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Have fun at floating five-star hotel, safely

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Published : 2014-05-16 20:48
Updated : 2014-05-16 20:54

The Diamond Princess Cruise ship is one of the three cruise ships deployed in Asia by Princess Cruises for the 2014-2015 season.
At first glance, the Diamond Prince ― set to sail from Busan to Japan ― looks like a high-rise building placed horizontally. A staff member hints that the ship is longer than the length of the South Korea’s tallest 63 building.

The ship, one of the 17 cruise ships owned by U.S. cruise line Princess Cruises, was on a 10-day cruise to Japan. It was anchored in Busan on the sixth day to bring 300 South Korean passengers on board.

Its sheer size is overwhelming both inside and out. It stretches 290 meters from bow to stern and can accommodate up to 2,670 passengers and 1,100 crew members. Inside, the hallway stretches almost endlessly with hundreds of guestrooms lining both sides of the hallway. It has more than nine restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, shopping boutiques and spas.

After learning that more than 3,000 passengers and crew members can board the ship, the issue of safety naturally came to mind. The nation is in grief after hundreds died in a recent ferry sinking.

Such concerns dissipated shortly after embarking.

Guests of the Diamond Prince are required to participate in a safety drill once they board. They are called to bring their life jackets from their places on the shelf next to the clothes rack. If a passenger misses a drill, they will be called to complete the drill again, according to a safety staff member. Each passenger is given a muster station, a particular section of the ship where they should gather in case of emergency.

Once the drill is over, the floating five-star hotel is in full function.

The Diamond Princess’ 13 decks have guestrooms, restaurants, swimming pools, a theater, bars and shopping boutiques that offer round-the-clock entertainment and dining options. These facilities are arranged adequately for movement of passengers and crew members.

Nigel Stewart, general manager of the Diamond Princess, said a variety of facilities and amenities make the cruise tour ideal for family trips as well as for senior travelers. “Our staff serves passengers like they are guests in their home,” he said.

“Without having to pack, you are taken to a new destination next morning. Every morning you are at a different destination.”

Even when the ship is cruising all day, passengers find no time to get bored. All sorts of entertainment programs are available at every corner of the ship. They can work out in the morning at a Zumba class or group exercise class in a gym. In the daytime, they can take part in various games such as bingo, ping pong and even an egg drop challenge. Passengers may also join educational programs such as a ukulele class or origami craft sessions.

Of course, what matters most is the food.

The buffet restaurant Horizon Court, open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., is one of the busiest places on board and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between meals for more than 2,000 passengers. According to executive chef Nilo Palma, the amount of ingredients consumed at the restaurant is “unimaginable.”


Bridge serves as life tower

The cruise liner calls on passengers to “escape completely” while onboard, but it’s hard to push aside lingering safety worries. Possible major accidents for cruise ships would be collision, capsizing or fire.

The Bridge, located on the front upper deck of the ship, is a command tower responsible for the safety of all passengers and crew. It is run by two officers of the watch and two seamen acting as lookouts. They change shifts every four hours, taking eight hours off in a three-watch system.

“The two officers and two lookout guards are the ones that really drive the ship. I give them orders and they do what they have to do. I am on the Bridge only when they need me and also on arrival and departure,” said Capt. Fabrizio Maresca.

The 41-year-old Italian captain said he started working on ships when he was 17. The captain joined Princess Cruises as a second officer in 2000. He spends four months on board and takes 50 days off before the next voyage.

Once on board, his authority goes beyond operating the ship just technically.

“I need to be a mayor, a judge of all passengers and crew. The last decision for everything is on me. At the end I am responsible for everything,” he said. “So I need to trust my 1,056 crew members.” 

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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