The Bridge is not only the place from which the ship is
driven, it is the central command center for the ship. Located
at the front of Deck 10, the Bridge takes up the entire width
of the ship and, indeed, extends out over the sides so as to
give the officers a better view when docking (above right).
In this part of the tour, we look at how the bridge is arranged
and some of the instruments and technology on the bridge.
Except where otherwise noted, quoted material is from a
description by RCI.
Explorer has a very modern bridge, referred to as a "cockpit
style bridge" because the instruments are grouped in central
a console around two leather backed chairs making it look
like the cockpit on an airliner (see right). "Most ships have
these important pieces of equipment spread out over the
entire bridge, which could be quite a problem on the 148 ft.
wide, 3530 sq. ft. bridge of the EXPLORER."
Since the controls are clustered in the main console, there is a
great deal of open space on Explorer's bridge (see right).
However, there are other important areas besides the central
console. On either end of the bridge in the areas that hang
out over the water (called the Bridge wings") are duplicate
steering controls. These enable the officers to maneuver the
ship while at the same time having a good view of the pier
when docking. In addition, as discussed later, behind the
central console are other consoles used in navigation and in
The Central Console. As noted earlier, the cockpit-style bridge places the ship's controls within easy reach of the
officers driving the ship. Indeed, the ship can be maneuvered using a small joy stick built into the arm rests of the
two leather chairs. This is possible because the ship's systems are interlinked by computer. "In the past, each piece
of navigation equipment on a singular system providing its own particular type of data. In contrast, EXPLORER
has an Integrated Bridge System or IBS, where each piece of equipment functions not only independently , but also
as part of a total navigation system. In this way, each of the various systems shares its data with the others. This
allows the Captain and his mates to monitor and control these complex systems with relative ease.
Located between the two seats are
the propulsion and maneuvering
controls. Explorer has three pods
suspended below the stern of the
ship. Each pod houses an electric
motor that turns the propeller on
the outside of the pod. The center
pod is in a fixed position and helps
to propel the ship forward and
backward. It is referred to as a
"fixipod". The other two pods
can turn 360 degrees and not only
propel the ship but turn the ship as
well, taking the place of a
traditional rudder. They are called
"azipods," which is short for
azimuthal pods. Used along with
Explorer's four bow thrusters the
ship is very maneuverable and
usually does not need the
assistance of tug boats to dock.
In front and to the left of the propulsion controls is an electronic chart display. Explorer has a Voyage
Management System or VMS, which is designed to provide easy and precise route planning and gives a real-time
picture of the ship's precise location and movement, along with radar targets and automatic identification system data,
on an electronic chart display and information system. Like a paper chart, an electronic chart display shows the area
of water through which the ship is traveling, e.g. , a harbor, a strait, or open ocean with indications as to the depth of
the water and obstructions to navigation. "The advantage of electronic charts is that the ship's present position can be
superimposed over them, providing the officers with a continuous real-time indication of the ship's position. The VMS
also overlays the EXPLORER'S planned course lines , or track, right on the electronic chart, so navigating the ship is
almost like following the 'Yellow Brick Road'. If the Captain and his mates want to, the VMS can also steer the ship
and automatically follow the planned courses. The function is similar to the autopilot on a large aircraft. Most of the
time when EXPLORER is in open sea, the VMS is doing the navigation and steering, and the officers are monitoring the
Immediately ahead of the propulsion controls is the Dynamic Positioning System (DPS) display. DPS is a computerized
system that takes data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) (discussed below), the ship's radars and other
navigational systems and links it to the ship's maneuvering systems to automatically hold the ship in a fixed position or
to to otherwise maneuver the ship. "On the EXPLORER, the DPS can hold the ship in one position and point it in the
same direction for hours without having to drop the anchors."
