x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Middle East cruise ship captain tells of life at helm

Cruise captain, Henrik Sorensen, describes what life on the high seas is like.

Henrik Sorensen, captain of the Brilliance of the Seas, says running a ship is similar to managing a business unit.
Henrik Sorensen, captain of the Brilliance of the Seas, says running a ship is similar to managing a business unit.

Henrik Sorensen is the captain of Royal Caribbean International's Brilliance of the Seas, which carries more than 2,000 passengers through the Middle East. He talks about life on the high seas on a recent stopover in Abu Dhabi.

Between 4.30am and 6.30am

It's wake-up time and the day usually starts with coffee.

Early morning

There's no such thing as a typical day. If things go the way they should, then we are arriving into port. If so, I'll be on the bridge early in the morning and preparing for arrival. If it's a drill day, I make sure the safety appliances - lifeboats, safety equipment - are ready. If it's a sea day then I make sure the deck looks nice.

Late morning

Often we have meetings. Being a captain is not just about driving a ship from point A to B, docking it and then going to play golf - even though I really enjoy playing golf. It's more like being a managing director of a business unit, discussing the financial situation, strategic planning and deployment. Lately, we've discussed redeploying the ship to India, which is a new destination for us.

Lunch

I don't like wasting time to just sit down and have lunch. I may meet someone quickly and discuss something in the dining room or mess hall, or on the go. I drop by the department heads who are the ones that make things happen.

Early afternoon

If we are at sea, I'm mostly at guest events, whether on bridge tours, captain's welcome on board, suite parties, you name it. There are a gazillion events. For some reason, everyone likes to see the captain. Yesterday I was the celebrity dealer in the casino, blackjack dealing. I love that game.

Late afternoon

You may have the not-so-typical day. For example, we can't get into port today because there's a general strike, which happened to us in Muscat. Then you're there from 7am until 5pm, non-stop negotiating. Where can you go? And can you get this dock? One cruise ship captain was not saying "hi" to me any more because I stole his berth in Muscat. I could almost hear him on the other side telling me to do impossible things to myself and the ship. But these things happen and that's just part of the game.

Early evening

It's time to do a quick recap on the day and see if there's anything for the coming day we need to prepare for in advance, like getting fresh water or fuel.

Dinner

For the most part, also spent in guest areas. I don't have one night free this cruise at all.

Between 11pm and 1am

I always end the day on the bridge, making sure we're on time and the weather looks good. You typically get a combined six or seven hours of rest within a day. Your body gets used to that. Towards the end of the 10-week contract you just make sure you have enough coffee.

nparmar@thenational.ae