South by Southeast travel blog

galley tour

galley tour

galley tour

galley tour

galley tour

bridge tour

bridge tour

bridge tour

bridge tour

bridge tour

theatre tour

theatre tour

theatre tour

theatre tour

view from the stage

Central Park wall of plants

Central Park

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

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galley tour

(MP4 - 1.41 MB)

refreshing the rink


One of the advantages of our "frequent floater" status and the lengthy time at sea without shore stops, is the opportunity to go behind the scenes and meet the people who make the magic. Sometimes you can pay to do this, but these days we are lah-di-dah enough to get exclusive invitations for free. The smaller group size and the amount of time ship personnel take with us is gratifying.

When we arrived at the rink where the ice show amazed us, the rink had been defrosted and was being refrozen. They only have to do this every few months and they seized the moment on this lengthy cruise. Usually a thin layer of water and a zamboni polish keeps the surface smooth enough. They occasionally use this space for other activities and the ice can be covered with an automated floor. A recent crew party caused some problems with the friction generated by all the dancing feet and the spilled wine froze the floor to the ice and the floor would not retract. The 48 drones that were used to open the recent show were the subject of much discussion. They are so tiny that their batteries cannot hold a charge for very long. They are used at the beginning of the show, because they have to fly back to their charging rack immediately or they won't make it through the second show of the evening. Special gizmos on the floor and ceiling generate a pseudo GPS for indoor positioning. Ken tried to fly our drone in our cabin and it immediately flew into the wall. On a moving ship the drone gets totally confused, because the position of its home base is always changing.

Then we went to the galley where the master chef who runs 17 restaurants onboard, lingered with us in the bakery, which at that moment was the only area where we wouldn't have been in the way too much as lunch was being prepared. When we stop to think about all the food that we consume and the fact that there is no opportunity to reprovision, the inventory control is daunting. At the end of the day they try to count every piece of meat, piece of fruit, etc. that was used that day so they can mine the data and predict how much to purchase and prepare. Our banana days are numbered.

The third stop was on the bridge, where security was intense and we were scanned in and out. This captain is especially personable and makes himself available regularly throughout the day for all our questions. Of course, when we are in the middle of the Atlantic with nothing around, the navigation screens didn't have much data to observe. We have profited greatly from the weather decisions our captain made after we left Gibraltar. The sea has been smooth, the sky blue, and every day the temperature gets a bit warmer. Now that everyone can spend the day outside, the ship feels much more spacious and uncrowded.

In Central Park we took a tour with the master gardener. We had noticed that the plants were looking a bit ratty compared to the Central Parks we had seen on the Symphony's sister ships. This ship was finished in France two months early and the onboard gardens were planted long before winter was over. These plants had to adjust to the much warmer temperatures of the Mediterranean where the Symphony spent the summer. Right before we got onboard, the ship was in a major storm with almost hurricane force winds, which whipped many of the taller plants to shreds. No wonder things were looking a bit peaked. The master gardener has a massive plant order placed in Miami and will start replacing those plants that are ailing the most. He has also ordered many more flowering plants since what we have here is mostly shades of green. In the twelve days we have been onboard, the vines have begun sprouting new shoots and the arbor is beginning to look like a canopy of green is coming. We'll have to come onboard again to see how all his plans have turned out. Even in its diminished state, Central Park is an amazing space to have on a cruise ship. Whenever we sit and read there or dine alfresco in this space, it's easy to forget that you are at sea. The birds seem to like it, too. whenever the ship is close to land, freeloaders come in for a visit and some stay so long they have to be removed by animal control. An owl came into the park along with about one hundred other birds and treated the area like a buffet. One of the bartenders saw the owl with a captured bird in each foot. In less than two weeks the owl was the only bird left.

Our last tour was in the theatre where we saw the full size Wright Brothers plane that flew over our heads in the theatre during last night's show. The technology on this newest ship in the fleet is cutting edge. Ken would love to work here. If something breaks we are thousands of miles from the companies who built it and the crew has to have the resources and can-do attitude to make it work, even when it doesn't. The computer went haywire during last night's performance and all the lighting cues which are usually automated, had to be done manually. None of us noticed a thing.

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