There are many significant geographic lines that experienced cruisers like to cross to check them off their bucket lists. One of the most highly sought experiences is that of crossing the equator. Those who can say they’ve sailed through the middle of the Earth hold special bragging rights and have a spectacular story to tell when they return home from their travels.
As you approach the equator, you enter into King Neptune’s territory. It’s here you will have your mettle tested to deem if you’re worthy of entering his realm. At least, that’s the storyline for the Equator Crossing ceremony. Every initiation differs from one expedition cruise to the next, but there’s usually a thread that runs through.
To mark the auspicious moment of crossing the equator line, guests and crew partake in a pageant of sorts that often takes place throughout the day. Characters like King Neptune and Davy Jones make their appearance to initiate those who have not done an equator crossing before. These first-time participants are called pollywogs until they’ve earned their nautical stripes. Meanwhile, veterans of the sea who have crossed the equator before are called shellbacks and lend a helping hand in the ceremonies.
It’s all optional fun and games for explorers making their first or even subsequent equator crossing. You’re never forced to join in on the fun, but it’s an experience you won’t want to sit on the sidelines for. You may get dunked in a kiddie pool of green goo and have the opportunity for other whimsical games. And at the end of it all, you get to take home a certificate that tells the tale of surviving your trials and making the crossing.
While today the Equator Crossing ceremony is a day of revelry on cruises and other sailings, it has its origins in the Navy, established hundreds of years ago. Back then the ritual held a slightly more controversial place in maritime history, as it was less a game and more of a hazing. Still, its purpose was practical, to determine which sailors had what it took to endure their first cruise at sea. As members of the Navy, it was important they could withstand the sometimes-turbulent seas they’d encounter during deployment.
Nowadays, even research expeditions take part in the ceremony. It’s taken on a more commercial and entertaining aura than its original traditions.
Experience your own Equator Crossing ceremony on our “10-Night Exploring Exotic Caribbean and Amazon” luxe-adventure voyage.