Behind the Curtain: Would You Go Down With the Ship?

We are currently at sea on our way to Victoria, arriving tomorrow morning and spending the day in the city, which will include a visit to Butchart Gardens for high tea. Today we were treated to two behind-the-scenes tours to learn more about the operations of our Royal Caribbean vessel, Rhapsody of the Seas.

I think a large part of any experience is recognizing what it takes to make it happen on the other end, all the hard work and planning and organization that go on in order to ensure the end product satisfies the consumer. This afternoon we took a walk through the galley with the head chef and were invited up to the navigational bridge to meet the captain.

A few things I learned about Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas:

Approximately 15,000 meals are served each day on board, and the head chef has 97 other chefs working under him. While the first number is certainly surprising considering there are 2,000-3,000 passengers on board, the fact that there are 97 chefs is rather remarkable. I suppose when you have that many meals to serve, you can never have too many cooks in the kitchen.

Captains work 10 weeks on, 10 weeks off – one day at home for every day at sea. Although the captain admittedly does not sail the ship much while in open waters, he does take control during both the arrival and departure phases of docking (although it is still only 30% of the time – he mostly directs, gives orders, and oversees the training of his officers). On this specific route, he is also highly involved when navigating the small arms and fjords (channels).

While on the bridge I had the opportunity to meet the captain directly, and he did a quick Q and A with the group of writers. I asked him about the docking aspect of the ship: How the hell do you park this thing when you cannot even see the stern from the bridge?

He said it takes a team to complete the task, including lookouts to report distances on both the bow and the stern. There is also a “bridge wing” off either side that extends beyond the normal width of the ship, allowing the captain the backwards vision he needs to dock (there is a full set of controls on each wing).

As the session wound down, I asked the captain for his thoughts on the infamous saying, the captain goes down with the ship. Frankly, he doesn’t buy it. While he believes he should be the last one off the ship, he said there’s no reason to remain onboard otherwise.

I bet there are a lot of traditional, old-school captains who would disagree.

Photos and more coverage of the Rhapsody to come upon my return to the mainland.

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