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Shaking Hands With Cruise Captains

This is a sign of the apocalypse: Don’t shake hands with the captain of your cruise ship.

Why?

Norovirus.

According to a recent story in London’s Daily Mail online edition, captains have been warned about shaking hands with passengers, lest they be infected with the dreaded Captain-Princessgastrointestinal illness that we are encouraged to believe only happens on cruise ships.

Oops. We’re guilty. We’ve met captains on almost every cruise ship we’ve been on, usually for an interview, and without fail we have shaken hands probably before and after the interviews. We may be just doing elbow bumps in the future.

The Mail’s story included this message from Crystal Cruises to its guests who may be attending a reception attended by the captain.

“While the captain is pleased to meet you, he and the other staff receiving you refrain from shaking hands in order to provide the most effective preventative sanitary measures.”

Apparently, this has been Crystal’s policy for seven years. Unlike norovirus, it hasn’t spread through the industry, but it could. Or common sense could prevail because, in the words of the Cruise Lines International Association: “You are 750 times more likely to get norovirus on land than on a cruise ship.”

There is another alternative to avoid spreading germs: Wash your hands before meeting the captain.

But that’s old-fashioned and most un-apocalyptic.

In the news…

• Cruise ships bypass Bermuda because of Hurricane Joaquin
• Multi-year partnership for Carnival and New Orleans Saints
• Severe weather delays start of New Zealand cruise season

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Sun
17 nights
November 4, 2015
San Diego, Huatulco, Puerto Chiapas, Puerto Quetzal, Puntarenas, Salaverry, Lima, Arica, Coquimbo, Santiago
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $35
www.ncl.com

Tiny Baby Conquers First Cruise…Plus!

You may have read or heard about a baby born on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas this month. In case you hadn’t, this is a really nice story with a happy ending, at least so far.

And incidentally, it’s a story about everybody doing the right thing.

The baby’s mother, Emily Morgan, was given permission by her doctor to go on the cruise. She was about five months’ pregnant. On the second day of the cruise, her Haiden Morgan-3maternal instincts — along with her labor pains — told her the little one was soon to arrive. In the middle of the night, as the pains became more intense she and her husband Chase called the ship’s doctor, who said they were 14 hours from the nearest port, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The baby, who would be called Haiden, was born half an hour later.

The Morgans were told it was a miscarriage, and the baby was dead. Two doctors arrived 45 minutes after that to say the baby was alive but wasn’t expected to live long. Mother and doctors fought to keep him alive and when the ship’s captain called with condolences, he heard the baby crying.

“He said we are going as fast as we can and we'll port two hours early in San Juan and we'll get you guys to the hospital,” his mother told TV station KSL in Salt Lake City (the Morgans live nearby, in Ogden), “but he said that's as fast as I can get you there.”

The Independence of the Seas did arrive two hours early. The baby did get to the hospital quickly, and a few days later was transferred to a neonatal unit in Miami. At birth, the Independence of the Seasbaby weighed one and a half pounds…just 24 ounces. His feet were less than three inches long. His lungs fully developed, Haiden Morgan made it through the night, and the next night, and…today, he is 27 days old. He’ll stay in Miami until his due date, December 19.

The expenses that evolved from what was supposed to be a 7-day cruise have been understandably staggering, and a website — Haiden’s Medical Journey — was quickly set up to help with the cost. The target was $37,000. As of last night, contributions totalled $35,711.

Another happy ending-to-be.

- Baby photo courtesy of the Morgan family via KSL

In the news…

• First international ship launches huge summer season in Australia
• One less ship in South America, more in Asia, for MSC in 2016-17

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
3 nights
November 27, 2015
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $173
Cost per day: $57
www.royalcaribbean.com

Friday File: Women Of The Sea

This week, Kate McCue was chosen to become the first American woman to captain a cruise ship for one of the mainstream lines. Next month, she’ll slide behind the wheel (or joystick) of the Celebrity Summit to break yet another gender barrier. That is the ultimate position for a woman on a cruise ship, of course, and women on ships everywhere are celebrating the occasion. Here are female crew members we’ve met, some of them even firsts…

Epic-Julia Koravcova-1st

On the bridge of the Norwegian Epic, Slovakia’s Julia Koravcova was the First Officer, and that was almost five years ago.

RC-Margaret Aitchison

Margaret Aitchison, from Canada, one of those indispensable executives who was key to everything on Allure of the Seas.

PR-Lisa Ball

Lisa Ball, an Englishwoman and the first female cruise director (toughest job on a ship) we’ve seen, on the Crown Princess.

CB-Ingrid Falavera

From the Celebrity Eclipse, the first woman we encountered to work as a sommelier, Ingrid Falavera from the Philippines.

CA-Ana Klacinski-

Carnival’s Ana Klacinski was in charge of Camp Ocean, the Seuss at Sea kids’ area first expanded on the Freedom.

RC-Barbara Florek-1st

Barbara Florek, who calls Poland home, was Allure's Second Officer when we were on the ship's bridge last summer.

In the news…

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas to have 10-story water slide called Abyss
• New all-inclusive packages on 11 itineraries in the Tropics for Windstar Cruises
• Upgrades to Disney Magic to include Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for 3-to-12-year-olds

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in airline seat design…ouch!

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
September 14, 2015
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $47
www.carnival.com

Captain McCue, First For U.S. Women

Next month, Kate McCue will become Captain Kate McCue, the first U.S. woman to be the “master” of a major cruise ship. She’ll have climbed to the top of that “mountain” when Kate McCueshe guides the SummitCelebrity’s 14-year-old ship of the same name.

The 37-year-old McCue will not be the first female cruise-ship captain (Sweden’s Karin Stahre-Janson attained that distinction with Royal Caribbean), just the first American.

The question becomes: How will she be ultimately be remembered among the list of first by American women?

Will she be a Lydia Taft, the first woman to vote for her husband as President, or Hillary Clinton, who could be the first President? Blanche Scott, the first to fly a plane solo, or Sally Ride, the first astronaut? Janet Guthrie, first to drive in the Indianapolis 500, or Danica Patrick, first to lead the 500?

"Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember,” she said.

Or at least 15 years, which is how long McCue has worked in the maritime industry, since Summitstarting as a cadet and deck officer. Even in the cruise industry, she is perhaps to become something of a footnote, a name on the list of firsts for the American woman.

There is no reason for a woman not to be at the helm of a ship, of course. What’s between the ears, plus years of experience, is how an individual qualifies for the prestigious position, and women can be as capable in both areas as any male captain.

Finally, for American women, another barrier falls.

In the news…

• Queen Mary 2 arrives in New York for 175th anniversary bash
• Norwegian introduces a la carte dining in ships' specialty restaurants
• Celebrity offers non-stop flights from Winnipeg to Miami in cruise packages

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America cruises — Mexico and Hawaii

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
September 29, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $55
www.ncl.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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