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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

What It's Like To Captain A Cruise Ship

Capt. Ravera-9

All cruise ship captains have stories to tell about life as a captain. Some tell, some don’t.

Captain Stefano Ravera of the Star Princess has a few he’s willing to share…

About what happened in Papeete, in the South Pacific:

“We were supposed to receive the food for the first leg of the world cruise. The ship bringing the container over from New Zealand was two days late because of bad weather. We started our cruise but we did not have enough food so when the container arrived, we were already at the second island. We rented a small boat capable of transporting a truck with the containers; we took it to the next island, Moorea.  We were using tenders for the passengers so I dedicate one tender for provisions. I said: ‘Since we all eat, I need people from all departments. We took ten people from every department, and we loaded 20 tons of food. It took just a good afternoon.”

About a funny response in Dakar (Senegal):

“They wanted us to send ashore only the people on tours. When I asked why, they said: ‘Oh, we don’t know if they will want to go back on the ship.’ I said: ‘I’m very sure that they won’t stay.’ We had quite a long discussion with the authorities. They thought passengers Capt. Ravera-4wanted to stow away in the car. I said I don’t really think that they will.”

About what it takes to be a captain:

“Lots of people think my only challenge is the nautical side, which is not really true — this challenge is everywhere and anywhere. It can go from nautical to receive the food supply, like that time in Papeete.”

About all the ships in his resume:

“This is number 12. Yes, you do get attached. My first command was the Dawn Princess. Then to the Ocean Princess, which was the Tahitian — she will be sold in 2016 — because I was four years with her. I was very sad.”

About the Gulf War of 1991:

“I was working on a military ship as a liaison offer for Italian merchant navy, to organize and assess preparation for navigation in the gulf for our expedition there, because I had experience in the Gulf previously with the merchant marine. One time I was on a cargo ship that was hijacked, but we were released after a relatively short time. Militarily, let’s just say we were involved to a certain degree…”

About why cruise ships generally enjoy smooth sailing:

“Various reasons, such as the distribution of weight…the provisions…number of passengers and crew. The center of gravity is always monitored…and we must comply with an extra safety margin taking into account rough weather. The ship will be comfortable, and aways safe. The vessel may move but we will have gentle movements, especially for first-time cruisers. Stabilizers tilt at positive and negative angles to achieve the dampening effect to smooth down the rolling of the vessel. The pitching of the vessel — back and forth, front to back — cannot be dampened by any instrument or equipment, only by changing the course of the ship.”

About his scariest day in the Italian Navy:

“Thank God I didn’t die. We were sent out to rescue people. It was August 2, 1982. We capsized — and I woke up in the hospital.”

Today at portsandbows.com: First looks at new river cruiser AmaDara

Carnival Fascination
5 nights
October 5, 2015
Jacksonville (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $55
www.carnival.com

Lessons From Star Princess ‘Master’

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.

Capt. RaveraThis 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-Capt. Raverascript 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

Crown Princess
10 nights
September 23, 2015
Los Angeles (return): San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $64
www.princess.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

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