November 22, 2012
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the day to day running of an Ocean Liner? With our new Behind the Scenes Tours, guests now have the chance to see the back of house operation and meet the Senior Officers on board all three Cunard Queens.
We recently joined the tour on board flagship Queen Mary 2, which took us to areas some crew members have yet to visit!
Our group met up in Connexions at the forward end of the ship, where our guide Declan from the Cruise Staff introduced himself and the two Security Staff who would accompany us. Declan explained that there are 222 steps on the tour (he counted them!), so comfy shoes are a must! Photography is not permitted in the working areas during the tour, however there was the opportunity for a complimentary group photo at the end of the tour, in arguably the most sought after place on the ship!
The first stop was the forward Mooring Deck, where we met Deputy Captain Hamish Sunter. He showed us around the anchor winches and windlasses, explaining how they work and giving us facts and figures about the machinery. This is the most forward part of the ship on deck, and the first insight we had into the operational working area. There are lots of steps, big pieces of machinery and you can almost feel the waves crashing against the side of the ship. Just the other side of the bulkhead (wall) were the plush carpets, furnishings, live music and entertainment we are more used to experiencing!
We then met the Senior Doctor in the Medical Centre, he showed us around the facility, which is very much like a mini hospital, with wards and an x-ray room. There are 2 Doctors, 4 Nurses and 1 Medical Technician, who offer a surgery to both guests and crew. Most of the staff have an A&E background, they can deal with a wide range of conditions and traumas as well as plastering a broken leg!
Next on the tour was the so-called Burma Road, the main crew passageway which is the only one to run the entire length of the ship. The Crew Housekeeper showed us the Crew Mess where the Crew spend their mealtimes and the Crew Bar and Officer’s Wardroom where Crew and Officers socialise after work.
The Environmental Officer met us next and explained how the ship recycles waste on board. The waste handling room operates 24 hours a day and is manned by 6 people, sorting all crew and guest waste into separate streams: hazardous, recyclable, suitable for incineration, food waste and suitable for donation. He gave us lots of statistics about how much is recycled on board – approximately 15,000 litres of used cooking oil is recycled into bio-diesel every year!
We then headed to the Engine Control Room where the Chief Engineer explained the technical side of the operation. He talked about the gas turbines, engines, stabilizers, Azimuthing pods, bow thrusters and the different types of fuel the ship uses throughout a voyage. He was able to answer all of our questions with ease…did you know that each pod propeller blade is made of special stainless steel and weighs 4500kg?!
The next part of the tour was what we could all relate too…food! The Food and Beverage Manager introduced us to his team, starting with the Provisions Manager in the Food Stores. The Provisions Manager is responsible for over 5000 lines of consumable products, from shower gel to beef joints! He works far in advance to ensure the ship is fully stocked for each voyage – four months ahead is not unusual. He explained the complex logistics of moving stock around the world in containers and picking it up in different ports mid-voyage. Whilst we walked through the Butchers Shop and Freezers, he explained how produce is kept fresh throughout a voyage. There are extraordinary amounts of food in the big fridges and freezers down in the stores at the beginning of a voyage, all very necessary as guests get through 11 tonnes of food each day!
The Executive Chef then took us on a tour of the Galley, which has 230 chefs working across 10 different kitchens spanning 11 decks of the ship – there are even escalators inside to help the crew move from kitchen to kitchen. We observed food preparation for that evening’s Britannia dining and heard about how meal orders are predicted each day – Steak and Ale Pie is a lunchtime favourite! The Public Rooms Manager explained the set-up of the different bars throughout QM2 and asked us to guess how many bottles of wine are on board at any one time. Here’s a clue…it’s more than 40,000 bottles!
The Royal Court Theatre was our next stop, where we met the Production Manager, Stage Manager and the Light and Sound Engineers. Standing up on the stage whilst the ship was moving made us realise just how challenging it must be for the dancers performing each night, especially in inclement weather. We were shown around the dressing rooms and costume store with over 3000 costumes and even got to try out the lighting from up in the lighting booth.
The final part of the tour was what everyone was looking forward to…The Bridge. The Captain and Navigational Officers greeted the group and showed us around, explaining all of the dials, buttons, radars and navigational charts. The Bridge is the widest part of the ship with amazing views out to sea and all the way aft of Queen Mary 2, which made a great way to finish the tour!
At the end of an insightful few hours we had a group photo with the Captain on the Bridge and a goody bag and keepsake pin, a great memento to show off proudly!
There is currently one Behind the Scenes tour available per voyage for a maximum of 16 guests. The tour lasts 3 ½ hours and costs $120 per person. The tours are proving popular so do be sure to visit the Tours Office early in your voyage to secure your place.