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Who Drives Cruise Ships


by Elnora Matz



Cruise ships are magnificent vessels that offer luxurious and enjoyable vacations on the high seas. From the moment guests step on board, they are greeted with a world of comfort, entertainment, and exploration. But have you ever wondered who is responsible for steering these massive floating cities, ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, and navigating through the vast oceans?


Behind the scenes, there is a team of skilled professionals who work tirelessly to ensure a smooth and enjoyable sailing experience. These individuals, often referred to as the “driving force” behind cruise ships, play vital roles in the operation and navigation of these impressive vessels.


In this article, we will delve into the world of cruise ship personnel and explore the various positions responsible for driving these massive ships. From ship captains to deck officers, engine room officers to helmsmen, each role has its own unique responsibilities and contributions to the seamless operation of a cruise ship.


So, let’s embark on a journey to discover who drives cruise ships and how these dedicated professionals work together to make your cruise vacation an unforgettable experience!


Ship Captains

Ship captains are the highest-ranking officers on board a cruise ship, responsible for the overall management and operation of the vessel. They are the ultimate authority, making crucial decisions regarding navigation, safety, and the well-being of passengers and crew.


A ship captain holds extensive experience and qualifications in maritime operations, including certifications from reputable maritime institutions and governments. They have exceptional knowledge of navigation, weather patterns, and international maritime laws.


On a cruise ship, the captain’s role is multifaceted. They oversee the entire ship’s operation, including navigation, communication with port authorities, and managing the crew. They work closely with other departments to ensure the implementation of safety protocols and adherence to company policies.


One of the captain’s primary responsibilities is to ensure the safety of everyone on board. They must carefully analyze weather and sea conditions, and make decisions accordingly. In case of emergencies, the captain takes charge, coordinating evacuation procedures and communicating with relevant authorities.


Ship captains are also the face of the cruise line, interacting with guests and addressing any concerns or inquiries. They often give informative talks and updates to passengers, providing insight into the ship’s itinerary, local attractions, and upcoming events.


Being a ship captain requires exceptional leadership skills and the ability to remain calm under pressure. They must effectively communicate with the entire crew, delegate tasks, and maintain discipline on board. It is a position that demands immense responsibility and professionalism.


Overall, ship captains are at the helm of the ship, driving it forward and ensuring a safe and enjoyable cruise experience for all on board.



The helmsmen, more commonly known as wheelmen, are responsible for operating the ship’s steering mechanism, also known as the helm. They are essential members of the cruise ship’s navigation team, ensuring that the ship maintains its intended course and direction.


Helmsmen receive their instructions from the ship’s officers, specifically the navigation officers or the ship’s captain. They carefully execute steering commands to adjust the ship’s course, taking into account factors such as wind, currents, and other navigational considerations.


Operating the helm requires precision and attention to detail. The helm itself is typically a large wheel or a set of controls that allow the helmsman to turn the rudder and change the ship’s direction. Helmsmen must be skilled at interpreting and following navigational charts, compass readings, and electronic navigation systems to ensure accurate steering.


In addition to maintaining the ship’s course, helmsmen play a crucial role during docking and undocking procedures. They work closely with the captain and deck officers to maneuver the ship safely in and out of ports. This involves executing precise turns and adjustments to navigate in tight spaces.


Furthermore, helmsmen need to have a good understanding of basic ship terminology and communication procedures. They must be able to transmit and receive essential navigational information over the ship’s communication systems, ensuring effective coordination with the bridge and other departments.


While the role of a helmsman may seem straightforward, it requires skill, focus, and a deep understanding of the ship’s dynamics. They are an integral part of the ship’s navigation team, working together with the captain and officers to ensure the safe and smooth sailing of the cruise ship.


Navigation Officers

Navigation officers, also known as deck officers or mates, are responsible for the safe navigation and operation of a cruise ship. They work closely with the ship’s captain and other crew members to ensure that the ship follows the designated course and adheres to international maritime regulations.


One of the primary roles of navigation officers is to plan and plot the ship’s course. They study navigational charts, weather reports, and other relevant information to determine the most efficient and safe route for the voyage. This involves considering factors such as weather conditions, currents, and potential hazards.


During the voyage, navigation officers conduct regular checks and updates of the ship’s position using various navigational tools, including GPS systems, radar, and electronic chart displays. They monitor the ship’s speed, direction, and fuel consumption, making adjustments as necessary to optimize performance.


Navigation officers are also responsible for ensuring the ship maintains proper navigational and safety equipment. They inspect and maintain the ship’s navigational instruments, including compasses, charts, and electronic systems. Additionally, they oversee the maintenance and testing of safety equipment such as lifeboats, life rafts, and distress signaling devices.


