My father taught us this: “Be happy with what you achieve, wherever you are. Try to do your best and be honest.” The teaching of life when we grew up was integrity, honesty and be happy with what we have. If you keep chasing something you will never be happy. You have to have a goal in life. It’s good to aspire to something but you don’t have to be selfish.
With every life, there are at least two stories, one personal and one professional. With Captain Stefano Ravera, Master of the Star Princess, both are interesting.
This is the personal, yet it touches on the professional.
He comes from a small town on the east coast of Italy, near La Spezia, which is considered a small town because it’s lightly known, an after-thought by Italy’s Cinque Terre. The father he talks about was also a ship’s master, an occupation that rubbed off on both his sons, Stefano the elder and Paolo the younger. Ironically, today they both command Princess ships (Paolo is on the Sea Princess).
While their father’s skills rubbed off, it was not a given.
“No,” recalls Stefano, “we just like it. My father told us to do what we want. My sister doesn’t sail. She is nine years younger and has a university degree in language.”
There are cruise ship captains…and there are cruise ship captains. In the Ravera family, there’s clearly a code of ethics. Also responsibility.
Here is his:
“If I have a crew member who went to the hospital and I went to see them, or a passenger, they say ‘How come you came to the hospital?’ I say ‘Because you are in the hospital’ and I come to see how you are, if I can. If my mother’s in the hospital, I go. Why not? I try to pass this message to younger officers because we have a responsibility to bring up the younger generation. We cannot say the world is not good because of them. The world may not be good because we don’t create a better place.
“People will spend years to complain but will never spend one second to say thank-you. So it’s very important to spend that second to look after someone. Something that for us may take 10 minutes, but for another person it might last an entire life. We should never avoid doing that. It is very important. I believe in that. It’s my two-penny opinion.
“Every day I learn something. Every day is a learning day. You never stop learning, not even when you retire. I can see my father. He’s 86 years old and every day he learns something and he’s happy to do that. That I think is the way you have to approach life, with a positive attitude. Try to be a mentor for the future generation and pass what little I know to the other people.”
So it’s as much about the type of person he is as the type of captain. This was not a self-serving speech from the bridge…this was from a casual conversation in his office, a post-script to an interview about living your life at sea, which he has pretty much done since joining the Italian Merchant Marine as a 16-year-old deck boy 39 years ago.
It is his life. He hopes that will continue for 11 more years.
Nine months of every year, he’s on a ship — “That is my choice’ — and in the other three he spends time with his parents in Italy, his children in Eastern Canada and his partner in South Africa, where she is a doctor.
If he sees his brother, it’s usually like ships passing in the night, although one time they were on the Coral Princess together during a “shift change that lasted for two days in Fort Lauderdale.
“That was very nice, but we keep it low key,” smiles Stefano.
They are, however, a trivia item among cruise ship captains, or masters. One of his ships was the late Pacific Sky and Paolo is a former captain of her sister ship before it became the old and now-retired Dawn Princess.
“We both had the chance, being not extremely old, to command steam-turbine ships and that will never happen to any captain now on a passenger ship,” he explains. “The Sky was the last one afloat.”
The brothers share another quirk.
We’d heard Captain Ravera often refer to the Star Princess as “the white lady” so we asked him why.
“It’s a little tradition between me and my brother that we had in our family, because ships are female and passengers ships, most of the time, are painted white. So we call her the white lady because they are elegant, like a lady.”
Today at portsandbows.com: How to be loyal before being a cruise customer
September 23, 2015
Los Angeles (return): San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Puerto Vallarta
Cost per day: $64