The Deck Department on a cruise ship is a part of the Marine Operations division. The primary responsibilities of the Deck Officers and Ratings are the safe navigation of the vessel plus all safety and security aspects of the ship’s operations, including guests, officers, crew, and staff members.

As the highest-ranking officer aboard the vessel, the captain serves as both the Master and the ultimate authority on the cruise ship. They report directly to the Home Office of the cruise line and are responsible for overseeing all operations, including navigation, medical care, compliance with maritime regulations, and protection of the environment. The captain has full authority to make executive decisions to ensure the safety and well-being of all souls aboard, including guests and crew, and must apply extreme care and proper judgement in any given situation. In addition, the captain interacts with passengers, manages the ship’s budget and resources, and represents the cruise line in public events and ceremonies. As the final authority on the ship, the captain must make critical decisions in emergency situations, such as bad weather or medical emergencies, to ensure that the cruise ship operates safely and efficiently while providing a positive experience for all on board.

The Staff Captain is the second in command and Head of the Deck Department on a cruise ship. They oversee all activities on the bridge, including navigational aspects of the ship’s operations, assigning duties to subordinate deck officers, and ensuring lifesaving equipment is in proper working order. The Staff Captain is responsible for fresh water supplies and consumption, stability calculations, and training subordinate deck officers. They also ensure that all officers, staff, and crew are properly trained in emergency procedures and attend safety drills regularly, playing a critical role in ensuring the safe and efficient operation of the ship while providing a positive experience for all on board.

The First Officer is a crucial member of the bridge team on a cruise ship, responsible for all navigational and watch-keeping issue Their role includes ensuring the safe navigation of the ship and the well-being of all onboard, as well as acting as the bridge manager and monitoring the bridge operation and watch-keeping. They are also responsible for voyage planning, execution, and monitoring of current and future cruises, assessing accurate weather forecasts and navigational warnings, and ensuring that all navigational equipment, electronic instruments, navigational lights, standard, and emergency signaling devices are in proper working condition. The First Officer also ensures that all navigational charts required for the voyage are available and up-to-date and keeps the captain updated on all aspects of the navigational progress during the cruise.

The 2nd Officer on a cruise ship is a Navigation and Watch Keeping Officer, responsible for the safe navigation of the vessel. During their watch, they represent the Master and are in command on the bridge, adhering to emergency procedures and monitoring bridge equipment and watertight doors status. They ensure that the
bridge is operated in accordance with all applicable regulations and company policies and update various bridge logs. The 2nd Officer also assists lower-ranked deck officers in familiarizing themselves with bridge instruments and equipment.

The Third Officer on a cruise ship is responsible for assisting with navigation and watch keeping duties, reporting to the Officer of the Watch (OOW) for navigation and watch-keeping aspects and to the Staff Captain for all other issues. They may act as a co-navigator on larger ships and perform OOW functions on smaller vessels. The Third Officer keeps the Master informed of the navigational progress of the voyage, participates in mooring and anchoring operations, and monitors tender operations. Additionally, they must be familiar with the voyage plan and captain’s standing and specific orders and be able to perform the duties of the Second Officer if needed.

A Deck (Navigation) Officer in training works alongside the Bridge Team Members to learn about all aspects of the safe navigational watch aboard a large cruise vessel. Under the guidance of a Training Officer, they become familiar with all navigational instruments and equipment on the bridge, gain theoretical and practical knowledge about the ship’s safety equipment and devices, and learn about various routines taking place on the bridge such as port arrival and departure, anchoring, and mooring.

The Bosun, the highest-ranking non-officer position in the Deck Department on a cruise ship, supervises, coordinates, coaches, and evaluates all non-officer deck personnel, including Quartermasters, Carpenters, Able Seamen, and Ordinary Seamen. They work in conjunction with the Staff Captain to plan and schedule all activities related to the regular maintenance of all areas of the cruise vessel not maintained by the engineering department. This includes cleaning, painting the ship’s hull, and all deck equipment. The Bosun also oversees all subordinate deck rating positions, assigns daily tasks to the deck crew, and checks completed work for compliance with the cruise line’s standards and operating procedures.

An AB (Able Seaman) is a member of the Deck Department aboard a cruise ship who reports to the Bosun (Boatswain). They perform routine maintenance duties such as chipping, cleaning, painting, and removing rust spots from the ship’s deck and sides using hand or air chipping hammers and wire brushes and keeping the vessel in a clean and tidy condition. The AB handles ropes and cables during mooring, berthing, and departing operations, and overhauls and operates emergency and safety equipment such as lifeboats and lifeboat gear. They also assist with the on-the-job training of the ship’s deck ratings with Ordinary Seaman rank and perform all operations related to launching lifesaving equipment, lowering, and raising tender boats, lifeboats, or rescue boats under the guidance of the Bosun.

An Ordinary Seaman (OS) is an entry-level, unlicensed member of the deck department on a cruise ship. Their main responsibilities include routine maintenance of the ship’s decks, hull, and superstructure, such as cleaning, painting, and removing rust accumulations. They also participate in handling ropes and lines during berthing and departing movements, maintain emergency and lifesaving equipment, and assist in the launch and recovery of tenders, lifeboats, and rescue boats. As an apprentice of the Able Seaman, they undergo on-the-job training and attend safety and lifeboat drills to gain experience and progress to the AB position after acquiring sufficient sea time and passing the required examination.