Many parts of the ship, while essential to the day-to-day function, remain unseen by most cruise ship passengers. Being media does sometimes have advantages. The wonderful staff on the ship arranged for us a private tour of the out of view areas of the Holland America Westerdam.
First we met with the captain for an interview on the bridge. He talked about the multi-national crew. People from all over the world work on cruise ships, but the majority on Holland America come from Indonesia or the Philippines.
Several other people besides the captain drive the ship. In fact he has many other duties and usually only drives it himself going into or out of ports. So the odds are he was not the one at the helm when the ship hit ice in Alaska. Luckily it sustained only minor damage. I guess that shows that in spite of the fact that CCC (cheap Chinese crap) has taken over most of our stores, SOME things are built better than they used to be. The Titanic hits an iceberg and sinks, the Westerdam hits ice and goes on her merry way with just a dent below the waterline.
We learned a lot in our interview with the captain (who is from Holland), but forgot to ask the most important question of all. On average, how many passengers get left behind at each port?
Some interesting features of the bridge include that each of the little windowed areas that stick out beyond the rest of the ship have a set of controls. They can use these for docking, and stand on the side where they can see everything as they dock. Mostly the ship gets steered by computer, but it still does have a tiny steering wheel in the middle of the rather large navigation area. Nothing nearly so impressive as the large wooden captain’s wheels of yesteryear.
Next we proceeded to a tour of the bowels of the ship. First we saw the kitchens. It’s nice to know they have separate areas for preparing different sorts of food. Vegetables have their own area, as does baked goods. Fish has a room of its own, so they have no chance of cross-contamination.
At the bakery we saw a rack of really cute baked animals. I’m not sure what they used them for as I did not see them served anywhere where I ate on the ship.
We saw quite a selection of enormous walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Most held large quantities of one sort of food or another. Then they opened the door to yet another refrigerator. There, on a pile of ice shavings, stood the same crew member who had given an ice-carving demonstration by the lido pool a few days earlier. Only this time he was carving a new ice sculpture in a refrigerator. More private, but a lot colder. Later we saw his latest work at the dessert buffet.
The lower decks may not look as fancy as the passenger areas, but they serve their purpose. On the crew deck, they have two dining rooms. They serve food from the homelands of the majority of the staff. We saw hallways leading to the crew quarters, but not the rooms themselves. That is the crew’s private homes.
The laundry puts any public laundromat to shame on sheer size alone. Walls lined with a multitude of oversized washers and dryers. Mountains of laundry, each one alone probably larger than the entire total of linens and clothing owned by the average family.
Then they showed us the big roller iron thingy. You could put a whole sheet through that thing and iron it in one go. We really enjoyed seeing the inner workings of the ship where most passengers never get to go.
We had a great time on our Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam. We love Holland America and look forward to sailing with them again sometime.