Crossing the Line Tradition

View our photos taken from this memorable event and learn more about the traditional Crossing the Lines ceremony.

“On March 5, 2012 Azamara Journey crossed the Equator. As soon as we were on Northern Latitude we made two 360s. This made us cross the Equator 5 times in 30 minutes. King Neptune also left his business card outside Mosaic Cafe. If you’d like to see it up-close, come see us in Miami on March 18.” Captain Johannes Tysse

Do you know of the time-honored naval tradition that takes place when ships cross the Equator? It’s called the Crossing the Line ceremony. This tradition is an initiation rite typically seen in the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps. It is also seen on civilian ocean liners and cruise ships for entertainment purposes. Crossing the Line is not only a great occasion to take part in humorous rituals, it’s also an occasion to take part in a ceremony that is nearly as old as seafaring itself

During ancient times, King Neptune was believed to summon storms and cause shipwrecks, and sailors would attempt to appease dear old Neptune by performing rituals. For centuries now, King Neptune, god of the sea requires that all tall ships that dare to cross the Equator and into his kingdom be cleansed and rid of landlubbing stench.

The ritual consists of those who have crossed the Equator, called shellbacks and those who have not, who are called pollywogs. The pollywogs must endure the entire ceremony at the hands of the shellbacks before appearing before King Neptune, Queen Amphitrite and Davy Jones to be officially proclaimed as trusty shellbacks. New shellbacks receive elaborate certificates testifying to their safe passage, along with wallet-sized card to prove their fact on future cruises.

As a Navy crewman said, “The sea is eternal and so are the traditions that accompany it. As long as there are imaginary lines by which we travel, we will attach a special significance to crossing over them – a significance which also bonds the crew together in a way few things can.”

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