Queen Mary 2 -- Staying Ship Shape
By Mark Michelson
Printer William Neugebauer plans out his print shop's workload—and the required paper and consumables needed—well in advance. Four months in advance, to be precise. As chief printer in charge of the printing operation on board the new Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) graduate carefully coordinates the shipment of supplies to faraway ports where the vessel docks.
"A ship is not very ideal for printing," he notes. Aside from ascertaining such unusual things as the optimum level for chemicals sloshing around in the plate processor while the Queen Mary 2 is at sea, Neugebauer says that paper handling can also be a real problem. A moist, tropical environment may be great for a vacationer, but it can cause havoc when the paper stock is then used in the much cooler and dryer print shop located deep in the bowels of the ship.
No Service Calls at Sea
William Neugebauer stands at ease among an assortment of new Heidelberg equipment in the print shop he runs aboard the new ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2. The shop prints jobs such as menus and newspapers.
His second biggest fear? Equipment breakdowns. "We run extremely tight deadlines with limited manpower and equipment," explains Neugebauer. Armed with a two-color Printmaster QM 46-2 press, a Quicksetter CTP device for outputting polyester plates, a Polar 66 cutter and a Quickfolder T 34, the all-Heidelberg facility cannot afford any downtime. As such, a Riso duplicator is also kept on board for the sake of redundancy.
All of the shop's printing equipment was ordered new through Heidelberg USA and was shipped to France, where the Queen Mary 2 was built. "They had to disassemble some of the machinery just to get everything on board," Neugebauer recalls. "Weighing 11,000 kilos, the Printmaster had to be stripped of all its covers, control panel and second printing unit."
Solely responsible for printing 1,500 copies of daily programs distributed in cabins to the roughly 2,600 passengers, more than 1,700 menus for the three main dining rooms and seven alternative venues, personalized name cards for special occasions, as well as eight-page versions of U.S. and British daily newspapers (downloaded by satellite), Neugebauer and his assistant, Jared Unterborn, produce jobs in hours, not days. As a result, files fly through the shop digitally employing Prinect workflow software and all proofing constitutes PDF files that are signed off electronically.
Another time saver: for some of their jobs, Chesapeake Digital Printing, in Baltimore, supplies preprinted shells and then Neugebauer and Unterborn just have to print the blanks.
With their workload, they don't have much time to lounge on deck. "We were working 18-hour days initially but now, with both port and sea days, we're putting in 10 to 12 hours," reveals Unterborn, an RIT graduate and now a master's candidate. "The flexibility of the hours is great for a student," he adds. "We do most of our press work at sea so that we have the luxury to spend quality time exploring the various ports. And it's great to get school credit and be able to travel around the world at the same time."
RIT has been running co-op programs for its students on a cruise ship since 1987. Following a 10-week training course at RIT's Rochester, NY, campus, students are assigned to the ship for six months. Both Unterborn and Neugebauer worked on the Queen Elizabeth 2 before their current tour of duty. They have no expenses for lodging, meals, travel, laundry, etc.; only for what they spend when they go ashore. But it's a life best suited to being single.
Unterborn will be completing his contract and leaving the ship this month to continue his education. Neugebauer replaced the former chief printer when he retired and has now been employed with Cunard for the past seven years. As a full-time employee, he works 41⁄2 months straight and then has one month off.
Neugebauer caught the printing bug after taking a vo-tech course in high school. "It was one of the best experiences of my life," he relates. "I just fell in the love with the graphic arts...the creativity, the technology—it's a fascinating industry."
Stretching nearly four football fields in length and towering 200 feet above the waterline, the Queen Mary 2 is truly a fascinating ship.
No Fish Story
* At 1,132 feet, the Queen Mary 2 is five times longer than Cunard's first ship, the Britannia, and 113 feet longer than the original Queen Mary. To put it in perspective, the QM2 is only 117 feet shorter than the height of the Empire State Building.
* She has 17 decks and rises 200 feet above the waterline, equal to the height of a 23-story building.
* The ship has a large indoor swimming pool in the spa, as well as four outside pools, one of which has a retractable glass roof.
* A planetarium on board—the first at sea—offers a variety of constellation shows and other presentations.
* There are 10 dining venues on board, all featuring ocean views. Recalling the classic dining salons of grand liners of the past, the three-deck-high main dining room—the Britannia restaurant—spans the full width of the ship with a sweeping central staircase, creating a dramatic showcase for those wishing to make the ultimate grand entrance.
* The ship's whistle is an original from the Queen Mary and is audible for 10 miles.
* For the construction of the QM2, some 300,000 pieces of steel were cut and welded into blocks in specialized workshops. The ship's hull is made up of 94 steel blocks (made from 580 panels), some of which weigh more than 600 tons, involving some 932 miles of welding. Her hull alone weighs 50,000 tons (more than a school of 330 blue whales).