In addition to all of the included and optional shore excursions we’ve taken during the past few weeks, we recently stumbled onto some other tours of operating areas within the ship. These weren’t published anywhere, and we only found out through word of mouth from another passenger. So, if you take a cruise you may want to keep that in mind and ask the Guest Services folks what tours of the ship are offered periodically. These were all free and definitely worth doing!
The ship’s bridge –
We were excited to hear about this one and signed up immediately. After entering the modern and spacious bridge, our small group listened as the second officer explained the ship’s propulsion, controls, radar, route planning and communications equipment. After answering questions, he allowed us to walk around and take pictures, and even sit in the captain’s chairs. I’ve been in some pretty fancy airplane cockpits, but sitting at the controls of a $430 million dollar cruise ship was over the top!
This was a great tour, I only wish they would offer one of the engine room. But apparently that’s not going to happen due to security issues 😦
The ship’s laundry facility –
We told some people about this upcoming tour, and a couple of them thought it would be boring and they wouldn’t bother going. Too bad for them! The short excursion through the workings of a big ship’s laundry operation was anything but boring. Seeing the massive custom washers, dryers, sheet dryer/folder and dry cleaning equipment was only the beginning. We were shown how laundry is accepted into the facility – from workers, from passengers and from the restaurants and several other on-board operations.
Each piece of laundry sent by passengers is labeled by stateroom number and sorted according to how it needs to be cleaned before being sent to the appropriate area. Crew member’s uniforms have a whole section to themselves, as do their bedding, towels and other linens. We were shown the huge linen storage room, which holds a massive inventory of high-quality bedding and towels of all shapes and sizes.
We learned that the 24-hour operation employs a staff of 8 workers during the day and only 2 at night. There’s one person assigned to shirts, one to trousers, and one who does nothing but iron clothes all day long. OK, that might get a bit boring!
I loved looking at all of the machinery and was told they have a technician on the ship who can repair any piece of equipment here. And believe me, this is some very specialized stuff!
We really enjoyed this tour, and now when we send our dress clothes out for cleaning we know how it will be handled and by whom!
The ship’s galley –
We were bummed out that Mona Liza couldn’t make it to this tour because her shore excursion ran late (she’ll go on the next one). Just be forewarned that the photos won’t be up to her quality standards because I took them 🙂
Because of the small spaces we had to walk through I think they allowed too many people on this tour, but it was still an interesting look at the amazing job these folks do 24×7 to create the excellent meals that us passengers enjoy day after day. The bakery, room service and initial food preparation areas run around the clock. Now I know why we smell fresh-baked bread when we go out to exercise every morning!
Some stats: the cooking team consists of 103 people, including an executive chef and 3 restaurant chefs to run the 2 specialty restaurants and 2 main restaurants. The remaining folks include many other specialists; trained butchers, sushi chefs, pastry chefs, dietary experts and many others work here as well.
Over 500 meals are prepared for the sit-down restaurant and buffet style locations, plus about 80 meals for reserved dinners at the two high-end specialty restaurants. Another small restaurant and the Pool Grille help keep the 900+ hungry passengers fed.
And this tour didn’t even include the separate facilities and staff that feed the 450 crew members!
It’s an amazing operation, and while walking through I realized that I’ve never seen so much stainless steel in one place in my life. We didn’t get to see the storage areas or refrigerators/freezers on another deck, but we were told that the fresh ingredients and meats, dairy, fish, fruits, and vegetables are sent from all over the world to a central location in Europe.
All of these fresh items then are flown to ports that each ship is destined for, where they re-supply about every 7 days. This is done to keep quality consistent among all of their ships. Wow, the logistics involved are mind-blowing!
These were all informative and impressive tours, and we didn’t even have to leave the ship to experience them!