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The top 7 cruise ship things you're still saying wrong

15 Mar 2021
Matt Hochberg

No matter how many cruises you have been on, there are still a few things you are calling the wrong name.

Like so many things in spoken language, people tend to gravitate towards easier to remember terms or phrases and getting your brain to remember the proper phrase is never simple.

The classic example is when a highway or bridge is renamed, many people tend to still call it by the old name.  In other cases, it can be a simple case of not realizing the thing you are talking about is actually referred to as something else.

No one is perfect (especially me), so I wanted to share a few common terms, things, and policies that you might have been calling the wrong thing.

1. Jones Act

Let's start off with a timely mistake, and that is calling the cabotage laws that cruise ships adhere to in the United States as the Jones Act.

The rules that require foreign-flagged cruise ships to sail from the United States and stop somewhere outside of the country before returning back has become a major sticking point for cruise lines following Canada's ban of cruise ships.

Lots of people call this the Jones Act, but the Jones Act refers to cargo and cruise ships actually fall under a different law.

It is not the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920), it is the PVSA (Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886) that prohibits foreign flagged ships from doing closed-loop voyages that do not visit a foreign port.  

2. Boat

The cruising equivalent of nails on a chalkboard has to be when someone refers to a cruise ship as "a boat".

This has to do with the nautical terms that differentiate vessels between a boat and a ship.

Calling a cruise ship a boat is demeaning because there are major differences between a boat and a ship.

  • A ship is much larger than a boat
  • Ships are built to travel the open ocean, while boats are relegated to shore areas
  • A ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship


Another incredibly common mistake is to call Royal Caribbean International "RCCL" or "Royal Caribbean Cruise Line".

Yes, that used to be the name of the cruise line, but Royal Caribbean changed its name from "Royal Caribbean Cruise Line" after they purchased Celebrity Cruises.

The company decided to keep the two cruise line brands separate after the merger, so "Royal Caribbean Cruise Line" became "Royal Caribbean International" and a new parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., was created.

Since then, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. changed its name to Royal Caribbean Group in 2020.

The bottom line is, it has been over 20 years since the cruise line we know and love was called RCCL.

4. Mustard drill

My kids are as guilty as anyone for mispronouncing this as anyone, but one is the safety drill and the other is a condiment.

I am certain there is a technical phrase in speech about when you call something by a name you think you heard it as, but the safety drill on cruise ships is the muster drill, and has nothing to do with the stuff you put on burgers.

As a new cruiser, it is easy to mistake the name after hearing someone say "muster drill", but it is definitely not mustard.

5. Cay or Key?

The proper pronunciation of Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas has recently become a major source of debate among cruisers.

When Royal Caribbean transformed CocoCay into Perfect Day at CocoCay, there was a decision to call the island by the same pronunciation that the Bahamians prefer, which is "key".

Since many of us were so used to pronouncing it "cay", it drummed up a lot of discussion which is appropriate.  Many cruise fans pointed out "cay" rhymes with "Perfect Day", thus, it must be the case.  I have always seen that as a coincidence, since Perfect Day at Lelepa was announced and definitely does not rhyme.

The truth is both pronunciations are acceptable, but "key" is more proper.

6. Confusing sail away time with all aboard time

Of all the things on this list, I probably would not stop and correct someone on a cruise ship out of respect for them and not wanting to look like a know-it-all....except for this one.

When your cruise ship visits a port, you will see the times listed of when the ship is in port. However, these times are not what times you can actually get on or off the ship.

The ship has two times guest need to take heed of: what time the ship departs, and what time you need to be back onboard.

The all aboard time is the cut off for when you must be back onboard the ship.  This is to ensure there is enough time for everyone to get back on the ship, and prepare the ship to set sail.

So when you are planning your day in any port, you want to ensure you are back onboard well before the all aboard time.

7. Anytime Dining

Royal Caribbean's flexible main dining room dinner program is called My Time Dining, but there are a lot of other names people call it.

Lots of guests will call it "anytime dining" or even worse, "freestyle dining".  

Freestyle Dining is the trademarked name of Norwegian Cruise Line's bold initiative to shake up cruise ship dinner.