Monday, February 04, 2013

USS George Washington vs Celebrity Solstice

The observant among you will realise this isn't a photo of a cruise ship. But, trust me, there is a cruising angle to this post...

One of the great things about my job as a news photographer is I get to see many things the public don't. On July 31, 2013, I was lucky enough to be part of a tour of the USS George Washington when she was docked at the Port of Brisbane. Brisbane has two places where ships can dock - Portside, which is a few kilometres from the city centre, and the Port of Brisbane, which is a working port and around 27km (17 miles) from the city centre. The USS George Washington wasn't open to the public but media and other groups e.g. sea cadets, were taken on tours throughout the day.

(Above photo: US Navy)

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

The US flag flies on the stern of the USS George Washington.

I was hoping to see all sorts of 'behind the scenes' places such as the crew's quarters, mess hall (!) and some of what was on offer in the way of recreational facilities. However, the tour group was 80-strong and too big to be trouping through the ship, so we were split into two groups of 40. This meant that while one group wandered about the flight deck talking to some of the pilots and crew, the other group wandered around the hangar bays located directly below the flight deck, talking to crew down there (then we swapped). The hangar bays need to fit all the aircraft when they're not on the flight deck, so they are MASSIVE - the width of the ship and nearly as long!

The hangar bays under the flight deck.
During the tour it was completely empty, except for a few planes and moving equipment down one end, as there
had been a big reception/party in there the night before. (Photo: US Navy)
Two jets sit on the 'lift' that takes the aircraft to and from the flight deck/hangar bays.
When we were on the tour, this is how they transported the two groups of 40 from the flight deck to the hangar bays and vice versa.

Being such an avid cruiser, I was also interested to see how how the USS George Washington shaped up against a large cruise ship, hence the composite photo below comparing it to Celebrity Solstice, when she was docked at the same location. 

In fairness, aircraft carriers and a cruise ships and two completely different beasts. However, I was quite surprised how small, in height, the USS George Washington is, apart from the conning tower. It was quite funny because, when we first arrived, everyone else was 'oohing' and 'aahing', whereas I was thinking, "I've seen bigger". It reminded me of the Crocodile Dundee line, "That's not a knife..."

I didn't ask any of the sailors on hand but I imagine one reason for such a low centre of gravity is because it helps with stability in the water. You don't want a ship rocking and rolling too much with hundreds of millions of dollars of 'hardware' i.e. aircraft, on board, or trying to land on an undulating flight deck during the smallest of swells.

In the composite photo below, I have drawn a red line on the side of the USS George Washington. That large opening above the red line leads into the hangar bays (see the photos above). That means the almost 6,000 crew and EVERYTHING else fits into what is below the red line. She does have quite a deep draft, but still...and when compared to Celebrity Solstice, which has around 1,200 less people, you have to wonder where everything fits on the USS George Washington!

The USS George Washington vs Celebrity Solstice.

What interested me was that upwards of 6,000 people inhabit the USS George Washington - the same capacity as the two largest cruise ships in the world, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Yet the USS George Washington is quite a deal smaller. I know, I know...the crew aren't going to have balcony rooms, or a Royal Loft Suite (Oasis/Allure), or the pools, restaurants, bars and entertainment of a cruise ship, so humour me! I was fascinated that the same amount of people could fit into what looked to be a fraction of the space!

Royal Loft Suites can be found on both Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas,
and will set you back around $17,000 - $24,000 for a 7-night cruise.
(Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

The stats below stack up quite evenly but keep in mind that red line and the fact that the USS George Washington heads out to sea for a month when she leaves Brisbane and has to find somewhere to store provisions to feed 6,000 people 24/7 every day she is at sea!

USS George Washington
Length at waterline: 317 metres (1,040 feet)
Beam (width) at waterline: 41 metres (134 ft)
Draft, maximum navigational: approx. 11.3 metres (36 ft)
Crew: we were told 5,500 but other sources say 6,100

Celebrity Solstice
Length: 315 metres (1,033 feet)
Beam: 37 metres (121 ft)
Draft: 8.2 metres (27 ft)
Passengers and crew: 4,350

*     *     *     *     *

If you'd like to see my cruise-oriented posts, please have a look at my 'Cruise With Me' page, which can be found HERE.

Love photos of cruise ships? Have a look at my 'Ship Spotting' photo gallery.

If you like what you have seen here, then follow me on FACEBOOKTWITTER and INSTAGRAM.

All photos and text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos/text must be via written permission

(Photo: US Navy)

No comments: