Julie Peasgood on learning the cruise lingo - Cruise International

Julie Peasgood on learning the cruise lingo

By Julie Peasgood | 12 Feb 2020

Our celebrity columnist, Julie Peasgood, discusses deciphering the cruise lingo and her love of language.


Are you familiar with the term OBC? Do you know your port side from your leeward? And what on earth should you do if you’re experiencing a little resfeber, or even worse a bout of eleutheromania?

I have always been intrigued by language, and, like every industry, the travel world has its own particular lingo and expressions. It might be worth getting to know some cruisespeak if you’re about to set sail for the first time, or you’ve never taken in cruise jargon – if only so that you know OBC means On Board Credit (as extra cash credits added to your onboard account are always a bonus).

And by the way, OBC can be granted as a booking incentive, a promotion by the cruise line or as some form of compensation; whatever the reason it’s usually applicable to most purchases made on board the cruise ship.

The left side of the ship when facing forward is known in nautical terminology as ‘port side’ (easy to remember because ‘left’ and ‘port’ both contain four letters) and leeward simply means the side of the ship that’s sheltered from the wind. But what about resfeber
and eleutheromania – what are they when they’re at home?

Well, home for them isn’t the UK. Resfeber is a Swedish word meaning those mixed up feelings of eager anticipation, coupled with a slight panic, before you undertake a new journey or travel adventure, while eleutheromania originated in Greece. A noun, translating as ‘an acute longing for freedom’, it could be applied to peripatetic travellers whose wanderlust and desire to peregrinate is overwhelming. 

I knew you’d ask… people who peregrinate are always on the move. First used in the late 16th century, this is a Latin verb defined as ‘travelling or wandering from place to place, especially on foot’. I’m very partial to some peregrinating and always will be as I’m a confirmed hodophile – (adj.) Origin: Greek. Definition: A lover of travel. 

Nautical slang also has its place, and there are an extraordinary number of phrases that started life at sea and have now become part of our everyday conversation. Take the expression ‘above board’ for instance. Initially meaning anything that was on or above the open deck on board a ship, we currently use it to describe anything that is open in terms of being honest, legitimate and transparent.                

And what about ‘all at sea’? Dating back to the days when precise navigational aids weren’t available, this phrase applied to any ship that was out of sight and therefore in danger of losing its bearings. Now we say ‘all at sea’ (or just ‘at sea’) when we want to describe someone who is bewildered or confused by a situation, and have lost their way – although generally while they are on land. 

I could go on all day but it’s looking a bit brumous outside, so I’m hoping to escape these misty, foggy wintery days by booking another cruise. And I’m bound to experience some vorfreude – the German word for the joyful and intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures ahead of time – when I do…  

For more of Julie’s columns, read Julie Peasgood on eco-friendly initiatives and Julie Peasgood on dining at sea.