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Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 18:18 UK
Life onboard cruise ship Equinox
By Victoria Bartlett
BBC Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Celebrity Equinox
Celebrity Equinox coming into Southampton Docks

The new 122,000-tonne Celebrity Equinox, owned by Royal Caribbean, has come to Southampton for its inaugural celebrations.

The £700m German-built vessel is only cruise liner to be launched in the UK this year and is now preparing to leave the city on its maiden voyage.

The crew are away from their friends and family for four months at a time, spending longs days satisfying guests.

So what is it like to live and work onboard a cruise ship?

Loving life on the ocean waves

Simon Weir
Half of the ship's crew are managed by hotel director, Simon Weir

Simon Weir, the hotel director on the cruise liner has been working on cruise ships since he was 17 years old - following in his father's footsteps:

"I'm addicted to the fast-moving and fun lifestyle onboard. But I also love the long time off we get.

"Sometimes it's a countdown to get off but it's also a countdown to get back on - it's a bit of a drug."

Simon's brother, Nick, also works onboard as cruise director. Simon loves to have a close family member on the ship from both a personal and professional level:

"I couldn't wish for a better person heading up the entertainment team - I really depend on him. I'm the younger brother but I'm the boss, which is quite fun. But he gets his own back when we're on dry land!"

I really miss my mum's cooking. My fiancee gets angry when I say that - but it's true!
Captain Apostolos Bouzakis

The ship's master, Captain Apostolos Bouzakis, says he wouldn't have his life any other way than onboard a cruise ship:

"I love being at sea and every aspect of sailing. I've never been disappointed growing up in this business - I've always been fulfilled"

Friendships are also forged when onboard for months at a time. Captain Bousakis, and fellow Greek staff onboard, Cheif Engineer, Stavros Zanikos, have come through the ranks together over the last 18 years and have built a close working relationship.

Stavros says: Our friendship is very important - to know and trust each other is critical for our roles onboard and also good for the company."

Apostolos says they can't enjoy themselves too much though: "In my position the fun has to be limited. The unlimited fun is saved for when you disembark!"

Challenges onboard

Head chef Jacques van Staden cooks meatballs in the galley

"The challenge is to satisfy everyone - all the guests have different tastes and desires and are from different countries.

"We have to be aware of that and offer them all the choice they expect" says Simon.

There are 2,850 guests onboard Celebrity Equinox - but there are also 1,300 crew.

Simon says it is not just the passengers he has to keep satisfied: "You have to keep the morale of the staff high so that they enjoy themselves too - the guests can easily spot a happy or an unhappy ship!"

Captain Apostolos Bouzakis is the ultimate official onboard, which means he has plenty of responsibility and doesn't get much sleep! He says:

Croquet lawn
The lawn needs to be kept at 10-15mm high to be fit for croquet

"I never relax. Whether you want to or not, your brain never switches off from navigation when you're a captain.

"I have security cameras and radar equipment in my cabin so I can view the whole ship and keep check on my staff even when I'm off shift.

"I often wake up in the middle of the night and check the radar - or sit in my office chair for hours in the middle of the night just watching."

Chief engineer, Stavros, says the worst part about his job - and the only time he feels pressure - is when part of the ship is severely damaged.

His staff of 75 are responsible for all technical equipment. This is not just the engine room but also the smaller items such as lighting, varnishing, hand-rails and balconies - so there is a great deal to keep checked and maintained.

Stavros says: "Ships are getting bigger and crews are getting smaller. We used to have this size of crew for a ship half this size. It means we're very compact!"

Missing nearest and dearest

Captain Apostolos Bouzakis
Captain Bouzakis has served on nearly every ship in the Celebrity fleet

Simon Weir, Hotel Director, has an 18 month old daughter back at home: "I heard 'hello daddy' for the first time on the phone the other day, which made me miss her lots, and the special moments in my life are when I get back to my family.

"But I know many fathers who have land-based jobs and never see their children due to working long hours and weekends.

"At least when I'm off work they have me completely for a couple of months. And I met my wife on a ship so she completely understands my life as a sailor!"

It's not just people that are missed - Captain Bouzakis says: "I really miss my mum's cooking. My fiancee gets angry when I say that - but it's true!

"I also miss having a drink and reading the papers with my friends on a Greek beach. I spend a lot of my time doing this when I'm on shore leave."

Performing at sea

All Angels
Classical group, All Angels, have been touring with Katherine Jenkins

Contemporary classical group All Angels are new to performing at sea.

Daisy says: "We've done all sorts of gigs and saw this as a great opportunity and experience."

And while they are getting a taste of life on a cruise ship they are going to make the most of the facilities! Melanie says:

"I've never seen so much food in my life! There is so much to choose from and we've been tucking in. We've also booked in for spa treatments before we perform and will be tasting the wine afterwards!"

But before having a sip of anything, the singers realise they have to work hard to please their new audiences:

"We're aware the passengers have many different musical preferences but we try to be accessible. At least on a cruise ship they are a captive audience - and they are all in a relaxed, happy, holiday frame of mind!"

All Angels have been together for three years - they think this is great experience for surviving months on a cruise ship. Laura says:

"Having been together for a while now we've reached a point where we're really honest with each other and are comfortable sharing our opinions.

We've had to cope with long days and being over-tired and in those difficult moments we allow each other some personal space."

Celebrity Equinox departs from Southampton on 31 July for an eight-night cruise to the Norwegian fjords.

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