Ever wondered what it’s like to be in charge of a cruise ship? We put your questions to Captain Chris Dodds, Captain Alan MacAry, Captain Yannis Fountoukas, and Captain Nikolaos Chalaris, who all sail ships across the Marella fleet. Have a read of their answers and browse our cruise deals to board one of their ships yourself…
What inspired you to become the Captain of a cruise ship?
Yannis: My country, Greece, is famous for having many experienced sailors. I’ve enjoyed watching ships sailing from the port in Piraeus and hearing stories from returning seamen since I was a child.
Alan: I once told a guest that I’d helped someone carry their suitcases onboard, and a man on the gangway said they needed a Captain. They thought I’d fit the uniform… but all jokes aside, this career is one big adventure. As we get time off between each sailing, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the world, and feel blessed to be able to do this job.
Nikolaos: I grew up on an island, and after seeing the sun rising over the sea every morning, I never considered anything else.
Chris: Much of what I’ve done in my career has been inspired by my father.
What has been your favourite moment in your career?
Alan: My moment is more ‘moments’ – and involves training junior officers in their roles, and watching them establish themselves as they progress through the ranks. It gives me immense pride to be involved in that.
Yannis: My favourite moment was my promotion from Staff Captain to Captain.
How long does a Captain stay with a particular ship?
Chris: We’re normally onboard for 10 to 12 weeks.
Who sails the ship when the Captain is asleep?
Alan: The bridge team monitor the ship and sail it when the Captain sleeps. There’s always a minimum of four people on the bridge – two Officers, and two Quartermasters.
How do you pull into the dock perfectly?
Alan: The old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ applies here. Ships are very manoeuvrable, and need just the right application of power and timing.
Chris: The manoeuvre is discussed prior to arrival, as we have to take into consideration wind conditions and the current when pulling into a harbour. The ship will use its bow and stern thrusters to position alongside the berth, and may use up to 20 mooring ropes to keep the ship in position in the dock.
Why do ships whistle three times when leaving some ports, but not others?
Chris: Some ports have restrictions on noise, or use of the whistle. Three long blasts say ‘goodbye’.
Alan: It can say ‘watch out’ to nearby traffic, or sometimes it’s to say goodbye to the port, and sometimes it’s just for fun. But it’s not always appropriate, like if there’s a risk of disturbing sleeping passengers and crew.
Answers have been edited for clarity.
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