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The phrase “code alpha” can mean different things depending on the cruise line, but cruise operators say the code to alert the crew of a situation that requires immediate attention.

It could signal something serious like an onboard fire or a medical emergency. It also might be used to instruct a crewman to clean up someone’s vomit on a pool deck. The phrase “Mr Mob” or “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” is the signal for man overboard. These codes are used to avoid passengers finding out what’s happening so there is no panic on board. This allows the crew to deal with the situation without a frenzy being stirred.

Unlike flags or horn blasts that cruise ships use to communicate with one another, there is no international standard for onboard alarm codes. Each code uses its own unique codes, since the purpose of the code is to conceal confidential information. Despite its purpose, passengers usually have a knack for figuring out the correct meaning of specific codes on cruise lines.

However, there are a few codes that are almost used universally on cruise ships. “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” indicates a security threat and “Code Red” usually means there is an outbreak of norovirus.

Have you ever heard any of these codes uttered on a cruise ship before? Let us know in the comments below.