A day in the life of a Deck Officer

Welcome aboard, I would like to introduce myself as Peter, second deck officer on board this fantastic cruise ship.

The majority of my time, when on duty, is spent on the bridge. I am a navigation officer and have spent, prior to getting this job, many years in a nautical school and serving at sea on Cargo Ships and Tankers.

When I started in the cruise industry I had to work my way up in ranks so started as a Cadet, then have progressed up to 3rd Officer and recently got a promotion to 2nd Officer. Of course my goal is to be Master of a cruise ship one day.

There are 3 shifts for the navigation officers and I am lucky to have the rather good one from 8 to 12 both in the morning and evening. The other shifts are from 12 to 4 and the so called "graveyard shift" is from 4 to 8.

Today we have a day at sea, so I will be navigating the ship and have to be alert whilst on watch. Most people think that this is the job of the Master of the ship – but who could possibly be on duty 24 hours a day?

During my watch I am "driving" the ship, holding it on course which has been calculated, plotted into the map and approved by the Master. Nowadays much of the work has become "automated" but you still need the human eye to be on the lookout for other ships or obstacles. The ocean is a moving force, and therefore there are currents, which can make the ship drift off course easily.

Today we also have the Bridge Tour for the guests. This is where an exclusive group of guests will be allowed to look over our shoulders for a short time to try and get an idea of what we do. Of course the Captain will be present, and one of my colleagues will explain some of the equipment we are working with on the bridge.

This tour is a highlight for our guests, when they get to see the commanders bridge, and I think that they often still expect to see a huge wooden steering wheel as the centre piece!

I am also checking the weather forecast and just noticed that we have heavy rain and stormy weather heading our way. I have just checked our course and the size of what is coming and as it's pretty bad so I am going to inform the Master and the Hotel Manager, in order to get all lose items secured, the pool decks cleared of pool furniture and get ready for a bumpy ride. Flying deck chairs are a major safety risk, so the guests have been informed to leave the open decks, to go inside the ship, and the crew have to collect all the movable objects on the deck, stack the pool lounge chairs and deck chairs and secure them with ropes.

We always try our best to avoid these storms but sometimes it is not always possible. We receive a weather forecast on-board several times a day for the areas where we are sailing but you can never predict the weather!

The Master will sometimes decide to alter our route if he feels this is necessary but this can also mean that sometimes we arrive late into a port or location which can cause many inconveniences especially for the guests, at times even resulting in us having to skip the port completely. Therefore all possibilities need to be taken in consideration, prior to this happening.

As you can imagine the rough seas also mean that the ship will be moving about a lot. We advise the guests to stay in their staterooms and the crew have all been given training on what to do when rough seas are expected. Mainly this is to secure loose objects, especially in the galleys and bars.

The Master has just informed us that we must reduce the speed of the ship, and find a way to reduce the movement so that are guests aren't being thrown about the ship. Regardless on how big a ship is, in comparison to the ocean, it is no more than a cork in a lake, bouncing up and down and having to go with the flow.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about what we do here on the bridge and maybe one day you too could be sat here on the bridge of a ship.

Peter Wagner, Austria