21 Secret Codes On Cruise Ships Explained



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If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you may have heard the captain communicating with the crew using codes, and you might wonder what they mean. 

When I hear a code spoken over the public address system, the first thing I think is, “I wonder what that means?” After all, it must be something set, otherwise, they would just say what the problem is!

me with cruise ship - Saga Spirit of Discovery

In this article, I’ll reveal the meanings of some of the most common secret cruise codes, so you’ll no longer be kept in the dark about what’s going on on board your cruise ship.

1. Charlie Alpha

What Does Charlie Alpha Mean on a Cruise Ship?

“Charlie” means a security threat, and Alpha” communicates a medical emergency. If you hear both, it’s a security threat caused by a medical emergency.

On the Cruise Critic Community forum, a passenger reported hearing it during an outbreak of meningitis.

Medical check up on cruise ship

2. Charlie Charlie Charlie

What Does Charlie Charlie Charlie Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The code “Charlie Charlie Charlie” is used when the captain needs to communicate to the crew that there’s a security threat. If you hear it, try to remain calm and await instructions. This particular code is known to be used on Royal Caribbean cruises.

Cruise ship security guard

3. Alpha Alpha Alpha

What Does Alpha Alpha Alpha Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The code “Alpha Alpha Alpha” is used to alert cruise ship crew to an onboard medical emergency. This code is known to be used on Royal Caribbean cruises, but other companies may use a single code Alpha. Either way, the Alpha Alpha Alpha cruise ship code means that somebody is in need of urgent medical attention.

4. Bravo

What Does Bravo Mean on a Cruise Ship?

It might be repeated three times, so you might hear it as “Bravo Bravo Bravo,” but either way, “Bravo” means there’s a fire on board. Be sure to follow all instructions from the crew to ensure your safety – though this applies to all cruise ship codes, really.

Cruise ship fire protection

5. Delta

What Does Delta Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Codes aren’t standardised across cruise lines, so the meaning if the code “Delta” depends on who you’re sailing with. It often means damage to the ship, but a former Norwegian Cruise Line employee wrote on the Cruise Critic Message Board that NCL uses the “Delta” cruise code to inform of pollution.

Large cruise ship pollutes the atmosphere through smoke from pipe

6. Mike

What Does Mike Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The code “Mike” is used by the cruise line Oceania Cruises to communicate to the crew that there is a medical emergency on board that requires urgent attention. Therefore, the code “Mike” performs a similar function to Alpha, but on Oceania Cruises only.

7. Oscar

What Does Oscar Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The cruise code “Oscar” is one of the most important and urgent there is. It’s used by both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises to alert the crew to a man overboard.

Man jumping into sea

Read more: What happens if someone jumps off a cruise ship?

8. Kilo

What Does Kilo Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The cruise code “Kilo” is used when the captain needs to request that all crew members report to their emergency stations. The code “Kilo” is known to be used on Royal Caribbean ships, and it may be said three times.

crew assembly station

9. Papa

What Does Papa Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The cruise code “Papa” may sound innocuous, and cute even, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, it means the ship has encountered an oil spill or some other form of pollution.

10. Victoria

What Does Victoria Mean on a Cruise Ship?

A cruise passenger on the Cruise Critic message boards has reported that the cruise code Victoria is used by Thomson for “extreme flooding”. It’s not a code I’ve heard, but if you’re on a Thomson cruise and you hear “Victoria,” there’s likely flooding on board.

11. Code 7

What Does Code 7 Mean on a Cruise Ship?

“Code 7” likely relates to the seven short blasts and one long blast that signals that all guests and crew must report to their muster stations.

You should be briefed on this during your muster drill as it’s important that you to take action. Put on warm clothing, gather any medication you need and head straight to your assigned muster station for further information.

muster station on a cruise ship

12. Code Red

What Does Code Red Mean on a Cruise Ship?

On a cruise ship, “Code Red” means that an illness has broken out on board. This is often norovirus, which sadly, isn’t exactly uncommon on board cruise ships, as regular cruisers will know.

I have been on a cruise ship during a norovirus outbreak and have heard this code. Unfortunately, my daughter was quarantined to the cabin for 24 hours after becoming sick. The rest of our family managed to avoid it.

Read more: Cruise Ship Norovirus Statistics

13. Code Purple

What Does Code Purple Mean on a Cruise Ship?

