Captain Lars

Sept. 24, 2011

We enjoyed an entertaining presentation by our esteemed Swedish captain, Lars Bengtsson,  who showed slides of the bridge, various crew members, and the most important piece of equipment: a coffee pot. He said if that machine malfunctions the crew takes it out on the passengers. He also surmised this was why 2-3 other ships’ captains bypassed Ketchikan, AK.

(Our Norwegian Pearl was the only one to dock in Ketchikan yesterday. Nice for us to have the town to ourselves. Shop keepers offered discounts up to 50% before closing for the season. The Ketichikan residents were probably relieved when the ship’s horn sounded at 6PM and the last ship of the season sailed away.)

Back to Captain Lars . . . The Pearl was built in Germany and launched in 2006. It took 4 weeks to load all the furnishings, linens, cutlery, pots, pans, dishes, etc etc. We saw pictures of the cockpit with all  the dials and gauges. He assured us they had figured out how to use at least 75% of them. A couple of large red buttons prepare the anchors to be dropped or raised. These have been encased with transparent covers ever since a cruise director leaned back against one by mistake, he claimed.

The enormous Pearl has diesel engines that can travel up to 25 knots/hour. It features “azipods” in which the propellers can rotate 360 degrees. That means it has the ability to maneuver in any direction including sideways–handy when going through the Panama Canal with just 1.5 feet of clearance on each side. The ship needs only 1 meter of depth below the keel for docking in places like Skagway at low tide. Some ports such as Cabo San Lucas are so deep that anchors can’t be used. Instead, tillers are set to hold steady automatically. Stabilizers extend on the sides when necessary, but normally they are housed within the hull–especially when docking!

Passenger capacity is 2394 based on double occupancy (an 1197-room hotel!). There are 12 restaurants, 11 bars, and a 2-lane bowling alley, a first among cruise ships. The whole beast weighs 93,000 pounds–38.8 pounds per passenger–or divided out, our average weight gain by the end of the week. . . . (actually, we were told that 8 pounds is an average weight gain…hmm, the weight of a good-sized newborn).

We saw photos of the laundry rooms with their huge washers, dryers, and pressing machines; the kitchens, including dishwashing area; trash all sorted, recycled, or incinerated; water desalinization and sewage treatment. The ship has the best water and sewage processing in the world: Water generally boils at 100 degrees Celsius but in a vacuum it boils at 60 and saves fuel; solid waste is dried and incinerated; liquids are purified and distilled to drinking level (and here we saw a photo of bottles of Evian water when he joked that they sold it back to us.) Even at this pure a state, U.S. law requires the addition of chlorine and minerals.

After Captain Lars, cruise director Julie Valeriote (from Canada) spoke about additional areas behind the scenes–crews’ quarters (single, double, or up to 6 crew members in a room with bunk beds, storage, desk space, and bath); dining areas, classrooms, and a pool in the bow for crew members only. Not many people used any of the pools this trip–too cold–but the hot tubs were popular. When the swells were high water sloshed out of the pools then back out the other side–very dramatic to watch.

On this last day at sea we will be traveling the Inside Passage all the way to Vancouver. Until about 3pm there will be large swells and most of us look slightly drunk as we walk around the ship. Because of weather conditions (hmm, or maybe a malfunctioning coffee pot) the captain made an executive decision  to skip Victoria. That was a bit disappointing, but overall this has been a wonderful journey. It was a luxury on many levels, including being “off the grid” for an entire week without cell phone or internet. (We could have purchased internet minutes but chose not to indulge. Retreat time!)

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