Part 10 - At Sea
On this last day at sea of our journey I was in for something special. For my birthday, my lovely wife had surprised me with a ticket for the “All Access Tour” allowing me insights into otherwise inaccessible areas of the ship.
After breakfast, I went to the Sky Lounge, where the participants of the tour were to meet and where we were greeted by a friendly lady from Celebrity.
First of all, she accomopanied us to the ship’s theater, where we were welcomed by a member of the show cast. He showed us the rooms backstage, where hectic activity probably prevails during the show, when singers and dancers change costumes with lightning speed often more than once.
The rooms provided to the actors as dressings rooms, for make-up and preparation looked surprisingly small.
Quite in contrast to the theater, whose enormous size I always find amazing on cruise ships. This is certainly one of the aspects, people find hard to imagine if they have never been on a cruise.
On stage, we were given explanations on the different crane and elevator systems, and the technician in the control room above the stands played a little with the different lights to give us a demonstration.
We were then led to the deck of the bridge. But before we were allowed to enter the bridge itself in company of security, we were scanned with metal detectors. Only then were we allowed to pass the security door and enter the control center of the Reflection.
On the port bridge wing, one of the bridge officers explained us the functions of the control stand with all its displays and levers. From the balcony of our cabin, which was a few meters behind and slightly above the bridge, we had often watched the bridge team in action when setting sail. Being here now and looking down on the passing waves through the thick glass window beneath our feet was something special.
The panel itself contained important control elements for the navigation of a ship. Most striking were the controls of the propeller gondolas and the bow thrusters. Here, the so-called Azipods can be controlled and rotated 360°. Compared to conventional engines with drive shafts and rudders, this system offers a much higher maneuverability, even at low speeds, e. g. in ports.
All settings and data were displayed on the monitors on and above the control station.
In addition to the technical details, the officer gave some interesting explanations on the bridge crew in different situations, pilots, command structure etc. From everything he said it was clear: Safety first!
Following the visit of the bridge, the officer took us to the winch room many decks below. Here, we had a look at the impressive anchor winches and the massive anchor chain as well as the big winches of the mooring lines, which are used when the ship isn’t anchored but tied up at a pier.
After answering a few of our questions, the officer passed us on to „Kat“, the HR Manager of Celebrity Reflection, responsible for some 1.250 crew members on board. After a few introductory words she first took us to the crew’s library.
Here, the members of the crew don’t only have books at their disposal but also some Rosetta Stone language computers, where they can improve and broaden their language skills.
Past one of the various crew messes and the crew’s internet cafe, Kat took us to the crew bar, next to which there was also a little shop for the crew.
Everything was clean and pleasantly designed, and with various examples the HR Manager credibly assured us that for Celebrity the well-being of its employees is a very important matter. Yet, this hidden world had nothing in common with the exuberant luxury and the generous open spaces of the passenger areas. But for many crew members this is what they call home for many months, far away from their actual homes and their families. Another opportunity to remember how hard the crews on the ships have to work for their money. Despite months away from home, long working hours and little spare time in comparison, they are always genuinely friendly and and a key contributor to the feelgood factor on a cruise ship. An aspect, which I think is easily forgotten by us passengers.
Via the main service corridor in the hull, aka Interstate 95, Kat took us to ou next station, the engine control room. Besides the bridge one of the two nerve centers of the ship, where we were, again, scanned prior to entering.
Inside the small room stuffed with technical equipment, monitors and displays, Daniel, the friendly First Engine Officer, explained many facts worth knowing about the engine concept, the drive systems and fuel consumption. With wit and finesse he also answered our questions very knowledgeably and easily understandable.
After the interesting visit of the engine control room, Chammy, the Provisions Master, picked us up outside the door to take us to the Reflection’s storerooms.
Chammy showed us the big cargo hatches and the various cargo holds for fruit, vegetables, eggs and all kinds of other food offered in processed form at so many locations throughout the ship.
The conclusion of the visit to the storeroom was a visit to the refrigerated holds for fish and meat – surely hell for any vegetarian. Busy hands were already preparing the delicacies for the dinner of that days Formal Night.
Next, we visited the main galley, where all the food we had seen in the cold rooms were transformed into delicious meals by some capable masters of their craft.
Coincidentally we bumped into Gede, who always spoilt us at BLU every night like nobody before him. That day he was serving lunch at the main dining room.
Although at this time of day the kitchen wasn’t very busy, we could imagine what it would be like during dinner, when all stations were manned and the waiters were queuing at the output. For now we just watched how some high-calorie desserts received their final touches.
A lunch at the Lawn Club Grille heralded the end of the All Access Tour. It was hosted by a member of the Guest Services team and “Big Mike”, the Band Master of the Reflection responsible for the music on the entire ship. Besides the delicious lunch, the conversations with both of them were very interesting, and in particular Big Mike’s answers to questions regarding Celebrity’s changes in music on board corresponded to the views of his audience.
That day, our afternoon routine at the Sunset Bar was interrupted by a thunderstorm. The cushions of the seats were blown around, and little puddles were forming on the illuminated stools around the central bar.
So we went inside and walked through the Ocean View Cafe. It wasn’t easy to resist the temptation of the enticingly presented delicacies.
Before we passed the Strait of Messina, the day ended with a beautiful sunset which made Mount Etna glow in a golden light.
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