Behind the Scenes Tour

(or, a bunch of things we couldn’t take pictures of)

The I-95, the tunnel washer, and the joystick. All critical parts in the function of the mega-hotel-laid-on-its-side known as a cruise ship. For various reasons, two of the three were things we couldn’t photograph or video. And there was a Security Officer with us to make sure we did not use our prohibited devices in places they were prohibited…and you’ll be glad to know no scalawags were made to walk the plank because of an errant snapshot! We did get to take a long shot of the I-95 — all in due time, my young Padawan, all in due time.

The way to a guest’s heart is through their stomach

And the way to the tour begins with that most-important of places, the galley! (Seafarer-speak for what most of us call “gobs and gobs of stainless steel.”

We didn’t get to take the escalator from Savor into the kitchen galley, but we did have to dodge the bussers readying dirty tablecloths for the quick trip down five decks to the laundry (but again, I get ahead of myself).

Ready for some stainless steel?

Then down we went to the provisions…where we saw part of the food stores — including the meat locker. “You can’t go in there for your own safety” because it’s so cold. But look in? That we could…

We learned a lot about the length of the supply line to the ship. Except for fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy (I believe), all food stores are provisioned through Miami. That means a couple of things:

  • the shortest lead time (2 weeks or so) on stock ordering is for ships out of Miami. We were told the meat you see above had been ordered three weeks before we sailed. For a European cruise, that time lengthens out — to two-ish months!
  • the ship carries, at any given time, at least enough food and supplies for double the length of the present sailing. If I understood correctly, at the current rate of consumption Escape had on board Saturday (the last full day of the cruise) enough food and supplies for 14 days from then.

Now while that sounds like a tremendously long lead-time, especially for food, that is the lead time for the raw products. The food is all fresh, prepared onboard, and if you consider the lead times of your local food store along with time amount of time things sit on the shelf both at the store and in your pantry or refrigerator, I’d bet the farm to table time for what you eat on the ship isn’t actually that much more than for most food you eat at home or in a restaurant.

An example of on-ship preparation: the butcher shop!

The I-95

So-named because it is the only direct route from stem to stern of the ship on any deck (all others are interrupted or weave around somehow), the I-95 is much like the US highway for which it is named…

I-95 (edited graphic, source: Wikipedia)

I-95 on Escape, around 11:15 in the morning on a sea day. The thoroughfare is substantially busier and more full of “stuff” in the hours around the end of one cruise and the start of the next — the time known as “turnaround.” Given the substantial logistics involved and the sensitivity of some of the stuff that goes on, non-crew members cannot be in those spaces then (or really any other time without an escort).

The sensitivity is the reason we were given for photography not being allowed along the I-95, and in the engine control room, and for the limitations we had in what and how we could photograph or video in the bridge spaces. The walls of the I-95 are jam-packed with things like a complete muster list of crew members, which (I think) included emergency contact info at home; detailed diagrams of the ship; and other things that would be competitive gold to a person who knew what they were seeing. Of course we didn’t know what we were seeing and we were not permitted to loiter except in a couple of designated “safe” spaces. One of those was the public area of the deck that’s used while tender operations are underway and another was outside the payroll and personnel office where if someone did take a photo all they’d have gotten was a view of the crew enrichment calendar.

I suspect the restrictions around the bridge and the engine control room are not so much for competitive reasons as for regulatory/compliance reasons — whether it be an error caught on video (that NCL doesn’t control…precious little happens on the ship that isn’t under a watchful video eye), or because regulations prohibit non-crew (or only allow specific crew) to make any record of reading/positions of gauges, controls, etc. I don’t expect it’s any different anywhere else, and as a visitor I found the restrictions well within what I considered appropriate and acceptable. (Of course, it *is* their playground, so those were the rules I had to follow if I cared to play…)

The next space we were allowed to photograph or video as much as we cared to was the laundry operation.


Here we go round and round — in really bigly fashion….

Washers that process 44lb of laundry in 2.5 minutes, others that handle upwards of 150lb of laundry (before it’s wet). I actually took less photos here than I thought I did…. from our lowest venture on the ship, Deck 2 forward, where incoming laundry is sorted and fed to the washers, to Deck 3, where it comes out of the dryers and is trundled off to the folders before being loaded into a bright yellow “clean laundry” cart, it’s a pretty impressive operation.

Manually placing napkins on the presser/folder
How they come out the other end
The robot folder for sheets — and no, they haven’t figured out how to fold a fitted sheet well, either!

Upstairs, out of Crew World, then backstage in the Theater

Again, nothing to show there — in the places I could take photos I was so fascinated by the surroundings I forgot, and in the dressing room where photos were not allowed. (Had to chuckle when one of the actors rehearsing for the performance that night let drop an F-bomb, only to be quickly reminded by the director there were guests backstage!)

So Whose Stateroom is Room 15301?

Hint: he’s the guy you really don’t want to have to wake up in the middle of the night to get him to come the 5 steps to the bridge. (This being NCL, the answer is not “Captain Kate”)

After being reminded that our camera lenses could only be used pointing in any direction that was entirely OUTside the bridge (so, toward the sea, or as you’ll see, down the ship, straight down, etc….just not toward any controls, people, or anything else (including the mortgage certificate for the ship, prominently posted near the entrance door to the bridge).

(At which my mind takes the “squirrel” bait and HAS to look it up:

….an inordinate amount of time passes….

So apparently the ship is actually owned by the NCLH subsidiary that holds the mortgage, not directly by NCL itself. The notice appears to be a requirement so that anyone who attempts to make a claim against the vessel is advised of the priority claim of the mortgage holder. In other words, a regulatory and business house of mirrors cooked up and written in federal law, or maybe something dating in maritime law back before the founding of the country, I’m not clear. Once you start digging into the CFR, you often need a lawyer to find your way back out into normal space.)

All these photos have been approved and blessed by whomever

Private for those in the large balcony rooms on deck 8…

(Yes they can look through the floor of the bridge and see everything you’re doing on that balcony…so it best not be anything bad!)

Kudos to the person who took the personal training (situp?) bar with them on the trip — I didn’t ask anyone on the bridge crew if it was actually used at any point during the cruise or if it was just put on the deck so someone would think the person was keeping up their regimen….

So there you go — behind the scenes on Norwegian Escape, with quite a few interesting pictures and nothing we weren’t supposed to photograph.


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