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The wardroom is an area on board a ship used by commissioned officers for eating and recreation. Typically officers need to have achieved a certain rank to be allowed in, and they must observe scrupulous etiquette while in the wardroom. Guests on board ship may be given a brief orientation in the social and safety expectations they need to meet while on board to have an enjoyable and smooth stay. This can include a discussion about the wardroom if they are guests of ranking officers who have permission to be in that area.
On large ships like aircraft carriers with a significant complement of officers, it is common to have multiple wardrooms. These can vary in formality from more casual cafeteria-style dining to areas with more formal décor for special events. When officers are not dining, the tables in the room can be used for playing games and engaging in other activities, or they can lounge in chairs and socialize. Wardrooms may be stocked with beverages for officers to consume between meals, including alcohol if the ship allows it.
In this area of a ship, people often sit for meals and junior staff serve them. Seating is by rank, and it may be traditional to ask for permission to be seated when arriving late. Some officers may have a moment of silence or prayer before meals, depending on ship tradition. This area may also be used for meetings and hospitality if other spaces are not available or officers want to host guests at a formal meal on board, as may occur when allied ships meet in the ocean and want to engage in some foreign relations.
Lodgings and offices may be located near the wardroom for convenience. These are also assigned by rank, although officers may request rooms or offices together if they have favorite working partners or friends. Space on board ship is limited and all personnel including officers must pack carefully for voyages. While wardrooms were once used historically to store charts, extra uniforms, and similar gear, this is not the case on many naval ships today.
Guests on a ship who are uncertain about how to conduct themselves in a wardroom can look to the ship's personnel for guidance. Generally, those in attendance should be neatly dressed in this area and must remove head coverings. Assistance with seating can be provided by an officer at the table to ensure that a guest does not inadvertently take someone's assigned seat.