The fun facts on the family cruise last week were eye popping. The Vision of the Seas staff is estimated to have served 15,000 eggs, over 700 gallons of ice-cream, 15,000 bottles of beer, over 2,000 lbs of shrimp and of course bunches of vegetables, toast and other food and drink. How do they keep them segregated to avoid cross-contamination, how do they handle needs of patrons with gluten free, vegetarian and other needs? The 2,400 guests and over 750 crew ran through 165,000 gallons of water in a day at sea. How do they produce that much potable water? At top speed, the ship sipped through 40,000 gallons of fuel a day. Do they "slow steam" like so many freighters have been doing the last few years? How do they schedule the crew to have 24x7 coverage in most areas?
Then there so many questions about the waste - food, packaging, polluted water and fuel. Royal Caribbean’s "Save the Waves" sustainability program mandates "Nothing may be thrown overboard. Nothing." and " Reduce the generation of waste material, reuse and recycle wherever possible, and properly dispose of remaining wastes."
So, I was excited to get a behind the scenes tour of the bridge, pantry, recycling and other “off limits” areas of the ship. On Christmas Day, no less – thanks to a geeky Santa
The highlight, of course, was the bridge where Captain Marek Slaby showed us all kinds of navigation, sonar and other gear.
The nearest ship in the seas? One click showed us object 543 was the tanker, Marinex headed to Sines, Portugal and expected there on January 6.
Light a cigar in your room? A no-no which prints your cabin number right behind the captain.
How many engines are we running at now? The engine control room showed us all the displays and video streams they monitor
How close have you come to a hurricane? Do you have to pick up stowaways at sea? How much bigger is the bridge of the newer RCCL ships? Why are you always at least 12 miles away from the shore? He answered those and many other questions.
But just as interesting were the pantries and kitchens – the sheer scale of the operation and the processes came through. Vegetables in storage rooms at 40 degrees F, meats in much cooler storage. Giant vats of soup. Process charts for everything. The segregation of kitchens - for the Windjammer café buffet, for the specialty restaurants like the Izumi sushi bar, the room service all have separate storage and preparation areas.
The recycling of cartons, glass, cans was just as impressive to see.
On the digital navigation maps on the bridge, I had noticed markings of drilling rigs across the Florida coastline. A couple of hours after the tour, we saw a boat towing this rig across our path. I wished I could have accessed the Captain's equipment to tell what it was and where it was headed.
Actually, the Vision is one of RCCL’s smaller, older ships. It made me want to lobby for a similar tour on one of its newer ships.
Maybe next year!