Part 1:  What is it?

What exactly is a ship inspection?  Most cruise lines allow travel agents to board some of their ships for four to five hours while the ship is in port to familiarize themselves with the layout and facilities of the ship.  This allows an agent to experience a particular ship and cruise line to increase their knowledge and be in a better position to pass this first hand knowledge on to potential clients for their agency and the cruise line.  A definite win-win situation.

There are two types of port visits a ship can make.  A ‘turnaround’ is when a ship comes to port and all the passengers dis-embark and a whole ship full of new passengers embark for the next voyage.  When a ship visits a particular city for a day in the middle of it’s current cruise it is a ‘port-of-call’.  Ship inspections are usually performed during a ships ‘turnaround’. 

I am fortunate to be so close to the port of San Francisco because every spring and fall many cruise ships visit San Francisco either on their way to, or from, their Alaska summer itineraries.  This offers me multiple opportunities for ship inspections.

A request must be made with the cruise line in a timely manner prior to getting approval for the ship inspection.  Once approved, the agent goes through a similar pre-boarding registration process as a passenger would, furnishing immigration information that must be screened by Homeland Security before receiving final approved for the ship inspection.

The local cruise line DSMs (District Sales Managers) greet the travel agents prior to boarding the ship.  After a brief introduction and instruction on when and where to meet for lunch, a list of staterooms of each basic category available for inspection is given to the agents.  We are then allowed on the ship, somewhere between 10 and 11, and usually left on our own to explore the ship.

My objective is to view and take pictures of every stateroom category and all public areas.  I am usually on board the ship prior to any passengers and it becomes a mad dash to get to every stateroom type, spread from bow to stern and on multiple decks.  After the staterooms I usually go to the upper decks with the pool, sports deck, the grill, buffett and work down the decks to the other various public areas including the atrium and customer service area, the shops, spa, fitness center, all the lounges and bars, the showroom and theatre, the library, game room, main dining room and any specialty restaurants the ship may have.  In otherwords, as much of the ship that I can possible get to.  It is a lot of ship to cover in a short time.  At some point passengers start to board which ties up the elevators so I have to resort to using the stairs when I go from deck to deck.

I have inspected most of the ship prior to gathering in the main dining room for lunch at the scheduled time.  A special menu has been prepared and lunch is served by the restaurant wait staff.  We are seated randomly with other travel agents and over lunch strike up interesting conversations related to our respective businesses.

After lunch there is still a little time left to check out any areas I may have missed, or go back to venues I might want to explore more, or simply walk around and enjoy the ship.  Around 3 o’clock we are finished and exiting the ship.

Tomorrow, part 2.  Why?

Until tomorrow,
Bon Voyage

For more information, tips and ideas talk with me,
Ole Nordhavn, Cruise Holidays, “your personal cruise expert.”
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