It turns out that when you’re the captain’s favorite mystery author, sometimes you’re invited for a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship. Impressive, isn’t it? Eat your heart out, Nelson DeMille. Take that, Dan Brown. Better luck next time, Stephen King.
At other times you just luck into a tour even if the captain has never heard of you. As we used to say in air traffic control, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” so Ursula and I got tours of the Norwegian Star even though nobody aboard had heard of either me or my novels.
Over the next three blog articles I’m going to take you on a tour of a working cruise ship . . . as opposed to the non-working cruise ships of, say, Carnival Cruise Line, or the once-worked-until-the-captain-ran-aground ships of Carnival subsidiary Costa Cruises. By the way, I hear Carnival is having a fire sale. Meanwhile, the rumor over at Costa is that they’re preparing a hard-hitting advertising campaign with three new spokespersons — Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Today we’ll take a quick look at three areas of NCL’s Norwegian Star: the laundry, the recycling center, and the backstage area for the ship’s massive, 900-seat Stardust Theater.
NCL are an absolute marvel in the area of recycling. It’s absolutely amazing how much of their refuse gets off-loaded when they return to port at the end of a cruise, and the crew in charge of recycling gets to keep as a bonus the monies made selling to recyclers. Now that’s incentive! Just how good are they? NCL have won environmental awards from the ports in Venice (two years running), San Francisco (three years running), and Seattle. In 2010 NCL were awarded at the national level by the U.S. Coast Guard the William M. Benkert Marine Environmental Protection Gold Award — a first for any cruise line ever.
Compare that to Costa Cruises winning the White Star Line’s prestigious Andrea Doria Trophy for most commercial tonnage sunk in a single year by a noncombatant. But I digress.
Next up is a look at the backstage area of the Stardust Theater. Such a small, small space for such a large, large theater. Unfortunately, most of the backstage tour was in areas too dark to photograph. That is, until we hit the Bright Lights of Broad— Er, I mean, the bright lights of the dressing room. There was more wattage going into those makeup lights than that generated by your average, everyday adrift Carnival cruise ship. The heat radiating off those mirrors was almost as intense as the heat coming out of the laundry room of the Carnival Ecstasy or the engine rooms of the Carnival Tropicale, Carnival Splendor, and the Carnival Triumph.
And finally we’ll take a quick peek at the laundry room. I must say that the machinery in this place simply left me in awe. There were gigantic machines for washing, Godzilla-sized dryers, and even linen pressing/folding machines that made short work of everything from sheets and pillowcases to napkins, washrags, and towels.
I was especially impressed with the method employed to dry the laundry — actual drying machines as opposed to the Carnival Ecstasy method of just setting the laundry room ablaze.
On Wednesday we’ll look at the most vital area of any cruise ship — the heart, soul, and brain of the vessel: the kitchens, bakeries, and food stores. And finally on Friday we’ll finish up with the best view on the ship, the place where you’ll find the most important members of the crew — The Crow’s Nest Bar and the bartenders who serve . . . . Ooops. I mean the bridge, the navigation crew, and the guy with all the braids on his uniform who almost never invites me to his table (except for that one time on another NCL ship, but that’s another story).