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Photo Essay: Captains of the Seas

We’ve only met, over the years of cruising, one ship’s captain we didn’t like — and that's likely because he never gave us the chance to like him (“I don’t do interviews”). This is a colony of mostly men who are all personable, often funny, always accommodating and forever fascinating.

These are our top ten, in no particular order — hey, what's wrong with having 10 favourites? — and we've included something about them that we hope you'll find interesting:

1-Capt. Gustavsen-Sky

Captain Roger Gustavsen (Norway), Norwegian Sky 
The first captain to invite us to watch departure from the bridge, he once had his mother there on the Norwegian Dream while negotiating the Kiel Canal: “You know how mothers always like to tell their sons what to do. She wanted to tell me how to drive the ship!”

2-Capt. Manetas-Eclipse

Captain Dimitrios Manetas (Greece), Celebrity Eclipse 
He watched ships come and go from his home in Piraeus, near Athens: “
I knew when I was a teenager, about 15, that I would be on the sea. it always inspired me. I was always curious for the unknown.”

3-Henrik Loy-Explorer

Captain Henrik Loy (Norway), Explorer of the Seas 
​One of the youngest (38) captains anywhere, he met his wife Karina, now a mother of three, when she was a dancer on Liberty of the Seas when they met and he calls it: “A true love boat story. We are really on the same page and we make it work.

4-Frank Juliussen-Epic

Captain Frank Juliussen (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
He had to overcome seasickness and bad days at sea: “
I don't have bad days and I have learned to enjoy this. You meet a lot of nice people. The world is full of nice people, and a lot of them do what they call ‘dirty work’ on cruise ships.”

5-Capt. Amitrano

Captain Fabio Amitrano (Italy), Coral Princess  A seaman for more than four decades since he left Ischia, a resort island with hot springs: “All the ladies come there to look younger. It must work, because they keep coming back!” 

6-Capt. Viacama-Ecstasy

Captain Andrea Viacava (Italy), Carnival Ecstasy 
A character with an easy laugh and a sense of humor: "
When I am stressed, I go down in the galley and cook a meal. I cook something every day. Gnocci, risotto with pumpkin…sometimes I cook for 40 persons.”

7-Capt. Dahlgren-Navigator

Captain Patrik Dahlgren (Sweden), Navigator of the Seas 
He’s still not 40, he’s now Royal Caribbean’s Vice-President of Marine Operations for Quantum of the Seas Technology, after serving for years as the youngest captain anywhere on the ocean: “I started when I was 12.”

8-Capt. Manzi-Coral

Captain Luca Manzi (Italy), Oceania Riviera 
When he visits his roots in Italy: “I still have to explain what I do for a living. My friends ask what I do — ‘Sailing?' In Italian, it's the word used to surf the Internet, so now I say I do nothing for a living."

9-Capt. Vorren-Epic

Captain Trygve Vorren (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
Not long before he died suddenly, he shared thoughts on the size of ships: “What will catch people’s attention will be the future. Look at the last 20 years…we developed technology we never imagined. What did we do, not in cruising but in life, before the Internet?”

10-Capt. Tore-Allure

Captain Tore Grimstad (Norway), Allure of the Seas 
Now sharing the captain’s chair on the Allure with close friend Johnny Faevelen, he was once on an American-Russian-Norwegian ship with the capability of launching rockets, near the equator: “I was captain, not a rocket scientist!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Reflecting on the cruise news of 2014

Carnival Glory
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): Half Moon CaySan JuanSt. Thomas
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

 

Allure Of The Seas: Captain Tore

 

You step onto the "biggest cruise ship in the world" and — to use Royal Caribbean vernacular, you are WOW-ed. That's what the majority of around 6,000 people experience every week, when the Allure of the Seas sail out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale if they're seeing the big ship for the first time.

How about the captain? How did he feel the first time he boarded Allure of the Seas?

Tore Grimstad is one of two captains of the Allure. For him, that day was August 4, 2013.

"My God," he remembers with the broad smile that is his trademark. "I came from Freedom of the Seas. Really? This was like an apartment building. It's amazing what Capt. Torethey've done. It's mind blowing."

And being on the bridge to sail it?

"Something about this ship made me feel included right away," he says. "It's been really great. I enjoy every day. To be able to navigate narrow ports in shallow waters is fascinating and challenging, and gives me a feeling of pleasure. But the highlight of the job is the crew. I really mean that. I don't want to become some kind of celebrity because I'm not. It's the team."

In the case of the Allure (and Oasis of the Seas), the team is 2,160 strong.

"I focus a lot on the crew, keeping them happy and treating them with respect," he adds. "If the crew is happy, everyone is happy."

Captain Tore (they go by "Captain" and their first names) is an interesting study because, in part, that's what cruise ship captains are. Most of them come from Scandinavia (he's a Norwegian) or Italy, many from a family steeped in the ways of the sea.

Tore Grimstad is a 7th-generation man of the sea and home was, and still is, the islands on the south-west coast of Norway. He comes from the islands of Gurskoy/Hareid-Landet — try finding that on your map — where he grew up reading and hearing "juicy stories from the seven seas." It wasn't a given that he would be a seaman, but it was natural.

"It just happened," he says.

Like so many, being a fisherman came first, followed by a compulsory stint in the service, in his case the Royal Navy. That was followed by working on a cargo tanker, spending some time ashore to find out it wasn't for him, and sending out 40 applications that could lead to a return to the sea.

"They all said no," he recalls.

So he pounded the pavement and, fortunately, walked into an office in Bergen to find an agent from Royal Caribbean. Once Grimstad laid out his experience and his desire, 3-Capt. Torethe agent said:

"Yes, can you be in New York in six days? We need a second officer on the Song of America."

Six days turned out to be eight. With his navy background, Tore was a stickler for instructions, so when his papers told him to take a bus from JFK to a hotel in Times Square, that's what he did. It was, needless to say, his first time in New York and here's what followed:

"I never understood that you could have a hotel in the middle of a building, and I was walking around. that block many times until I realized the Marriott was actually on the 28th floor."

That was 1994 and the beginning of an on-again, off-again relationship with Royal Caribbean. In those days, ships were registered in Norway, and bridge officers were hired and paid in Norway. When the cruise line flagged out its last Norwegian ship, he was automatically unemployed.

Grimstad worked a variety of sea-related jobs, including captain of a Norwegian-Russian-American ship stationed near the equator with the capability of launching rockets ("I was a captain, not a rocket scientist"), plus a relief position with the small European cruise line Fred.Olsen.

For the next two years, he left the door open for a return to Royal Caribbean, as a staff captain. He walked through it a couple of times, filling in as captain of Explorer of the Seas and then Freedom.

One of his best friends, fellow Norwegian Johnny Faevelen, was a Royal Caribbean captain and when Grimstad was close to moving to another cruise line offering more money, Faevelen convinced him to join his team on Serenade of the Seas. Last summer, when Tore arrived to be captain of the Allure, "Captain Johnny" was waiting for him.

"He said: '"So glad to see you…so glad the company chose you'…and he gave me a hug," Captain Tore adds. "There's nobody like him."

Today, Captain Johnny and Captain Tore share more than a friendship. They share the "biggest cruise ship in the world", switching chairs every 10 weeks.

Allure-5Tomorrow: The home life of Captain Tore

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Venice a study in history

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
12 nights
September 1, 2014
Fort LauderdaleMalagaBarcelona
Balcony: $869
Cost per day: $72
www.ncl.com
www.royalcaribbean.com

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