During periods of restricted visibility, such as fog or heavy rain, navigation officers play a crucial role in ensuring the safe navigation of the ship. They rely on advanced radar systems and other navigational aids to maintain awareness of surrounding vessels and potential collision risks.


In emergency situations, navigation officers work closely with the captain to implement contingency plans and coordinate with other departments. They are responsible for communicating distress signals, preparing life-saving equipment, and ensuring that all passengers and crew members are accounted for.


Overall, navigation officers are key players in the operation and safety of a cruise ship. Their expertise in navigation, adherence to regulations, and dedication to ensuring a safe and smooth voyage contribute significantly to the overall success of a cruise vacation.


Engine Room Officers

Engine room officers are the unsung heroes behind the scenes of a cruise ship’s operation. They are responsible for maintaining and operating the ship’s engines, propulsion systems, and various machinery required for the vessel to function smoothly.


Engine room officers work in the heart of the ship, in the engine control room and machinery spaces, where they oversee the operation of the ship’s engines, generators, boilers, and other essential equipment. They monitor various parameters such as temperature, pressure, fuel consumption, and oil levels to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.


These officers are skilled professionals who have extensive knowledge of engine systems and equipment. They are responsible for performing routine maintenance, troubleshooting mechanical issues, and carrying out repairs as needed. Their expertise ensures that the ship’s engines operate reliably and efficiently throughout the duration of the voyage.


In addition to engine maintenance and operation, engine room officers are also responsible for managing fuel consumption and emissions control. They closely monitor the ship’s fuel usage to optimize efficiency and reduce environmental impact. They ensure compliance with international regulations regarding emissions and support the implementation of environmentally friendly practices.


Engine room officers work closely with the captain, chief engineer, and other crew members to maintain a safe and efficient engine room environment. They adhere to strict safety protocols, conduct regular safety drills, and ensure that all crew members are aware of emergency procedures. Their vigilance and expertise are crucial in preventing accidents and responding swiftly in case of emergencies.


Overall, engine room officers play a vital role in the smooth operation and efficiency of a cruise ship. Their technical expertise, dedication to safety, and commitment to maintaining optimal engine performance contribute to a reliable and enjoyable voyage for passengers and crew alike.


Deck Officers

Deck officers, also known as deckhands or deck cadets, are an integral part of the cruise ship’s navigation and operations team. They work under the supervision of the ship’s captain and chief mate, playing a crucial role in maintaining the safety, security, and overall functionality of the ship’s exterior areas.


One of the primary responsibilities of deck officers is overseeing the handling and operation of the ship’s deck equipment. This includes managing the deployment and retrieval of lifeboats, life rafts, and other life-saving equipment. They also ensure that all deck machinery, such as cranes and winches, are properly maintained and operating efficiently.


Deck officers are responsible for conducting regular inspections of the ship’s exterior areas, ensuring that they are clean, well-maintained, and free from hazards. They oversee the loading and unloading of cargo and supplies, ensuring proper stowage and adherence to safety guidelines.


In addition to their operational duties, deck officers play a crucial role in maintaining the ship’s security. They are responsible for monitoring access to the ship, conducting regular security patrols, and responding to any security incidents or breaches. They work closely with the ship’s security personnel to ensure the safety of passengers, crew, and the ship itself.


During emergency situations, deck officers are trained to provide assistance and support. They are responsible for implementing emergency response procedures, coordinating with other departments, and ensuring the safe evacuation of passengers and crew if necessary.


Deck officers also have a role in passenger services, providing assistance and information to passengers as needed. They may be involved in organizing and overseeing recreational activities on the ship’s exterior decks, ensuring a positive and enjoyable experience for all passengers.


Overall, deck officers are essential members of a cruise ship’s crew, responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the ship’s exterior areas. Their diligent work, attention to detail, and commitment to safety contribute to a smooth and enjoyable cruise experience for all on board.


Petty Officers

Petty officers play a critical role in the efficient operation and organization of a cruise ship. They are experienced and skilled individuals who hold positions of authority within various departments and are responsible for supervising and guiding junior crew members.


Petty officers can be found in different departments of a cruise ship, such as housekeeping, food and beverage, and guest services. They may have specialized roles like petty officer chef, petty officer steward, or petty officer mechanic.


In the housekeeping department, petty officers oversee the cleaning and maintenance of passenger cabins and public areas. They coordinate with the housekeeping staff to ensure exceptional cleanliness and provide a comfortable environment for guests.


