Queen Mary 2’s crew are a bit like workers in an anthill. You know they are labouring behind the scenes to provide every comfort to passengers in ‘The Hotel’, but you seldom see them. From time to time they pop out of doors labelled ‘Crew Only’.
Rob and I were travelling on the South African rand. When I was at school a thousand years ago US$2 bought one of them. When we boarded Queen Mary 2 in Capetown in April 2013 our currency had devalued eighteen times by then. This is why we only went on two paid tours. The first took us behind the scenes into parts of the working ship we never imagined. The second lead us to Compostello, where pilgrims have been arriving since the 12th century and we greeted several.
Behind the Scenes – Back of House Tour
At Captain Oprey’s personal invitation, we and sixteen other privileged passengers donned old togs and comfortable footwear for the only Back of House behind the scenes tour on the cruise. It was a strictly no-camera and no cell phone affair. We would have to rely of handouts of the behind the scenes tour which I use here, and memories as Rob and I recall.
Bring Her Alongside!
We began the behind the scenes tour at the sharp end of the ship in the forward hawser area. There we saw rope winding gear twice my height, ropes the thickness of my arm and anchor chains as big as tank tracks. When I asked why the ropes were only loosely plaited a sailor explained, “We have keep the breaking strain down. In the beginning we ripped the bollards out of moorings”. It was clear the crew were proud of their Queen and this proved the theme throughout.
Queen Mary 2 has more than that, including two doctors and six beds, although conveniently located athwart disembarkation points as they charge per aspirin. With a predominantly senior clientele they have dispersed cardio stations everywhere – and a response time of four minutes for which they claim a record. When I commented, “at least you have an adequate supply of blood” the Lady Doctor said, “Oh no, you have no idea what goes on ‘tween decks after hours.”
We strolled along the central passageway behind the scenes admiring the internal workings in the inner-bowels of the vessel. I have to tell you the Back of House is as clean as The Hotel if harder worked. After stopping at the Fire Station to be intrigued by the equipment (no, they do not have a red fire engine) we paused to admire the waste recycling station (huge) and the technical department which by my reckoning would not be out of context in the Nuclear Power Station where I worked.
Heart of the Business
Control Room 2 provides completes redundancy for the bridge. The 27 officers and 70 ratings are in full control of daily functions and able to assume command. Behind the scenes multitudes of computer screens monitor everything from the weather to the ambient temperature in the main kitchen. Speaking of which the cathedral-sized galley even has stainless steel on the ceiling. The chef in charge (and twin brother of the chef on Queen Elizabeth 2) reigns supreme there. Even the captain is required to make an appointment.
On the way up to the Bridge we stopped by at the business end of the Royal Court Theatre, where we gazed down on the audience point of view the technical staff. We spent intriguing moments ruffling through the costume room before catching a fast lift upstairs. Captain Oprey was waiting to welcome us to his world. The main controls were like a gigantic play station. I found him a perfect gentleman. What a wonderful climax to a perfect day!