For those who don't know, "Behind the Fun" is CCL's tour-the-ship-for-a-price excursion. I think it's relatively new to CCL (?).
On shorter cruises of less than 7 days it is supposed to run about 2 hours and costs $55; on longer cruises it costs $75 and runs about 3.5 hours. The maximum number of participants is 16 per tour and it is only offered once, on the last sea-day of the cruise. As we were on a 4-day cruise to Key West and Cozumel, our tour was of the $55, two-hour variety.
Well, the second part was wrong; it ended up being about 2.5 hours.
For our tour, we had to meet in the ship's library at 8:45am for the tour to begin promptly at 9am, and sure enough, there was a "private function" sign in front of the library entrance. There were some pastries and juice available for us, which was nice. Our tour guide was also the ship's training coordinator, Debbie (I think) from South Africa, and she was great. She gave us each a lanyard with a Behind the Fun -- All Access laminate and verified that none of us were carrying cameras or cellphones of any kind. Then a security staffer wanded us to make sure we weren't carrying anything, and we were off!
First stop was the galley between the two dining rooms, where the Head Chef gave us a lot of background on the different areas of the galley, how pastries are made ("we make them all on-board from scratch, we don't buy them at Costco, but we might buy the cake mix from Costco" ) and how many staff he has, 92, to make meals for all of the guests.
Next stop was down a deck into the Linen Room, where the department head gave us an idea of how many towels, table-cloths, etc., he had to manage with a staff of 5. They DO have some help with folding towels, though, as he showed us a machine that automatically folds them. Nifty! One of the tour participants asked how many towels they lose each week due to theft, and the answer was about 100, but most were not lost through theft, but from damage and just getting threadbare.
After that we went down a corridor to the laundry area, where we were shown the giant washing machines (3 tubs, 350 lbs capacity each) and the much-bigger bedspread folding machine, which sadly was out of service for nearby maintenance.
Then we were shown the garbage dump. Not as gnarly-smelling as we were expecting, partly because all leftover food is mulched, pulped into a slurry, and then pumped into the ocean after the ship is past the 12-mile limit. They also recycle everything they can, of course, and there's an incinerator aboard, too. Waste graywater and blackwater is processed and purified and also pumped back into the sea once beyond the limit.
Next up: "I-95," which is the corridor that runs the entire length of the ship, bow to stern, on Deck 3. Along this corridor we saw the storerooms for different types of food and drink, the crew training area (our tour guide's dominion), crew mess, staff mess, officer's mess, and the large service gangway area midships where the forklifts and baggage carts are stored -- and where the crew can hold large gatherings and soccer matches. Debbie had made cookies for us and we had some of those plus more juice and lemonade in the staff mess before moving on.....
...to the Engineering Control Room! This was down a steep flight of stairs and behind a security door and at this point, the security guy who had been quietly dogging us accompanied us into the room -- they weren't taking any chances, and that's fine. To our tour-guide's surprise, Chief Engineer Testa himself was there and conducted the tour, showing us all of the gauges and indicators for the ship's 6 diesel generators, the primary props, side thrusters, trim adjustments, stabilizer controls, and lots of other things. We had some good questions for him and this part of the tour lasted a good while.
Finally Debbie had to call a halt to it and we filed back up the steep stairs to see "Oasis," which is the crew's lounge and bar forward, then the backstage area of the Dynasty Lounge, then out onto the windy forepeak, which is the front open deck of the ship (there's a small hidden pool here for the crew, "about the size of my foot" as Debbie explained), and finally up to the navigation bridge, running almost 30 minutes late.
Debbie showed us a lot of the bridge instrumentation, radars, and other neet things, like the clear Plexiglas square set into the floor on each side so the captain and pilot can see the guide markings on piers. Then the captain himself (Andrea Cavaliere) came over, answered a few questions and posed with us for a group photo, with the central steering console in the middle. This was the last stop on the tour.
We went back downstairs where we completed a brief survey, handed in our laminates (darn!) but got to keep our lanyards, which say Behind the Fun on them and can only be had by tour participants. We also each got a ship fact-sheet, and a Behind the Fun embroidered cap (on the back it says "Honorary Team Member"), and finally Debbie thanked us for being a great group.
--But it wasn't quite over. Later that evening Debbie came by the stateroom to personally drop off my copy of the group photo...and later, while I was away, a thank-you dessert tray from Behind the Fun appeared on the desk in my room, with chocolate-covered strawberries decorated like tuxedos using white and dark chocolate and some other sweets. What a nice surprise!
All in all, I can recommend this tour without hesitation to almost anyone* if you have any interest in seeing the enormous amount of effort it takes to crew, supply, drive and steer what amounts to a floating city. It was easily one of the high points of my cruise!
* If you are mobility-impaired, however, the steep staircase down to the Engineering Control Room might be unmanageable. They were kinda scary to US and none of us had mobility issues....
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