Cruise lines loosen up, let guests in secret areas

Ever since the terrorist attack of 9/11 security has been tight on cruise ships, and rightfully so. As a great big floating hotel, ships are also great big floating targets. When it comes to security, cruise lines have an unwavering focus on protecting ships and passengers. Having made a higher level of security commonplace, cruise lines are once again opening doors that up to now have been locked tightly.

Below deck, backstage and behind “crew only” doors, the sophisticated operations of cruise ships have always been of interest to guests. Now, Royal Caribbean is granting access to those secret areas through an All Access Tour.

“The All Access Tour offers guests the opportunity to learn about what it takes on-board to deliver the world’s most contemporary vacation, also known as the Royal Advantage,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International.

Guests now have the option to visit behind-the-scenes operations spaces and meet key shipboard staff members on an escorted tour during their Royal Caribbean vacation. The All Access Tour will offer guests insight into the inner workings of some of the world’s largest cruise ships and be available fleet-wide.
“Our guests have always inquired into what happens behind the scenes and below deck” said Bauer, adding “We are glad to offer these really special guest tours into areas that are normally not accessible, escorted by staff members who explain the complex workings of running of the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ships.”

The $150 per person All Access Tour escorts guests into a variety of formerly “off limits” secret areas, including a visit to the bridge, galley, backstage of the main theater, engine control room and other behind-the-scenes operations areas that collectively create the best vacation experience and value for guests. At least one 3.5 hour All Access Tour will be offered on itineraries shorter than seven nights, and two tours offered aboard a seven-night or longer itinerary with additional tours added, based on demand.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean that is opening up areas not seen in a long time, Princess Cruises jumped in a while ago with their Bon Voyage Experience.

The program is a new twist on the departure celebration of bygone days, when friends and family would routinely come aboard to see off passengers. Because of increasingly tighter security procedures, this practice disappeared more than two decades ago, but Princess added it back last year, complete with lunch in the dining room and tour of the ship.

The Bon Voyage Experience enables passengers to extend an invitation to their guests to join them on-eboard during sailing day for a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and a souvenir photo. Passengers and their guests get VIP priority embarkation and will be able to spend about four hours together on the ship before it sets sail. The cost for the program is $39 per person, which can be applied toward a future Princess cruise.

Princess Cruises also offers an immersive cooking experience where guests go behind the scenes for a Chef’s Table program.

Galley tours
available during the quiet off-hours are one thing, the Chef’s Table experience is quite another. This program takes interested diners behind the scenes during the height of dinner preparation in a fully-functioning production kitchen where they’ll also enjoy Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a special multi-course tasting dinner paired with selected wines in the dining room.

Sister-line Carnival Cruise Lines does a Chef’s Table too. This one-of-a-kind culinary experience includes an exquisite multi-course dinner hosted by one of the line’s master chefs along with a private champagne reception and a personalized tour of the galley for $75 per person.

As cruise lines loosen up, if programming like this is cause for worry that someone would join the tour with a bomb and blow up the ship, forget it. There was an armed security guard along on the tour every step of the way.

Flickr photo by sketchyparrot