The wardroom is the mess cabin or compartment for commissioned naval officers above the rank of midshipman. Although the term typically applies to officers in a navy, it is also applicable to marine officers and coast guard officers in those nations that have such service branches. Typically the mess compartment aboard a naval or coast guard vessel, and on larger vessels, such as aircraft carriers of the U.S. Navy, there may be more than one wardroom. It may also be used to refer to similar officer mess facilities at naval, marine, and coast guard installations ashore.
The wardroom provides a place of recreation as well as being a dining room. Usually, a galley or scullery adjoins the wardroom. Service is provided by stewards, now known in some services as mess specialists or culinary specialists. On warships other than those of the U.S. Navy, there is usually a bar where alcoholic drinks can be purchased. Ships can be either "wet" or "dry": the former allowing the consumption of alcohol at sea, while the latter only allows alcohol when alongside at port, if at all. Ships of the United States Navy have not allowed alcohol consumption onboard since 1913, although since 1980 unique, by exception, single-day waivers have been granted to vessels deployed in excess of 90 days without a port call.
Wardrooms have rules governing etiquette. Traditionally considered taboo are three topics: politics, religion, and sex (earlier guidebooks referred to the latter as ladies, this being changed as increasing numbers of female officers joined the wardrooms of warships and coast guard cutters). On large ships in peacetime, talking about professional business is also frowned upon. It is also considered inappropriate to perform work or to meet with subordinates in a wardroom. Typically, upon entering the wardroom at meal time, members ask permission from the most senior officer present before joining the table.
The ship's executive officer is usually the mess president. On warships and coast guard vessels, the commanding officer is normally not a member of the wardroom, but is invited to join the members for special occasions.
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Steward's mates polishing silverware in the wardroom of the former aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV 14)
- Oxford English Dictionary "wardroom"