Cruise Ship Officers
Know which cruise ship officers does what on a cruise ship and what the various ranks of the crew and staff are, and how to recognise them.
Tips and Advice About Your Cruise Ship Officers
Prow’s Edge explains the organisation of the ship’s company, as the crew and staff are referred to.
The title of commodore is an honor that is traditionally bestowed upon the most senior captain of a fleet of ships. Similar to the rank of admiral, the rank of Commodore is the highest rank cruise ship officers can reach. The commodore can be recognised by the epaulet with one broad ring in gold lace.
As the highest ranking officer on the ship, the Captain is in command of the ship and is responsible for the whole operation of the ship, including the care crew and passengers aboard. The Captain makes all executive decisions and is in charge of navigation and operations, regulating company policies, environmental policies such as pollution effects as well as national and international maritime laws. The captain can be recognised by the 4 gold stripes of this rank’s epaulet.
The captain is assisted by the ship’s Officers and crew, who are organised into departments. Each department is distinguished by the colour of epaulet worn on his or her shoulders.
DECK DEPARTMENT (black and gold epaulets)
The Captain's executive officer, the Staff Captain heads the Deck Department and is second in command onboard. The Staff Captain assists the Captain in running the ship smoothly and keeping the cruise ship “shipshape”. This officer can be recognised by the 4 gold stripes of this rank’s epaulet.
Next in line to the Staff Captain, the First Officer is a navigation officer with the responsibility of overseeing the bridge operations. This officer can be recognised by the 2 gold stripes with a half-stripe between of this rank’s epaulet.
This officer can be recognised by the 2 gold stripes of this rank’s epaulet.
This officer can be recognised by the 1 gold stripe with a half-stripe below of this rank’s epaulet.
Chief Radio Officer
The Chief Radio Officer is responsible for all the communication operations on a ship including satellite hook-ups, Marisat communications, and telegraph.
The Safety officer is responsible for conducting, organising and choreographing the safety drills for passengers and the crew. In case of any emergency, this person would be in charge of all the operations related to the abandonment of the ship.
The Security Officer is responsible for all the security of the ship including issues arising during embarkation and disembarking of both crew and passengers.
ENGINE DEPARTMENT (purple and gold epaulets)
The Chief Engineer is responsible for the logistics and maintenance of the technical operations on board from the overall management of the main and auxiliary engines, to care for the generators, electrical systems, air-conditioning, heating, plumbing, ventilation and refrigeration systems. This officer can be recognised by the four gold stripes with purple between of this rank’s epaulet.
Assistant Chief Engineer
The Chief Engineer's right hand man, the Assistant Chief Engineer assists the Chief Engineer in the logistics and maintenance of the technical operations on board.
Titles and ranks for officers in the hotel department vary from cruise line to cruise line, but generally take the responsibility for all “hotel” aspects of the ship, from cabin, public room and dining room services to providing all food and supplies for passengers and crew.
HOTEL DEPARTMENT (white and gold epaulets)
Titles and ranks for officers in the hotel department vary from cruise line to cruise line, but most cruise ships will have a Cruise Director.
Managing the entire department, the Cruise Director is a senior Officer on board the ship with responsibilities for everything from evening stage shows to leading daytime and evening activities.
Principal Medical Officer
MEDICAL DEPARTMENT (red and gold epaulet)
Providing medical care for both crew and passengers, the principal medical officer can be identified by the three gold stripes with red between of this rank’s epaulet.