Many of us on numerous occasions have made a visit to the ships bridge . On the Windsor as officers steward it was often my duty to take food and drink to the watch.

On the Paparoa as assistant cook and Tiger it was a daily task.

However on both the Windsor and Pretoria I was invited to see the skipper on other matters.
Brandy and a young lady with no understanding of the importance of time keeping lured me into a false sense of security, and then took ad vantage of me, keeping me from my allotted time of return.
For this subtle act the skipper donated from my pay monies to another place.

It was the second night of the cruise, we were having a quiet pre dinner drink in the Wheelhouse bar talking with the winger. A man from Ukraine who we had met on other ships. While talking the ships captain appeared on his way to a social gathering in the atrium.
The champagne waterfall is an occasion when many of the bloods will kill each other in the chance to reach the captain and have a photo taken with him. Not for us.

He approached the winger and spoke with him, apparently something he does regularly when ever he sees any of he crew, and the winger then said to us come and meet the captain. He was very courteous and well mannered suggesting I leave my details with the service desk.

Next day we received a well written gold embossed invitation to a Bridge Visit.
After 9/11 all such visits were banned, but about 18 months ago Princess began to relax some of the rules, now the captain is allowed once each voyage to invite ten hand picked bloods for the visit.

Captain Stefano Ravera is Italian and began his 43 years at sea in the Italian Navy as a cadet. His first ship he told me was made of wood with a chain and wire steering ans a wheel bigger than himself. After six years he joined the Merchant Navy, 30 years ago joined Princess and has been a Captain now for some 20 years.

The bridge is far removed from any we ever knew, gone the large wheel, gone the compass and gimbals along with McKenzie balls. The bridge is the size of the ships beam with at each end controls for the fore and aft, Port and Starboard thrusters. In the middle the main controls.
This consists mainly of radar screens, CTV of all sections of the ship, controls and engine room contact.
The watch system has not changed, still the three, manned by four crew members. Senior officer of the watch has overall responsibility for the watch, the Second officer holding the 8 to 12, senior second the 12 to 4, and first officer Navigation the 4to 8. Second on watch is one of the three third officers who work alongside senior officers of the watch. Two AB make up the four on watch. Their position is to maintain a continuous lookout required by law, and to manually steer the ship when required.
On Port approaches in areas of confined navigation or high density this team is supplemented by the Captain, Staff Captain and additional officers.

The three senior officers of the watch must all hold a masters ticket.

The wheel now gone had been replaced by a wheel the size and shape of a CD, with this one of the AB must ensure that the ship remains in a pre determined computer operated course.

Some details of the ship which some may find of interest.

Built in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and delivered in February 2004.
She is registered in London!
All ships registered in Hamilton in the Bahamas are allowed to fly the Red Ensign, but to comply with international regulation two ships of each fleet must be registered in the UK, either London or Southampton.

Gross tonnage of 115875, and displacement of 60636 tonnes. Deadweight 14601 tonnes
965 ft long and a beam on the bridge of 164 ft.
Max draft of 26.3 ft and an air draft of 177.05 ft.
Propulsion, diesel electric and gas turbine
Diesel generators 2x6540KW and 2x 8400KW
Gas turbine 1x25000KW
Propulsion type Electric motors 2x20000KW @145 RPM

Three days later another letter arrived, an invite to dinner.
8 hand picked bloods dined with the Captain, chief Engineer, Chief officer and Hotel Manager.
A very good evening in one of the ships specialty restaurants with good company, good food and wine.