Cruise ships are big operations. Essentially they are floating cities. In fact, Liberty even has a “main street” right down the middle with shops and restaurants. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make a cruise ship work. Thousands of crew support the ship’s operations and the nearly 5,000 guests each week. One of my favorite activities on cruises is to take the behind-the-scenes tour. I’ve taken a few on Carnival cruises before, and have seen how each ship operates differently. Today, I took the tour along with my brother-in-law Tim.
The tour started out in the main dining room. The dining room had space on three decks and can seat almost 1,300 guests at a time! The lead sous chef told us everything about what the culinary crew does each day feeding guests and crew. The kitchen crew prepare 125,000 meals each week, using 13,000 pounds of beef, 8,000 pounds of chicken, 1,400 pounds of lobster, and many tons more food. We headed down to the store rooms below decks where all the food and drinks are stored for each cruise. Liberty spends more than $650,000 on food and drink each week. Food orders are made three weeks in advance, and the purchaser has to make the proper estimate for the amount of food to get for each order.
We got to go into the engine control room, where all the ship’s mechanical systems are watched. The entire ship is powered by six 12.6-megawatt diesel generators – enough electrical output to power more than 32,000 average homes. During our tour, only three of the generators were being used. The engines can push the ship at up to 26 miles per hour. These generators not only push the ship, but also provide all electricity and power water filtration and sanitation systems. According to the engineer we talked with, the ship goes through 500,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil per week.
Our final stop on the tour was the ship’s bridge. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet Captain James – a guy from Tampa, Florida, who looked like a trucker and sounded like a cowboy. Ivan, the officer manning the bridge, told us the Captain Does not usually spend much time on the bridge, other than when they are going into and leaving ports, or during emergencies. Ivan said the ship typically runs on autopilot with a minimum of three people on the bridge. One of the three had the sole job of looking out the window watching for obstacles.
For those cruisers who like to learn about the goings-on behind the crew doors on a ship, I recommend a behind-the-scenes tour.
During the afternoon we went to one of the many games put on by the crew. These games are a chance to get together with other guests and get to know them, all while having a little fun. The game we went to was a general trivia quiz. The host reads off 15 questions and guests have to write down their answers. Unfortunately, and I think this has been a growing problem, there are people who choose to cheat by using their cellphones and onboard internet accounts to search answers. I don’t see the point. Cheating for a prize that’s either a pen, key ring, or plastic bracelet. Does it make people feel good? What’s sadder is when I win a game against groups of up to six people looking up answers. I’ll take that key ring now.
After dinner we headed to the ship’s theater for one of their shows. Tonight’s show was called “Up in the Air.” It was an amazing display of strength by the ship’s acrobats, who were hanging from rings and strips of fabric. Some of the tricks they did were dozens of feet above the stage with no safety wires. Other tricks involved performers attached to harnesses. Toward the end, we got to see the panic in one performer’s eyes when she was unable to unclip herself from her harness before they raised the cables she was attached to. She remained there swinging about 10 feet above the stage attached only one of her cables. Eventually, they were able to lower her and she got herself unclipped.
Alicia and I took a late-night walk down the ship’s promenade. As we walked, “Sweet Caroline” was playing over the loudspeakers leading to a sudden singalong by us and other guests.