Similarly, in the food and beverage department, petty officers supervise the waitstaff and ensure smooth operations in the dining areas. They ensure that guests’ food and beverage orders are delivered promptly and maintain high standards of service.


In the guest services department, petty officers are responsible for assisting passengers with inquiries, resolving issues, and providing exceptional customer service. They have extensive knowledge of the ship’s facilities, activities, and port information, ensuring that guests have a memorable and enjoyable experience throughout their voyage.


Petty officers also play a crucial role in the training and development of junior crew members. They provide guidance and share their expertise to help new crew members adapt to their roles and responsibilities onboard. They ensure that crew members adhere to company policies, safety protocols, and guest service standards.


With their experience and knowledge, petty officers act as a bridge between the crew and the ship’s management team, relaying important information and ensuring effective communication. They maintain discipline, instill a positive work environment, and motivate their team members to deliver exceptional service.


Overall, petty officers contribute to the smooth operation of a cruise ship by supervising and supporting junior crew members. Their leadership, experience, and dedication are essential in providing quality service and a memorable experience for passengers throughout their cruise vacation.



Ratings are an essential part of the cruise ship crew, working in various departments to support the smooth operation of the vessel. They are entry-level positions that provide valuable assistance and contribute to the overall functioning and comfort of the ship.


Ratings can be found in departments such as housekeeping, food and beverage, maintenance, and deck operations. Their tasks can include cleaning and maintaining cabins, assisting in food preparation and service, performing maintenance and repairs, and assisting in the operation of deck equipment.


In the housekeeping department, ratings are responsible for cleaning and preparing cabins for passengers. They ensure that cabins are tidy, stocked with necessary amenities, and meet the highest standards of cleanliness. Ratings also assist in the cleaning of public areas, such as lounges, restaurants, and entertainment venues.


In the food and beverage department, ratings support the kitchen and dining operations. They may assist in food preparation, table setup, and serving guests. Ratings also help with dishwashing and ensuring that dining areas are clean and organized.


In the maintenance department, ratings assist with various tasks, such as painting, plumbing, electrical repairs, and general maintenance of the ship’s facilities. They work under the guidance of skilled technicians and engineers to ensure that all systems and equipment are in optimal condition.


Ratings also play a role in deck operations, assisting with the handling of lines and ropes during docking and undocking procedures. They may help secure the ship at port, assist with loading and unloading supplies, and support the operation of deck machinery under the supervision of deck officers.


While ratings are entry-level positions, they are vital to the smooth operation and service delivery on a cruise ship. They work diligently behind the scenes, often in physically demanding roles, to ensure that the ship runs efficiently and passengers have a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


Ratings provide essential support to the crew in their respective departments, contributing to the overall success of the cruise ship operation. Their hard work, teamwork, and dedication help create a pleasant and memorable cruise experience for guests on board.


Cruise Directors

Cruise directors are the ultimate entertainment and activities coordinators on a cruise ship. They are responsible for planning, organizing, and overseeing a diverse range of onboard activities and events that cater to the interests and preferences of the passengers.


One of the primary roles of a cruise director is to ensure that guests have a memorable and enjoyable experience during their voyage. They work closely with various departments, including entertainment, guest services, and food and beverage, to create a dynamic and engaging program of activities for passengers of all ages.


Cruise directors are the face of the ship, using their charisma and enthusiasm to interact with guests and create a vibrant onboard atmosphere. They often host events, from live shows and game nights to dance parties and talent contests. They also provide informative talks and presentations about upcoming ports of call and local cultural experiences.


In addition to entertainment, cruise directors are responsible for coordinating special events and theme nights. They work with the culinary team to create memorable dining experiences, such as formal nights or themed dinners. They also organize celebrations for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries, ensuring that guests feel valued and celebrated.


Cruise directors act as a point of contact for passengers, addressing any questions, concerns, or special requests they may have. They provide assistance and guidance, ensuring that guests have a smooth and enjoyable experience throughout their cruise vacation.


Furthermore, cruise directors are responsible for managing the onboard entertainment staff, including performers, activity coordinators, and DJs. They schedule and oversee rehearsals, coordinate performance logistics, and ensure that the entertainment team delivers high-quality shows and activities.


Cruise directors play a vital role in fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among passengers. They promote social interactions through organized activities such as meet and greets, trivia competitions, and group excursions. Their goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment where guests can connect and make lifelong memories.


In summary, cruise directors are the driving force behind onboard entertainment and activities. Through their creativity, energy, and dedication, they ensure that passengers have a fun-filled and memorable experience at sea.