Cryptic code words for man overboard, a floating morgue and jail for rowdy guests – what really goes on during your luxurious cruise holiday

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FROM hidden on-board morgues to jail cells for rowdy passengers, luxury cruise liners are brimming with secrets.

And that’s before we’ve even got started on the code words staff use when they want to hide things from passengers… suffice to say, if you hear someone shouting “Bravo” or about “Red Parties”, it’s time to grab your life jacket.

Luxury cruise trips are popular among Brit holidaymakers
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Over 21 million people a year opt to take to the high seas for a much-needed break, with some of the biggest cruise companies such as the Royal Caribbean boasting ships that take over 6,000 passengers at a time.

Here, The Sun Online looks at what happens in the event of an emergency and reveals the complex inner workings of your cruise…

Not always smooth sailing

You might be in the middle of an endless ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can escape the law if you behave badly – in fact, it’s even stricter than on land.

Most of the time crew will keep a guest locked in their cabin if they’ve had a row with someone else, or got too drunk.

Cruise ships have strict protocol they abide by

However, things could get more serious – each large cruise ship actually has an on-board jail, which is usually a couple of steel rooms near the security office known as the brig, for when things escalate.

Speaking to The Sun Online, Cruise Critic editor Kerry Spencer says: “In general, it will have to be a pretty significant issue to find your way there, but depending on the severity, you might even be arrested at the next port of call.

“If you are at sea without a port stop, you could be returned to your cabin to remain there until the end of the cruise.”

Cruise ships will have on-board jails to contain misbehaving passengers
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“Operation Rising Star”

An estimated 200 people die every year on cruise ships, and in the event of a life or death medical emergency, an announcement using the secret code phrase “Operation Bright Star” is initially made.

Alternatively, staff might say “Mr Skylight”, “Alpha” or “Code Blue”.

Kerry tells The Sun Online: “Because cruise ships are essentially floating cities, major lines contain infirmaries with staff available 24 hours a day to care for passengers.
“These facilities are typically equipped to treat more minor non-emergency conditions

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“Guidelines issues by the American College of Emergency Physicians state ships need medical staff on call 24 hours a day, and doctors and nurses need to have a strict set of qualifications.”

If a person has died, “Operation Rising Star” will come over the tannoy, according to Cruiseoholics.

Once they’re officially declared dead, their body is stored in a bag in the ship’s specially designed morgue.

These large metal cupboards look like something out of Silent Witness and generally have space for up to four bodies stored at between two and four degrees.

Cruise ships have morgue areas, kept separate to the kitchen freezers
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Kerry explains: “Cruise ships do have on-board morgues in the case that one is needed.

“Cruise lines also assign a member of a ship’s on-board Guest Care Team to support the loved one’s family and friends.”

The body is then discreetly off-loaded at the next port stop, where a death certificate is issued and they are flown home.

Depending on how long is left of the trip, the body might stay on board and be collected by an undertaker once the ship docks at home.

Passengers sit on the deck of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico in 2013 after an engine room fire
AP:Associated Press

Raising the alarm

Death and medical emergencies aren’t the only situations that require their own code signals.

Former Royal Caribbean cruise director Brandon Presser, who looked after the wellbeing of over 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew aboard the company’s largest ship, Harmony Of The Seas, used many secret phrases during his time on deck.

A “30-30” is apparently a way of summoning someone to clean up a mess, while Brandon also had the dubious honour of reporting a “PVI” – Public Vomiting Incident – on three occasions.

“A ‘Bravo’ is a fire, and ‘Kilo’ is a request for all personnel to report to their emergency posts, which happens in the event of, say, a necessary evacuation,” he added to told Bloomberg.

“Be wary of ‘Echo,’ which is called if the ship is starting to drift, or ‘Oscar,’ which means someone’s gone overboard.”

If there’s a fire on-board – which happened to cruise ship Carnival Triumph in 2013, leaving passengers stranded at sea for nearly a week – terms including “Red Parties” or “Priority One” may be called.

Mattresses are lined up near the Triumph’s lift area as the vessel is towed toward Alabama, US, after the blaze
AFP

Approximately 20 people disappear from cruise ships every year, usually presumed to have fallen overboard.

One tragic case was of Disney cruise worker Rebecca Coriam, from Cheshire, who disappeared in 2011.

When this happens, “Mr Mob” or “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” raise the alarm.

“Code Red” refers to an outbreak of illness, while “Code Yellow” and “Code Green” are less serious issues.

A picture of Rebecca smiling in her Disney uniform

A dump in the ocean

With up to 9,000 people on board the world’s biggest cruise ships, a lot of work goes into making sure everything runs smoothly – and even something as seemingly simple as disposing of leftover food and treating toilet waste is a military operation.

Every ship has its own environment officer and is governed by strict maritime laws – so dumping waste directly into the sea is a big no-no.

As much as possible is recycled, and toilet waste is filtered and then specially treated before it’s dumped in the sea.

Don’t worry if you see a cruise ship while sunning on the beach tough – you’re in no danger of getting near the waste unless you’re a particularly strong swimmer as ships have to be at least 12 nautical miles from shore to ditch it.


And none of this is all that goes on… four cruise ship workers previously told The Sun the secrets of their time on the seas.

From having sex with OAPs to witnessing a “drug-fuelled orgy”, it was quite the eyeopener.

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