Oceania President Defies Age Label

He is the President of Oceania Cruises. He is the President of Prestige Holdings, which owns Oceania Cruises. His name is Kunal Kamlani and he is 38 years old.

And if that doesn't go some distance in convincing you that cruising is no longer just an "old people's pastime" then something else you should also know about Kamlani is that he has been going on cruise ships for a long time.

How long is a long time when you're 38 years old?

"I went on my first cruise in a crib," says the personable and articulate Kamlani, who grew up to preside over the christening of Oceania's new ship, the Riviera. "I'd probably been on 25 cruises prior to having anything to do with the cruise ship business."

He's an interesting guy. He was born to immigrants from Bombay (now Mumbai) six years after his parents moved, with a one-year stopover in Hong Kong, to Florida. He was the middle of three brothers and, he will say, he had the classic middle-child syndrome. Flying under the radar. Inconspicuous. Talents wasted by a lack a drive, a lack of pursuing one's dreams.

His mother changed that.

"In the 9th grade," he recalls, "I was a solid 'C' student on a great day and I remember one day she said to me: 'We have only one obligation: to get you a four-year education. After that you're on your own. If you stay a straight 'C' student you'll work at the Nassau Country Club and live at home.' From that day on, through high school, Colgate University, Columbia School of Business, I was a straight 'A' student. I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.8 GPA and I think I was 14th in my class with high honors in economics. It paid off."

His corporate ladder climbing made for an impressive resume in the financial world. Bank of America. Smith Barney. Starwood Hotels, Citi Group. Merrill Lynch. None of them had anything to do with cruising, nor with Miami. They were New York, and Miami was home.

It was off the coast of Florida that Kamlani began his relationship with the waters in which cruise ships sail.

"We always had a boat," he says. "When we were growing up, Miami wasn't the best place to raise a family and, years later, my parents told us we had a boat because they didn't want us hanging out in Miami on the weekends. So there we were, four guys and my Mom, in a 20-foot boat. I've graduated to a 22-foot boat."

Now Kamlani and his wife, Daniela — "We met at business school," he adds. "I got an MBA and a wife." — have two children of their own to raise in Miami. Again, the boat is a centerpiece.

"My wife and daughter tolerate fishing," Kamlani chuckles. "My son absolutely loves it. In this age of instant gratification, how do you convince someone to spend hours sitting in 90-degree heat trawling for a fish that may or may not show up?"

Unlike him, his given name is old. Like, centuries old…23 of them. In the 3rd century BC, Kunal was the heir to the Maurya Empire that ruled India. That was, until one of the Emperor's wives (not Kunal's mother) blinded him at a young age in a fit of jealousy and he never ascended the throne.

Kunal Kamlani's mother, on other hand, got it right didn't she? Today her son has ascended a "throne" in the cruise world.

Azamara Quest
7 nights
July 8, 2012
Athens, Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, Lesbos, Istanbul
Inside: $1,999
Cost per day: $285
www.azamaracruises.com

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