Go where no passengers have gone before.
Once off limits to all but crew and ship’s officers, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 offers a special Behind the Scenes ship tour that takes guests where no guests have gone before. Have a meet and greet with senior officers, walk through the Queen Mary 2 from bottom to top and learn first-hand about the inner workings of this grand ocean liner.
Because of the sensitive nature of the areas visited on the ship, we were only allowed to take photos in a few of the areas. My photos, including the Bridge, are towards the end of this article…just as they were on the tour.
Where it all begins.
Tour guests gather on Deck 2 Forward at Connexions where they are met by a member of the cruise staff who will be the guide for the entire tour. In a nearby meeting room, ground rules are reviewed, safety waivers signed and a brief overview of the tour is discussed. Two security offices are introduced as they will accompany the group for the duration. Soon, everyone is led single-file into the hidden recesses of the Queen Mary 2.
The first stop is the Mooring Deck, located at the most forward area of the ship on Deck 3. The Deputy Technical Officer escorts guests across painted steel floors and explains how the thick polyester ropes are deployed to secure the ship when in port. It’s an area of heavy machinery, eight spools of tightly-rolled rope and the crushing sound of the ocean as it meets the bow.
The Deputy leads everyone to Deck 4 via a narrow staircase (part of the 222 steps on the tour) to the Anchor Deck where two 24-ton anchors are encased. He explains the anchoring procedure when the ship must remain off-shore rather than dock in a port.
Next on the tour, the guide proceeds to the Medical Centre on Deck 1, where the Senior Doctor leads a tour of the facility. Almost like a small hospital, there are x-ray machines, centrifuges and several well-equipped patient rooms separated for crew and guests. Two doctors and four nurses share the duties, with one doctor always on call.
Led by the tour guide, the next jaunt runs the entire length of the ship. It’s a bustling passageway named the Burma Road. Tour guests proceed down this corridor along with crew members that must get from one end of the ship to the other. It’s along this “road” that all of the main food storage areas are located, plus the crew and officers dining rooms and lounges, and numerous, limited access stairways and elevators.
Along the Burma Road, the group stops to listen to the Crew Housekeeper as he explains how the vast amount of luggage is handled at every embarkation and debarkation.
Waste Handling Room
After the Baggage Room, the group is met by the Environmental Officer at the Waste Handling Room who explains the 24-hour a day recycling operation. Crew and guest waste is sorted and separated to be recycled according to the type of material being processed. For example, the half-ton of food waste generated every day is processed and recycled into fish-food and released into the ocean. Profits from recycled materials are donated to charitable organizations.
Engine Control Room
The tour continues at the tightly-monitored Engine Control Room. Here, the Chief Engineer points out the technical details, from propulsion to electrical power generation and fuel consumption. The mechanics of the four gyroscopically-controlled stabilizers, the two fixed propulsion pods and the two reversible Azimuthing electric pods are explained.
Chief Safety Officer
After the Engine Control Room, the Chief Safety Officer awaits the group to demonstrate the fire-fighting procedure, how a fire is contained and the equipment needed to combat and perform a search and rescue operation.
Food and Beverage Manager
More than halfway through the tour, guests are introduced to the Food and Beverage Manager who escorts everyone into the cavernous, well-stocked walk-in freezer, pointing out the escape button should a crew member become locked inside. Guests also walk into the Butcher Shop and the fruit and vegetable refrigerator.
Guests are greeted by the Executive Chef who leads the group on a winding walk through the main galley. The Chef describes the function of each galley area, noting that there are ten kitchens and 163 chefs located throughout the ship.
After the galley tour, guests are treated to chilled champagne and finger sandwiches, beautifully presented in a corner of the dining room.
Royal Court Theater
The second to last stop on this tour takes place backstage at the main theater. The Stage or the Production Manager presents an overview of the entertainment productions in the Royal Court Theater and then brings the group backstage to begin the tour. There is a visit to two costume-filled dressing rooms, a glance at the props and scenery suspended high above the stage and an intro into the sound and lighting computer system.
The tour concludes with what everyone has been waiting for; a visit to the Bridge and a meet and greet with the Captain. High up on Deck 12, past Senior Officers’ cabins and another security officer, guests cross the threshold onto the Bridge.
The Captain welcomes everyone and one of the Officers describes the high-tech gadgets, gizmos and buttons and explain how to read the blinking radar screens and computer-generated navigational charts.
At the conclusion of the navigational information, the Captain returns to answer questions. A professional photographer snaps a group photo with the Captain. The photo is later delivered to each cabin, compliments of Cunard.
Finally, nearly four hours later, the Behind the Scenes Tour is over. Guests receive a few souvenir logo gifts including a logo chef’s apron plus a beautiful “Behind the Scenes” lapel pin.
Bring good sturdy, closed-toe walking shoes. Leave the camera in the stateroom as no photography is permitted. It’s a spectacular tour and well worth the investment.
There is only one Behind the Scenes tour offered on each voyage and limited to a scant 16 guests. If this is a must-do experience, purchase a ticket as soon as the ship’s Tour Office is open. Even at $120 per person, this tour always a sold-out event.
Sherry is editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com. An expert on ocean and river cruises plus trains in the US and Europe, Sherry’s goal is to share her experiences to entertain, inform and inspire readers to travel the world.