Complete 1,000 word article. Sorry- photography in crew accommodation is forbidden,
so these pictures illustrate the working environment.
Upstairs and Downstair with the Queen
By Michael Algar
A recent cruise aboard Queen Mary
2 convinced me that she deserves every
word of the lavish praise already heaped
upon her. Basically her majesty is a grand
hotel with a capacity for up to 3,000
passengers in fully-serviced
accommodation ranging from single
rooms to multi-level apartments. But, she
has more to offer than any hotel: guests
also find a of variety of restaurants, bars, shops, theatres, spa, swimming pools,
planetarium, and very much more. All of this moulded into the streamlined hull of the
world's largest passenger ship, capable of moving effortlessly at 50 km per hour for days
at a time.
Latest of a long succession of Cunard ocean liners, she still maintains the policies
laid down by Samuel Cunard, the line's founder in the 1840's - "Speed, comfort and
safety," provided by "the best ships, the best officers and the best men."
As Cunard's services increased from those times, so did the variety of
accommodation. Upstairs, to quote the famous tv series about Edwardian times,
comprised first-class, the social elite - or those aspirants willing and able to pay the
price. Still above stairs, second class included a modest middle class willing to pay for a
modicum of comfort, while those in third class just wanted to get to and from the New
World for fares they could afford. With an increase in migration to the New world, they
were joined upstairs, grudgingly perhaps, by a new profitable (for the shipping
companies) steerage class.
Downstairs, most of the crew lived in cramped fo'csles -
dormitories with three-tiered bunks at the extreme ends of the ship
where pitching, tossing and vibration were greatest, or close by the
boilers and thundering engines they tended most of their waking
hours. Those stoke-hold scenes in the movie Titanic well illustrated
working conditions in trans-Atlantic liners at the turn of the 20th
Times have much changed since the Titanic. Gone are the
huge engine-rooms and the space-consuming shaft tunnels between
engines and the four propellers. Gone, too are the two, three or four
funnels, which may have looked impressive but took up a lot of
space vertically all the way between the boilers and the upper deck.
Stoke-hold gangs have been replaced by
engineers and technicians who tend rubber-mounted
diesel generators and gas turbines, which drive multi-directional external power pods at the ship's after end
and three thruster propellers in the bow. No need for a
rudder, nor the steering wheel, centre-piece to a ship's
bridge in so many old movies. Aircraft-inspired
computer systems control the ship's direction, leaving
the captain to use a small joystick for manoeuvring his
ship in port, even moving it bodily sideways if he chooses. All of this makes for a more
comfortable voyage. More unobstructed space means restaurants and other public spaces
stretch the entire 40m width of the ship. And, the crew is no longer crammed into the
least desirable spaces.
Upstairs, social changes since Cunard's early days have brought an end to first,
second, third and steerage classes. Along with virtually every other modern ship, Queen
Mary 2 is a one-class ship, offering luxury for all, but with a few price-based quality
differentials. The change downstairs for Mary's crew is
even more dramatic.
Now, many of old Samuel's "best men" are
women - perhaps Queen Mary 2's next Captain will be a
woman. Advanced engineering systems and computers
are as common-place here as in any medium-sized
enterprise ashore and highly technical jobs among the
ship's require advanced training. Also, because an ocean
liner is a self-contained community, it needs its own
hospital, police force, waste disposal system, while the
hotel has to be more self-sufficient than rivals ashore,
providing its own laundry and dry cleaner, even tailor's shop.
This means Mary needs all the deck officers, engineers and seamen who man any
ocean-going ship, plus hotel, hospitality and entertainment workers at every level, along
with such community workers as doctors and nurses, security officers, laundry workers.
Filling all these needs, Queen Mary 2 has a crew of 1,250, comprises about 40 different
nationalities at any one time, including many from Britain as well as hundreds from other
countries including the Phillippines, China, and Indonesia. The
huge Carnival conglomerate which now owns Cunard and
other famous cruise lines within its brands, recognizes the
importance high morale among its staffs. Well-served people
will pass the same attitude on to their passenger clients.
Today's crew's quarters are something that Titanic's
second class passengers would have envied, while those in
third and steerage classes could never have imagined. Most of
Queen Mary 2's crew live downstairs on Deck A., where they
have single or double cabins complete with shower and toilet, prefabricated by the same
supplier that built the upstairs cabins. Others have similar cabins above on Deck 1, site
of the well-equipped and fully-staffed medical centre as well as lounges used as
passengers' meeting rooms while at sea and gathering places for tenders in ports where
Mary anchors off-shore. In their section, the crew have
their own messes providing similar food to that served
upstairs but with greater variety to recognize the crew's
huge ethnic mix. The "Pig and Whistle" is Cunard's
traditional crew pub, while the well-appointed officers'
wardroom is proud to host favoured guests among the
passengers upstairs. Add a gym, movie theatre and
internet centre, and downstairs offers many of the
amenities available upstairs. One difference though, they
must be prepared to negotiate industrial-sized corridors and stairs instead of those ever-present elevators and grand sweeping staircases above.
Want to join them? Queen Mary 2's career officers and other key personnel come
from a group of British Cunard staffers, while most others are recruited by the
employment agencies which service many shipping lines. One third of Mary's hotel staff
gained their experience with the line's older Queen Elizabeth 2 and Caronia. That should
mean there's surely room for more downstairs on all three ships.
For hotel-type jobs, try: Berkeley Scott Selection (www.berkeley-scott.co.uk) in
Britain and for other trades: Columbia Ship Management Ltd of Limassol, Cyprus