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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Azamara Cruises Interview: Part 2

In case you missed it, here’s part one of our interview series with Azamara Club Cruises.

Captain Johannes Tysse has a calling. As a young boy, he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, and unlike many an aspiring ballerina or firefighter, he followed and realized his childhood goals. Now a ship captain for Azamara, he sails the globe, managing his crew while seeing to his ship’s safety and maintenance procedures as well as the satisfaction of the guests. He even finds the time for a little fishing.

How does he balance it all? Captain Tysse says that the changing daily environment keeps him on his toes. His average day—if it can be called average— includes safety and security briefings, meetings with the bridge team and other crew members, meals and social events with guests, and of course his fair share of emails and office work. The most exciting part of the job, he says, is ship handling, which he often delegates to one of the ship’s officers. “It is always rewarding watching them gain experience in ship handling and observing how they grow over time,” he says. “Once I let one of the junior officers take the ship out from port. He was doing it for the very first time. I could see how proud he was. Afterwards he said that the experience gave him the exact same feeling as when his girlfriend accepted his marriage proposal." 

Azamara ships are smaller than many of today’s mega-ships, allowing them to dock in smaller ports. The diverse itineraries make it hard for Captain Tysse to choose a favorite out of the 190 ports he visits. “I like the Norwegian Fjords and the Baltic,” he says. “In the Mediterranean it would be the area around Amalfi coast and the coast of Croatia from Venice down to Montenegro. Going from Singapore to Hong Kong with Thailand and Vietnam is another favorite of mine.” Of course, anyone who’s been on a cruise can sympathize with the difficulty of selecting a single favorite destination!

We reached Captain Tysse by email to talk about life as a cruise ship captain.

FI: How did you begin your career as a cruise ship captain?
Captain Johannes Tysse: In 1983, when I was 16 years old, I joined a tanker in New York and sailed around the world. I worked on various tankers, did my service time in the Norwegian Navy, and went to the Merchant Marine Academy to become a Deck Officer. I joined my first cruise ship as a 2nd Officer in 1989 and I loved it.  I went back to the Merchant Marine Academy again for one year to complete my studies to obtain my Master’s License. I went back to tankers for a while, but this time as an officer. I have worked on cruise ships since 1996 in various positions and in 2005 I was promoted to Captain and finally got the job I had been working towards since I was a little boy. 

FI:  What is the funniest thing that you have seen on board since you became a Captain?
JT: Towards the end of a cruise, the Cruise Director gives his “disembarkation talk”, to inform the guests about the disembarkation procedures. I believe every Cruise Director has a line in there about not packing all your clothes and leaving something out to wear for your travel home.
I remember once early disembarkation morning being docked in Hong Kong. A gentleman was roaming around in the terminal building around 7am, dressed in his bathrobe and slippers looking for his suitcase. He had packed everything and put his suitcase outside his stateroom door to be taken off the ship. Guess he did not see it as funny, but the rest of the guests sure had a good laugh.
FI:  We've heard that you have taken passengers fishing in the past – how did this come to be?
JT:  Each cruise I have tried to come up with something that would stick in the minds of our guests as a fun memory of their vacation, a talking point with friends and family when they get back home.
In July last year we did a cruise that included a couple of stops in Iceland. That’s when I got the idea to stop the ship and fish from the deck. I bought fishing gear and asked the local pilot to show me a good fishing bank on the chart. As we left Reykjavik, I announced to the guests that we would stop for fishing. The guests did not believe me and thought I was just joking. After stopping, the word spread quickly and guests watched from the promenade deck and from balconies. We fished for an hour and a half and caught 40 lbs. of cod and haddock. The executive chef served it as catch of the day in our two specialty restaurants. This impromptu fishing stop was the talk of the cruise. 

FI: What should passengers know or do before embarkation?
JT: The better you plan ahead, the more you will enjoy the ports.
In addition to extraordinary service with fine cuisine and wines, another main pillar for Azamara is the Destination. If you want to immerse yourself in the wonderful Destinations we take you to, do as much research as you can before you get to the ship. We have many great tours to offer in the various ports, some of the tours even at night time. The tours are very popular and sell out quickly, sometimes before the cruise begins. To make sure to get the tours you choose, you can book them on our website before you get to the ship.  Make sure you don’t leave home without important documents such as your passport.  Pack a “carry on” with a couple of changes of clothes in case your checked luggage gets lost or delayed. And finally, never pack your medication in your checked luggage; always keep it with you. Once you get to the ship, our officers and crew will treat you like family on-board your new home away from home.

Many thanks to Captain Tysse and the Azamara team for taking the time to talk with us!

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