More interesting for me was to go on one of the guided tours of the ship. There was always a bridge tour at some point and we were asked to cluster up on the top deck at the appointed time and the Assistant purser would take us in. We were introduced to the first or second officer who conducted the tour. I was surprised at how spacious the bridge was. A series of instruments were spread out across what looked no more than a glorified dashboard. This effect was enhanced by the fact that the device by which the RMS was steered had come off a Ford Escort. We were shown both the old chart table and all the modern equipment. I call it modern but it already had a clunky feel about it even in the early 2000’s. The computers were huge and sat within massive casings, the screens did one thing and one thing alone. Nowadays I am sure you could just plug in a standard laptop and it would have calculated all the ships movements and locations and operations in one go. They did have a small museum of old equipment and they showed us one of the sextants that the first office claimed they still had to use from time to time.
So much seemed to be automatic – once the course was set the ship just rolled on for day after day. Only when you got to port was there a lot of activity and even there you got a pilot to guide you in. But out on the open seas there were plenty of hazards. The weather was constantly changing and although this section of the passage was relatively benign there could still be swells. I was told the trip was much more uncomfortable south of St Helena as the effects of the Southern Ocean made it a real roller coaster ride.