To the front right of the propulsion controls is a radar display. "The EXPLORER has four separate radar systems,
including one on the back of the ship . . . . here of these systems are Automatic Radar Plotting Aids or ARPA. The
ARPA is basically a radar interfaced with a powerful computer. The ARPA provides the mates with detailed radar
data covering an area up to 72 nautical miles(82 statute miles , 133 km)! The ARPA also allows the mates to track up
to 40 different targets [e.g., another ship] at one time. The ARPA computer will calculate and inform the mate of all
of the following data for each target: Position (Latitude/Longitude); Distance; Speed; Closest Point of Approach
(Assuming EXPLORER and the other ship maintain present course and speed); Time for the Closest Point of
Approach. The ARPA can also display the same course that is on the VMS.
Behind the two leather chairs is the ship's
wheel or helm (left). A wheel has been the
traditional way of steering a ship for
centuries. In the second half of the 20th
century, they became greatly reduced in size
so that now the wheel of a ship as large as
Explorer is not much different in size than
that of a weekend power boat.
Today, the wheel is primarily used when the
ship is going in or out of port.
To the right of the leather chairs is the
Central Alarm Panel (right). "This panel
provides the officers with an organized
presentation of any bridge-based alarm that
might be generated. The officers will be given
an immediate indication of an alarm with full
information on the affected system, location
and nature of the alarm. As you might
imagine, EXPLORER has hundreds of
different systems. Each system has up to
thousands of sensors, all of which are
designed to give an alarm if abnormalities are
detected. Many of these systems are located
in the ENGINE CONTROL ROOM. However,
several key systems are located on the
bridge. One such system is the advanced
FIRE DETECTION SYSTEM.
Leaving the central console, there are two consoles immediately behind and
extending to either side of the cockpit.
The first of these is the Navigation Station (left). This is "where you will find
the ship's traditional chart table as well as secondary indicators for many of the
navigational systems such as the GPS. The Navigation Station is used primarily
for the navigational planning of the EXPLORER'S cruises."
Satellite positioning systems such as GPS are critical to navigation today. "GPS
uses a framework of 24 U.S. military satellites orbiting the earth, and can
provide accurate positioning data up to 3 feet or 1 meter. The EXPLORER, of
course, has multiple GPS systems plus another system called GLOBAL
NAVIGATION SYSTEM, or GLONASS. The GLONASS system uses a network
of 17 Russian satellites that use the same type of technology as the GPS
satellites. The combination of both systems gives the EXPLORER
unprecedented coverage and sub-meter accuracy. . . . The EXPLORER also has
the ability to receive DIFFERENTIAL CORRECTION SIGNALS from both
land-based beacon stations and the satellite-based INMARSAT system."
The other console behind the cockpit is the Safety Monitoring
Center (right), which "contains the primary safety systems
that are non-navigational in nature. Examples are: Fire and
Smoke Detection System; Ship Stability Monitoring &
Control; Watertight Door Controls; Fire Door Controls;
Public Address System; Emergency Alarms."
"On the far right of this long console is one of the ship's many
radio stations, allowing officers to send and receive radio
messages, satellite calls, faxes and telexes. This station is in
keeping with the new GLOBAL MARITIME DISTRESS AND
SAFETY SYSTEM or GMDSS."
As noted earlier, there are duplicate propulsion and
maneuvering controls on each of the bridge wings
In addition to the azipods discussed earlier, the ship
obtains the ability to move laterally from four
propellers housed in tunnels in the bow. These bow
thrusters are only used in docking the ship.
The bridge also has a practice console for training
Along the back wall of the bridge are panels depicting such things
as the ship's navigational lights (above left) and the status of
water tight doors and fire doors (above right).
In front of these panels is the Emergency Plotting Table, which
has large-scale plans of each deck of the EXPLORER. The table
has a glass top where the Captain can use marking pens to plan ,
coordinate and control an emergency event such as fire. The table
is illuminated from underneath giving a clear overview of the
Cruise ship photo tour - Explorer of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - page 10