Queen Mary 2 to sail with onboard help desk

Computer support on Cunard Line Ltd.'s new US$780 million Queen Mary 2 -- the largest passenger vessel ever constructed -- gives new meaning to the term offshore help, since the luxury liner will cruise with its own onboard technical support center.

The Queen Mary 2, which is scheduled to make its maiden voyage before the end of 2003, has roughly 150 computers to help manage shipboard systems, process credit card transactions and provide Internet connections for passengers and crew. Since these systems are vital to the ship and passenger satisfaction, Cunard, a division of Carnival Corp. in Miami, decided to install its own onboard help desk.

The desk will be manned by three computer systems officers, according to Geoffrey Battad, supervisor of network operations at Cunard.

Though the Queen Mary 2 boasts satellite communications systems capable of connecting it to any offshore help desk in the world, Battad said the possibility of communications outages necessitated onboard support. Cunard uses HelpStar software from Help Desk Technology Corp. in Toronto to run an internal help desk at corporate headquarters in Miami, and the line decided to use the same technology at sea.

Battad said the HelpStar software -- which includes modules to track IT assets and tools to expedite and measure first-call resolution -- helps Cunard provide support for shipboard applications as well as the Windows 2000 operating system and Novell Inc. GroupWise software. That package includes e-mail; instant messaging; and task, contact and document management services.

Battad said that the onboard help desk on the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 is the first in the entire Carnival family of cruise lines and, as far as he knows, the first onboard help desk in the cruise industry.

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