On a cruise, “Code Purple” is used to signify a bomb threat or some other form of chemical or biological threat. If you hear it, you’ll probably be a bit scared, but try not to panic, the crew will have robust procedures in place to deal with it.

Read more: Do cruise ships have police?

14. Code Black

What Does Code Black Mean on a Cruise Ship?

An announcement of “Code Black” on a cruise can be used to alert the crew to a few possible situations – none of them good. A code black can mean the possibility of a violent confrontation, or the possibility of a suicide threat.

15. Code Gray

What Does Code Gray Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Code Gray alerts the crew to the presence of an abusive person or a combative person on board. I’m sure it won’t be you but do remember to be respectful to your crew and fellow cruise travellers at all times.

Drunk men fighting with their friends trying to pull them apart

16. Code Pink

What Does Code Pink Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Code Pink is used to alert the crew that an infant under the age of 12 months is suspected (or confirmed) as missing. This is a rarely used code that I hope you’ll never hear on any of your cruises.

17. Code Green

What Does Code Green Mean on a Cruise Ship?

On a cruise, “Code green” is generally nothing to worry about, and just the captain alerting the crew to a less serious issue on board. Think of it as a kind of “traffic light system, with green for go” meaning things are relatively fine.

18. Code Blue

What Does Code Blue Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Some cruise lines use “Code Blue” as an alternative to “Alpha” codes to communicate that there is a medical emergency on board. Alternatively, some cruise lines use “Code Blue” to warn of hull damage. So the meaning of this code really depends on the ship.

19. Code Yellow

What Does Code Yellow Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Similar to “Code Green”, the ship’s captain might use the cruise code “Code Yellow” to alert the crew to a less serious issue. The traffic light analogy holds up, with yellow (similar to amber) being nothing serious to worry about.

20. Sierra

What Does Sierra Mean on a Cruise Ship?

The secret cruise code “Sierra” is used to communicate that a stretcher is required on board to assist with a medical emergency. Due to this, you might hear the “Sierra” cruise code after you hear one of the “Alpha” cruise codes. 

A code like this is unlikely to be announced to the whole ship. Instead, it will be radioed to the medical center on board.

Hospital bed on a cruise ship

21. Echo

What Does Echo Mean on a Cruise Ship?

If you hear the “Echo” cruise code, this means that the ship has started to drift, but don’t panic! It’s possible that the Captain will get the ship back under control – they’ll certainly have a procedure for correcting the problem.

The Bottom Line

I hope my article hasn’t made you anxious about your cruise, as that certainly wasn’t my intention. Remember that it’s unlikely that you’ll hear most, if any, of these cruise codes during your cruise, but it’s always worth being in the know about what they mean.

Also, remember that your cruise crew and captain will be highly trained professionals who will be able to deal with any emergency efficiently, so even if you do hear one of these cruise codes, there’s no need to panic!

After reading about secret cruise codes you may be wondering whether your cruise crew will include doctors or police officers, well,  for your peace of mind, I’ve written articles answering these questions.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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3 thoughts on “21 Secret Codes On Cruise Ships Explained”

  1. On Royal Caribbean, Bravo three times does not mean fire, it means an oil spill or grounding. Bravo three times with a location, ie B B B Cabin 4012 Starboard Side, this IS a Fire.

  2. I heard Mike Eco and one big beep on a MSC Cruise. And nobody told us the meaning.

  3. Echo, Echo, Echo was used whilst we were docked in St Petersburg. A squall came in and the ship moved, we just happened to be the only guests returning at that exact time. The two of us had to hunker down under/behind anything (the little transportable security desk) with hailstones battering us under the little shelter (which the crew eventually had to let go of). My Husband decided to film it….! After it was safe, I heard “Move” in my ear, we were escorted aboard as the gangway had moved during this squall, everyone outside was soaked to the skin, bruised and my powerchair had water where there should never be any water. They checked us in as normal and someone handed me a towel to wipe my face, I opened my eyes to a sea of Officers all with towels for us and the crew outside. One officer didn’t know where to put the towel she had so I ended up looking like Mother Theresa. They found the remains of the shelter broken about 1/2 a mile away. We found out the Captain missed his Birthday Cake, so when we saw him later that day, we wished him a Happy Birthday and an experience never to be forgotten.

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