Tag Archives: cruise ships

Behind the Scenes on the Norwegian Star — The Bridge


Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

My good friends know that I’m a bridge fanatic.  I could play bridge morning, noon, and night.  So it was with immense pleasure when I found that we had been invited by the captain for a bridge session.

Mimosas for Everyone

Mimosas for Everyone

Boy, was I in for a disappointment.  Turns out the captain didn’t have a partner so we were without the required foursome.  There wasn’t even a bridge table and chairs anywhere in sight.  Indeed, it turned out that this was a bridge session rather than a session of bridge.  No wonder I was confused.  So much for being a guest at the captain’s table (yet another disappointing tale).

Me, My "Bridge" Partner, and the Mrs.

Me, My “Bridge” Partner, and the Mrs.

The first thing that struck me (right after I realized we wouldn’t be playing bridge) was the humongous size of the ship’s navigation bridge.  Certainly made our cabin look even smaller afterward, and that’s hard to do considering we were living in something the size of our master closet back home.

Huge Bridge Area

Huge Bridge Area

Lots of Room

Lots of Room

I Can Steer Without Even Looking!

I Can Steer Without Even Looking!

On either side were the “Flying Bridges,” which are used when the ship is either docking or pulling away from port.  The flying bridges protrude from either side of the main navigational bridge, hanging over the sides of the ship.  In the flying bridge areas are the consoles that the captain uses to maneuver the ship while in port.

Another View of the Flying Bridge

Another View of the Flying Bridge

Port Side Flying Bridge Station

Port Side Flying Bridge Station

I learned one neat little trick at the radar station.  In air traffic control we identified most aircraft through the use of onboard transponders that encoded information from the aircraft and transmitted that information to us through our radar.  It seems ships are not much different in that respect.  From the Norwegian Star’s radar the crew could “interrogate” the transponders of nearby ships to determine their names, type (cruise, freighter, military, etc.), destination, and other information.  It was all very impressive.

Radar

Radar

Who Shtole the Shtrawberries?

Who Shtole the Shtrawberries?

One other neat little feature:  As you look out of the bridge windows and gaze upon the two hot tubs at the bow of the ship you realize just how much more advanced the ships of NCL are over those of Carnivale subsidiary Costa Cruises.  On these ships passengers can relax in water in one of several pools or hot water spas, whereas on the Costa Concordia the passengers had to wait for the ship to run aground so that they could take a leisurely swim to shore.

Just Two of Several On-Board Spas

Just Two of Several On-Board Spas

Now that’s convenience.

Here are some more images from the bridge:

Best View on the Ship

Best View on the Ship

Our Pilot — Otto

Our Pilot — Otto

On the Costa Concordia this is Known as the "Wheel of Fortune"

On the Costa Concordia this is Known as the “Wheel of Fortune”

Sulu on the Left; Chekov to the Right

Sulu on the Left; Chekov to the Right

Ooops.  I think We're Lost.

Ooops. I think We’re Lost.

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Behind the Scenes on the Norwegian Star — The Kitchen, Bakery, and Food Stores


Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

If you’re into the current stainless kitchen appliances craze, you’d certainly tire of it quickly aboard a cruise ship.  Unless, of course, you’re on a Carnival cruise ship, in which case you’d be ecstatic just seeing the inside of a place that once held unspoiled food as you’re being towed back into port in the aftermath of the de rigueur engine or laundry room fire.  A few days without edible food makes even an MRE sound like a gourmet meal.  But, once again, I digress.

Stainless everywhere

Stainless . . .

Stainless . . .

Stainless Everywhere

And Way too Much to Eat

And Way too Much to Eat

It’s truly incredible to think how much food is prepared for upwards of 3,500 passengers and crew.  That’s a lot of chow.  Speaking of chow, my inside industry sources tell me that there’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that Carnival ships are going to start placing emergency supplies of Purina in cabins next to the life-jackets.  Oh, wait, this article is about NCL.  Sorry.  Got sidetracked.

Amazingly, there are even charts posted about the kitchens displaying the different Main Dining Room fare depending on the day of the cruise.

Menus

Menus

And More Menus

And More Menus

Everywhere you look you’ll find culinary crew creating cuisine for crazed cruise customers craving everything from cold cuts to cantaloupes to cold-water crustaceans for their carnivorous contemplations.

Culinary Crew Creatively Cutting Cutlets

Culinary Crew Creatively Cutting Cutlets

Cooking Away

Cooking Away

But I Don't Do Big Macs!

But I Don’t Do Big Macs!

By the way, did I mention stainless?  Take another look and this steel-clad kitchen:

Dishing It Out

Dishing It Out

The Racks

The Racks

Where's Tonight's Menu?

Where’s Tonight’s Menu?

But there’s more to a kitchen than just the kitchen.  A kitchen wouldn’t be a kitchen with a bakery.  This particular bakery makes everything from chocolate chip cookies (which our tour group sampled) to French baguettes and everything in between.

Bread Dough Rising

Bread Dough Rising

Baked Bread Cooling

Baked Bread Cooling

And then there are the various food storage areas.  This part of the tour was positively chilling, as we walked into storage areas from everything from dairy products to frozen foods.

Chilling

Chilling

Positively Chilling

Positively Chilling

A Cool Place to Be

A Cool Place to Be

Keeping Stuff in Cold Storage

Keeping Stuff in Cold Storage

While we’re on the subject of food storage, I understand that Carnival Cruises is issuing all passengers long sticks and stocking copious quantities of hotdogs and marshmallows.  That way, when there’s an engine or laundry room fire, the passengers can roast their own food as they camp out on the decks.  No word yet on how Carnival intends for their passengers to trench out a latrine area, but there have been reports that some of their ship pools have been emptied of water and filled with dirt.

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Behind the Scenes on the Norwegian Star — Recycling, Backstage, and the Laundry


Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls — It Tolls for Thee Carnival Triumph, Thee Carnival Splendor, and Thee Other Carnival Ships

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.

Recycling Cardboard

Recycling Cardboard

Recycling Everything Else

Recycling Everything Else

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.

Behind the Bright LIghts

Behind the Bright LIghts

Colorful Costumes

Colorful Costumes

Cramped Closets

Cramped Closets

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).

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