The word Captain conjures up many images. There’s Captains of Industry like Richard Branson, Sports Captains like Steven Gerrard and fictional captains like James T Kirk and of course we mustn’t forget Captain America! But for me the word Captain has always referred to a long list of fantastic, hard working and committed Master Mariners who have borne the tremendous responsibility of captaining a cruise ship.
Make no mistake – it is a calling not a career and it takes a certain type of person to not only achieve the command but also to maintain it. Often working away from their loved ones for most of their working life and under 24 hour call a modern day captain is no longer required to just be a competent sailor who guides the ship from one port to the next but also an elegant host, engaging speaker, competent administrator and more often than not a nautical marriage maker!
Anyone who has cruised will have their favorites, I do and all for different reasons so you can understand me when I say that after 12 years at sea and nigh on 25 Captains (yes I have actually counted….) it takes someone truly special to make an instant impression on me. So you can imagine my surprise when after just a few moments nattering away to Captain Paul Brown I was instantly drawn to his friendly, down to earth and genuine nature. Before even walking onto the bridge of P&O’s Ventura several of the Amazing Cruise Show viewers had contacted me via Facebook and twitter asking me to send my regards and that alone should have been fair warning.
A little birdie had told me that Captain Brown had just completed a successful three month stint onboard and was actually delaying his departure to give the interview. Another warning shot across the bow that this was no ordinary seaman.
After 24 years with P&O and 32 years at sea Captain Brown was given his first command back in 2007 onboard the Aurora and has quickly become a firm favourite with the ever-growing horde of P&O fans. His quick wit and self-depreciating nature mix effortlessly as we discuss our mutual love of cruising up the US East Coast into Bar Harbour and Lobster Country and the famous New England Clam Chowder! The port agent always brings on half a dozen lobsters and you can imagine the bun fight that ensued as to which of the senior officers would bag one for dinner… funnily enough the Entertainment Director rarely got a look in!
Conversation moves into P&O’s recent 175 year anniversary sailing with all 7 ships in convoy down Southampton water – no easy feat according to the man at the head of the event and one of the proudest moments in Captain Browns career to date. Though strangely enough apparently the 7 Captains enjoyed the chance for a quick catch up and gossip with each other even more that the event itself!
In March 2015 P&O Cruises are launching their largest ship to date. At 141,000 tons the Britannia will carry 3,600 passengers and will be built at the same yard that produced Ventura and Azura. The project is very hush hush and although I get the sense there is lots Captain Brown would like to say he is bound under the unofficial secrets act of multi million pound advertising – so lets just say she will incorporate all that’s best of both the tradition of the more classical ships and the high tech innovation of the new sisters. One things for sure she has got a very special man at the helm and from March 2014 onwards much of Captain Browns time will be spent overseeing developments at the shipyard in Fincantiri in Italy before sea trails in February and the no doubt spectacular launch in mid March! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an invite…
Conscious of how precious a Captains time is and the small fact that we both need to disembark before the ship sets sail for Norway I ask Captain Brown what he does to relax on holiday and after we share a joke about him taking a cruise he confesses that he actually chose his new holiday home in Spain deliberately as it was miles away from the sea! I ask him what the first thing he will do upon arriving home in a few hours time and without hesitation he replies a cup of tea and a walk in the garden… an interesting paradox to the fact that as he says this he is responsible for the lives of over 4000 people and a multi million pound ship!
For Christmas and beyond Captain Brown will be based out of Barbados enjoying the laid-back island life of the Caribbean onboard the Azura so if your reading this and heading out to see him please send him my best and tell him he has another loyal fan!
As I sit here proof reading my work I am reminded that the word captain also conjures up one of my most embarrassing social faux pas to date when in the summer 2008 I walked onto the bridge of a little ship call the calypso and attempted to impress the Greek Captain with some of my freshly learnt Greek phrases. ‘Kalamári Captain’ I proudly called at which the entire bridge team fell about laughing as unbeknown to me I had confused ‘Kalimera’ which means good morning with the greek words for ‘squid’….. lets just say I was never allowed to forget it!