Secret Codes on Cruise Ships Only Crew Members Know!

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Secret codes on cruise ships? Yes, the word is in: amongst the staff and crew of any given cruise ship, there are code words to indicate goings-on. There are many code words, from an emergency “all hands on deck” to “man overboard.” In this article, we’ll outline all these codes and what they mean – for the passengers and staff alike.

Different Codes Amongst Cruise Lines

It’s important to note that different cruise lines may use different codes for certain emergencies. For instance, Alpha Alpha Alpha is the code for a medical emergency on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships. 

Many of Royal Caribbean cruise ships’ codes contain words in threes: Alpha Alpha Alpha, Echo Echo Echo, Kilo Kilo Kilo, and Oscar Oscar Oscar are some of them. 

Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line uses Alpha Team, Alpha Team, Alpha Team as a fire emergency aboard one of their ships. This is why it’s important to familiarize yourself not only with secret codes on ships, but also what that particular cruise line’s codes are, since they can mean very different things depending on the company.

Cruise Ship Drill
Cruise Ship Drill (Photo Credit: Andy A Graham / Shutterstock)

Emergency Codes

The following are emergency codes that the crew should memorize. Below each is the action the crew and passengers should take in response. 

Note that the codes we’ve listed are used as signals to alert crew without causing any distress to passengers. It’s imperative that if you hear any of these codes on board a cruise ship, the first step is to remain calm. Then, proceed by following the procedures outlined by the crew.

Alpha

These codes refer to a medical emergency onboard the ship. Usually, the ship’s medical staff will respond to the call. Passengers generally can go about their day, but those in the area of the emergency should stay out of the way of the first responders. This also indicates a medical emergency aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. 

Bravo

Bravo Bravo Bravo means that there’s a fire onboard. If you hear this code, don’t panic. Someone from the crew will give you further instructions if there’s something you need to do. If you are the first one to spot a fire, immediately inform the officer on watch, who will inspect the area and inform the crew. 

On Carnival Cruises, Bravo Bravo means man overboard.

Brightstar or Operation Brightstar

On a Carnival or Disney Cruise Line, Operation Brightstar is a code used to designate a medical emergency. This is only a code that can be used by a member of the medical team to indicate that someone is suffering from an urgent medical emergency, such as cardiac arrest. It is spoken on the PA system so that the ship’s medical team is alerted and can attend to the person in need immediately. 

Delta

This code has multiple uses amongst different cruise lines, and can indicate a possible biohazard, damage to the ship, or possible injuries or even multiple injuries. 

More commonly, it is used to alert the crew to possible hull damage. 

Kilo

This code means that the captain needs all crew to their emergency posts, and this may occur if there needs to be an emergency evacuation. If you hear this code, pay attention to what’s happening around you and find your travel companions, as you may be asked to evacuate soon.

Echo

Echo can mean high winds, or the ship is starting to drift, which isn’t necessarily a problem because the captain can likely get things under control. It could be more serious if the ship is near another ship or a port.

Sierra/Sierra Team

Sierra will often follow an Alpha code, which means a stretcher is required in conjunction with a medical emergency. You might not hear this over the intercom, but it may be radioed between staff responding to the emergency. 

Some other companies, such as Carnival Cruise Line, use Sierra Team Sierra Team as their code for a stretcher on site.

Oscar

If you hear the crew using code Oscar, someone’s gone overboard. Stand by and wait for further information from the crew. The ship may stop for rescue efforts, and the itinerary may change. The best things you can do with a code Oscar are to stay out of the way of the crew and be patient.

Code Green/Code Yellow

These codes mean that a less serious issue has arisen and is easily solvable by the crew members. Cruise ships generally use a traffic light system, where green means go and yellow means yield, so a Code Yellow may be more serious than a Code Green, but rest assured that neither is an emergency.

Operation Rising Star

If a death or serious medical emergency has occurred onboard the cruise ship, you may hear this code.

PVI

This code means that someone has vomited in a public area. Staff will respond appropriately to clean up the mess. We recommend that you avoid the area.

Code Pink

Code pink means an infant under one year old is suspected to be missing. The ship’s police are likely to respond quickly and assertively. As a passenger, there’s not much you can do except keep your eyes open and report anything you think looks suspicious.

Code Gray

If someone is abusive, volatile, or belligerent onboard the ship, you’ll hear a Code Gray. The ship’s police will respond to the code.

Red Party

Red Party means there is a fire at sea. Again, don’t panic. Staff are well-trained and know what to do, so sit back and wait for further instructions.

Zulu

A fight has broken out on the ship, and the best thing you can do is stay clear of this incident and let the ship’s crew and police respond.

Code Red

This designates that an illness has broken out on the ship. Norovirus is usually the culprit, but with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, passengers may be suspicious of hearing a Code Red.

Papa

Depending on the cruise line, this code means there has been some environmental emergency, like an oil spill.

Code 7

Code 7 is one of the few codes meant for crew and passengers. If you hear a Code 7, it means that everyone aboard the ship must report to their muster stations. Muster stations are emergency meeting points, and you will be briefed on the process on your first day on the ship.

Code Purple

This code means that there has been a bomb threat or other biological or chemical threat. If you hear this code, it’s important not to panic. The staff and crew members have been trained to deal with these situations, so sit back and wait for further instructions.

Code Black

A Code Black can mean a few things, like a suicide threat, a fight, or a violent confrontation. Crew and ship police will respond, and passengers should do their best to avoid the violence.

Conclusion

You may hear some of these secret codes on your next cruise. Some are not a big deal, and you can go about your day. Others, though, require a little more care and attention.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Lifeboats – How Are They Tested?

No matter what the code, don’t panic. Stay calm, and wait for further instructions. Chances are you’ll be back to enjoying your cruise in no time!

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.

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