The Four Different Meanings of 'Berth' On A Cruise Ship

By: George Adelman  | 
Berth of Cruise Ship at Dock
The berth of a cruise ship

The nautical term ‘berth’ is one of those words that have quite many different meanings, which is why it is often met with a lot of confusion.

When on a cruise ship, berth has four different meanings, which are basically nouns that have to do with commercial marine ships as well as cruise ships.

If you look at the etymology of this word, you will find that its origin is actually quite obscure. However, experts have found that it quite possibly originated from Middle English.


First Meaning – The Space One Ship Gives to Another

Ever came across the phrase, ‘one ship is giving another a wide berth’ or something along the lines of it?

Berth here refers to the space that one ship gives to another ship. In other words, one ship is trying to avoid crossing paths or getting in the way of another ship so that the latter has enough space to maneuver easily.

This is primarily done for ease as well as safety. While this might popularly be a nautical term, it is often featured in the English Language and can be used for a place, a person, or a thing that needs to be avoided.


Second Meaning – A Place to Sleep

When talking about a cruise ship, berth also refers to a pull-down bed or a shelf-like structure imitating a bed on the ship. So, in this case, berth refers to sleeping space or a place to sleep on a ship.

They are basically built-in beds that have been designed really small so that they can easily fit inside tiny cabins on sailboats, for instance.

However, the meaning of ‘berth’ varies depending on the type of ship that’s being talked about. So, the initial meaning referred to built-in bunks or shelves, it is now also used to refer to king-sized, queen, double or single beds as well.


Third Meaning – Job On A Ship

The third meaning of berth refers to a job on a ship, but this definition applies more to marine merchant ships and not cruise ships. This is because when you talk about a cruise ship, the term has more to do with the number of beds or berths that are present on a ship since every person on the ship does need a berth (bed).

So, in other words, you could say that the number of jobs could equal the number of beds, in which case, both the bed and job mean ‘berths.’


Fourth Meaning – Pier or Dock

fourth meaning-pier or dock
Containers. Men controlling number of container on dock. Aerial view
Thierry Dosogne / Getty Images

The most common meaning of the word ‘berth’ is a pier or dock, which is the point where a ship ties up. Take car parking, for instance. Every car has a parking spot, so the berth of a ship is the place where it is parked.

There are also times when authorities assign a berth to a ship, which is simply that ship’s allocated parking space.

These are the four different meanings of ‘Berth,’ so the next time you hear this word being used in reference of a cruise ship, you’ll know exactly what it means!