Last word: Do you speak cruise?
While you’re lying on your sun lounger at the pool deck, keep your ears open and you’ll discover the secret dramas unfolding throughout the ship. Peter Lynch tells you how.
You may not have noticed – indeed, you’re not supposed to, but the crew aboard your cruise ship has a language all of its own. It’s a little bit Star Ship Enterprise, a little bit infra dig and sometimes downright funny.
It’s designed to deal with those emergencies, or rather unsavoury incidents, that happen at sea when you’ve gathered together thousands of holidaying strangers.
Like the death of a passenger, known in crew speak rather euphemistically as “Operation Rising Star”. You may hear an announcement for “Operation Bright Star” Þrst, which denotes a serious medical emergency requiring immediate attention.
“PVI” is a little more obvious. It stands for “public vomiting incident”. And “3030” is an appeal for crew members to help clean up the mess.
Perhaps the most dreaded of all announcements is “Code Red”. It means there is a case of norovirus on board. It’s hated by crew and passengers alike.
For the crew, it means a deep cleansing of the ship, often using steam hoses while wearing sealed medical suits and masks.
For passengers, it means a stepping up of the crew’s urgent entreaties to use the sanitisers and wash their hands.
Almost every ship has a detailed OPP, Outbreak Prevention Plan. There is a scale of outbreak, each stage with swift consequences. Royal Caribbean, for instance, maintains OPP1 and moves to OPP2 if there’s a “6 in 6” – six passengers are diagnosed in six hours. When they reach OPP3, passengers will not be allowed to serve themselves or handle their own food. You’ll notice some odd new waiters serving you at the buffet – many recruited from the entertainment teams. Cabin sheets and towels are put in red biohazard bags.
“While “Red Parties” sounds like fun, the code words actually refer to a fire on board.”
There are some codes you never want to hear. “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” means there is a security threat, while “Echo” means the ship is on a collision course. And while “Red Parties” sounds like fun, the code words actually refer to a Þre on board. “Sierra” is a call for a stretcher.
We’re grateful to Brandon Presser, a cruise guide and author, for some fascinating, at times telling, insights from his time as a cruise director with Royal Caribbean.
Like this one: “According to the ship’s senior doctor, the biggest issue involving alcohol is when the ship is docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Mix an afternoon of unregulated drinking on land at Señor Frogs with tropical heat and a few glasses of Mexican tap water, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed PVI.”
Or this: “Dru Pavlov, veteran cruise director and my mentor during this Royal Caribbean stint, keeps a hallowed book of stupid comments and questions; passed down from one cruise director to the next as a rite of passage, it makes great vamping material for event emcees.
“The book Pavlov bequeathed to me included such doozies as: ‘Where’s the elevator to get to the front of the ship?’ Others include, ‘Is the toilet water drinkable?’ and ‘How long does it take the crew to get home every night?’
“My favourite contribution came three days into my tenure, when a passenger stopped me to complain that she could no longer Þnd her cabin.
“The ship had been parked backwards, she claimed.”