On the last sea day, Carnival offered a Behind The Fun tour on the Splendor. This tour (which you can book like a shore excursion) takes a few lucky guests into areas normally reserved for crew only. We started our tour by meeting in the Alexandria Library. Unfortunately they did not allow photos on this tour. A security guard ran a scanner wand over everyone to insure nobody smuggled a camera in. Luckily the other ships we have gone behind the scenes on didn’t ban cameras and they all have similar features so I filled in here with photos from other ships.
First our gracious hostess from Hungary led us to the bridge where we met the captain and had complimentary photos taken. While there we learned why bridges on these ships are always blue. It’s not because the builders have no imagination when it comes to bridge décor, but rather because blue absorbs the most light. The bridge crew has better vision with a blue bridge. Looking out the front windows, all the front decks are also blue, keeping with the better vision in blue theme. The decks in front of the bridge also have no lighting at night because the bridge crew needs to see where the ship is going. Which makes those decks a good place for stargazing.
This ship has the same tiny steering wheel in the center, and window in the floor in the outer wing on each side, used for docking that we have seen on other cruise ships. The cruise ship docks have markings for each ship that they line up under that window when they dock.
Next we went down into a crew area and out on the crew deck at the bow where they took another complimentary photo in the wind. The photographer left after that photo so there are none from the rest of the tour. The crew deck had two hot tubs, one of which had water in it blowing up into splashes like a wave crashing through rocks on shore and sometimes splashing far enough to reach us though we were some distance away. The crew also has use of the small deck just above the open bow. These outside decks are the only place they are allowed to smoke on board.
We went back inside and visited the backstage area. We started out in a dressing room where the head dancer explained how they sometimes have under a minute for costume changes. They have everything set out and ready to go, and may start out wearing several layers of clothes so they can just peel the top one off. If one of them doesn’t make it to the stage on time the others have to go on without them.
Then we moved onto the stage itself behind the curtain where a member of the
entertainment crew was setting up for towel animal theater, a cute show that Carnival has right after the towel animal folding demonstration. There we learned from a technician that the stage shows last an average of 10 years. A show may last over 12 years if it is really popular and no more than 8 if it is not well attended. They can make minor improvements to a show, but everything is carefully planned down to where each dancer stands to avoid being under the scenery when the next one descends from above. (The scenery does have a safety that will stop it if someone is in the way.) The same cast doesn’t stay on a ship for 10 years. The next cast comes in to train with the old cast for a week before the previous cast leaves. It costs several million to make each show. It is easier for Carnival to move the boats around sometimes to have new shows from a particular port than it is to change the shows more often.
Next we descended into the bowels of the ship – sort of. The ship has decks lower than where passengers are allowed to go even on the tour. The lowest deck passengers see during the normal course of a cruise is 0, and then only in the area with the gangway to the outside at ports and the medical center. Our guide mentioned decks A, B, and C, which is typical for the big cruise ships to have 3 crew decks below deck 0.
We saw some crew areas. Narrow hallways led to crew rooms, the doors spaced closer than in passenger cabin hallways. Our guide said these cabins have 2 bunks each, with some space to walk next to the beds, a desk and sink, and a bathroom shared with the next cabin. The crew on the Splendor have 2 people per room and 4 per bathroom in rooms somewhat smaller than the inside passenger cabins.
The crew has other places to go besides their quarters when off duty. They had a self-serve crew mess and a staff dining room with service from crew in training to become dining room waitstaff. Crew are people who work for the cruiseline and staff work on the ship, but are employed by outside providers. The officers have separate dining rooms from the staff and crew, but they all get the same food. They have a different menu from passengers. The passenger menu has a 7 or 8 day rotation, while the crew menu has a rotation of about 27 days so they don’t repeat the same things as often. They also try to take into account the ethnicity of much of the crew and rotate meals from their homelands through the menu.
The crew has a laundry room where they can wash their own things. Unlike the passenger launderettes which cost money, the crew can wash their clothes for free. They have free environmentally friendly laundry soap available and are not allowed to bring in chemical detergents.
Other crew areas included a gym and a crew bar complete with portholes, pool table, and video games. Their dining areas also had porthole views.
Every ship seems to have a long central hallway for the crew called I-95. They can use that to easily get from one end of the ship to the other. Crew members went about their daily tasks or just walked by on their way to somewhere.
We walked past the entrance to the medical area, and found out the ship has 2 doctors and 4 nurses on board. It can leave port without the captain as there are about 5 other people who have captain’s licenses and can drive the ship. It can not leave port without a doctor.
Down below the waterline we saw a laundry just for washing clothes, which either passengers or crew can send their clothes to for a fee. Some positions such as cooks can send their uniforms to be washed for free (cooks because their clothes get greasy and that is a fire hazard.) On the other side of a big waterlock door sat the main laundry where all the sheets and towels get washed for passengers and crew. The ship has 7 compartments that can be locked off with the waterlock doors, of which 2 next to each other can not be left open at the same time so if water ever got into the ship it would be contained. They also have fire doors there and on some of the higher levels.
A lot of laundry passes through the laundry area each day. After washing the sheets two crew members neatly slide them one at a time into one end of a machine wet and they come out the other end dry and folded where another crew member stacks them in bundles of 10.
While below decks we saw several food storage areas where each item type has its own refrigerator or freezer such as a refrigerator just for beverages and a separate freezer for meat from poultry or fish.
Next we saw the engine room control area where monitors keep tabs on all of the ship’s engines and generators and things, then areas where things are readied for recycling and stored for removal from the ship. After that we moved up to the galley. Bubbling soup vats and ovens full of baking bread gave the galley the sort of kitchen smells bound to make most people hungry. The tour ended at the steakhouse up on deck 10. Dinner crew from the dining rooms can sometimes be spotted in the Lido during earlier meals, but the steakhouse crew stays there exclusively making premium food into artistic presentations for guests looking for a fantastic dining experience.
At the end of the tour they had drinks waiting and while people enjoyed those they handed out surveys and logo gifts. Upon return to our cabin we found a plate of goodies awaiting us topped with a Behind the Fun card.