A lot of the big cruise ships offer a behind the scenes tour on a sea day through their shore excursions department. Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is no exception. This tour was available for booking online pre-cruise or through shore excursions on the ship. Every line runs things a little differently. Royal Caribbean required a waiver signed for participation, and to show up with long pants, closed toed shoes, photo ID and ship cards. They collected the waivers first thing, but never asked to see the ID or cards. Cameras were allowed, but no flash photography or video or audio recording.
We started out with a tour of the deck 5 dining room galley. The dining room spans 3 levels and has a galley on each one. The main galley for the whole ship with giant soup vats and things is at the deck 3 dining room, but all the other dining venues each have a galley of their own.
In the deck 5 galley they had an area where they prepare things for room service, a room where people were preparing fruits and veggies for the upcoming lunch service in the buffet, dish and pot washing areas, and other prep stations. Our guide said the bakery was in the deck 4 galley.
Some of the galley crew wear colored neck scarves that designate their rank among the galley workers.
Galley staff is a large percentage of the ship’s crew and includes those who serve and clean up for meals as well as the people who prepare the food. Between all the passengers and crew they serve around 15,000 meals daily. Besides food varying from one dining venue to another, there is also a separate menu for the crew who have food options available with the sorts of foods they find in the countries they come from – which means things from a variety of regions since it’s an international crew.
Passenger areas on the Explorer end at deck 2 other than medical and disembarkation areas on deck 1. Our tour brought us further into deck 1 down their long central corridor called I-95, the same name as on ships of other lines we have toured in the past. This corridor gives crew easy access from one end of the ship to the other.
A variety of crew information was posted all along the walls of I-95. Everything from safety info to upcoming events, and all sorts of other information for the crew. Cruise ships usually have several decks below the waterline, accessible to crew only except for the behind the scenes tours which usually include some spaces on one or two of the lower decks.
After a thorough security check which included signing the list they had of tour participants next to our names and scanning each person with a wand we went into the engine control room. Women formed one line and men another for the security check. A female security officer scanned the women while a male scanned the men.
In the engine control room they had screens to view what the cameras monitoring the ship’s engines and propellers had to show at the time. The ship has 6 engines and needs 5 to run at top speed. The ship can go sideways as well as forward or backward, which aids in docking as well as in holding position at anchor.
That leaves the 6th for a spare unless it is time for routine maintenance, which is done at sea and takes a month for each of the diesel electric engines. Besides powering the ship’s propulsion, they also generate electricity for the ship. Heat generated as a by-product is used to make steam for water desalinization.
A table in the engine control room showed deck plans for all areas of the ship including the decks below the passenger areas and the crew area portions of decks that are blank on deck plans posted in passenger areas. It showed deck 0 plus 3 more decks below that.
Down a couple steep sets of stairs we saw a storage area. Supplies come in through large doors just above the waterline where things are loaded by forklift in port. Different types of foods each have their own freezer. Poultry has its own separate freezer, as does ice cream. Refrigerators too are segregated, with one just for booze.
Cruise ships do what they can to become greener as technology becomes available allowing them to do so. One of the next upgrades scheduled for Explorer is to add scrubbers for the exhaust that will remove the black smoke and leave nothing but steam. Currently they have incinerators to take care of the non-recyclable garbage, though burning it does not generate any power for the ship at this time. They did say they have solar panels to get some clean energy though. They also have a sewage treatment plant that results in only clean water being discharged from the ship. Food waste is processed into pellets that are sent out to feed fish.
The money made from the recyclables is used at 80% for things that benefit the whole crew such as funding crew parties or video games for their recreation areas. The other 20% goes to the 6 people who work in the recycling area.
Our next stop brought us to the clean room of the laundry, on one of the decks below the waterline. There they press or steam uniforms and passenger laundry. They also have large machines that fold sheets, towels, and other linens. The people who operate them were out to lunch so we did not get to see them feed a sheet into one end that pops out the other end pressed and folded.
They said dirty laundry was down another deck so no dirty and clean things would ever get mixed up. We did not go down there to see the massive washers and dryers used for ship’s laundry like sheets, towels , and tablecloths on this ship, though we have seen them on other ships. We did see some machines used for clothing.
Our tour ended with a stop on the bridge. Before entering we went through the same security procedure as before. We were allowed to wander the portion of the bridge not roped off, which included one docking station, a view out the front windows, and a seating area. Some of the rest of the bridge could be seen and photographed over the ropes. From there we could see that the bridge viewing windows on the deck above only show a peek at a small area of the bridge. This ship did not have the floor windows in the docking station used for aligning the ship at the dock that we have seen on some other cruise ships, but since we were told not to ask the bridge crew any questions I couldn’t find out what they use instead to line themselves up. There is a docking station at each end of the bridge in the part where the bridge windows stick out beyond the main area of the ship. When docking they use whichever one is on the side next to the dock at that port.
It’s always fun to take a behind the scenes tour and see some of the areas where passengers aren’t normally allowed to go.