocean cruisers to come up with ships that will offer an array of features based on the results of its surveys. So, Viking Star is for adults only; there will be no casino; no inside cabins (they will all have balconies); no charges for specialty dining; no tipping; free WiFi; free use of spa facilities (although you pay for treatments); and free sightseeing tours in every port of call.

 A major emphasis will be on spending more time in ports – in a two-week itinerary you can expect just two sea days – and tenders will only be used in two of the ports visited in the Mediterranean, Baltic and Norwegian Fjords.

Viking Star will offer more alfresco dining than any other cruise ship and restaurant choices include the World Cafe, where you can sample a variety of regional dishes, Manfredi's Italian Restaurant, and The Chef's Table for intimate dinners.

The ship will feature a snow grotto, as well as a sauna in the spa, so you can do the traditional Nordic cold-hot treatments; and there will be an infinity pool cantilevered off the stern as well as a pool that has a retractable roof dome for cool-weather cruises.

ALSO Valetta, the historic cruise port and beautiful capital of Malta.

W is for wave season. In Australia this starts in spring, when the first overseas ship enters our waters and ends when the last one departs for warmer climes, usually in April or May. This year, Radiance of the Seas marks the start of the Wave Season when it arrives in Sydney on October 9.

ALSO windward, the side of the ship against which the wind is blowing.

X is for the X on Celebrity Cruises' ships funnels. It represents the name "Chandris", the original Greek owners of Celebrity Cruises.

ALSO Xiamen. This major port on the southeast coast of China features on cruise itineraries run by Royal Caribbean (royalcaribbean.com.au), Princess Cruises (princess.com) and Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.com).

Y is for young cruisers.

As more families take off for a cruise holiday because of the many fantastic deals and facilities on offer, the average age of cruisers is dropping dramatically. No longer can we say cruising is only for the newly wed, overfed and nearly dead!

ALSO Your Choice Dining on P&O Cruises' ships means you can choose who you dine with, where and when; the days of dinner only being served at early or late sittings are long gone.

Z is for zzzzz. A siesta after a long lunch is one of life's great pleasures. The sound of the waves and the gentle motion of the ship ensure a thoroughly dreamy afternoon …

LEARN THE CRUISE-SHIP LINGO

Aft – the area towards the back of the ship (stern)

Astern – towards the back or behind the ship

Bow – the front of the ship (pointy end)

Forward – towards the ship's bow

Gangway – ramp or stairway between ship and shore when the ship is docked

Muster station – meeting place where you assemble for lifeboat drill at the start of a cruise and where you'd go in an emergency

Port – the left side of the ship

Starboard – the right side of the ship

Stern – the rear of the ship (roundy end)

Comments