How To Become A Captain Of A Cruise Ship


  • Gigantic cruise ships are a marvel of the modern age while keeping everyone on board safe, the responsibility lies with one person.
  • For Bennett and Thorhauge, meeting and working with people from across the world is a highlight of the job.
  • Now Watts is an officer of the watch and just finished a stint working on board MSC Seaside in the Mediterranean and Brazil.

Massive cruise ships are contemporary marvels, yet one person is responsible for guiding these oceangoing monsters through stormy seas, narrow rivers, and in and out of ports large and small while keeping everyone on board safe as reported by CNN.

The captain

Leadership skills are a must, as is being able to handle a crisis.

So how do you become the captain of a cruise ship?

In 2016, aged 39, Bennett achieved her goal: she took the helm of the Wind Star, a 148-passenger luxury sailing vessel operated by Windstar Cruises.

It was strange, she says, “manoeuvring the ship without an experienced person guiding and monitoring you, and public speaking with all eyes on you.”

“To be honest, I was doing my job and embracing the new role,” she says. 

Rising up the ranks

While no two paths to captaincy are necessarily the same, most captains start as cadets, working in lower positions onboard a ship, as Bennett did.

Thorhauge applied, was accepted, and began training onboard ferries and cargo ships crisscrossing the globe.

While she enjoyed the experience, Thorhauge still didn’t see working at sea as a long-term career.

“Never in my head, or in my visions did I think that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” she says.

Time passed, and Thorhauge was promoted, steadily taking on more responsibility.

“You can’t just turn around and ask the captain now — that’s you,” she recalls thinking when she stepped onto the bridge as captain for the first time.

“There are never two days alike”

Decision-making is a key part of being a cruise ship captain.

Thorhauge, who currently leads Cunard’s 294-meter-long Queen Elizabeth ship, which accommodates up to 2,081 passengers, is set to take the helm of Cunard’s newest vessel, Queen Anne when the new ship launches in 2024.

Renderings show luxe interiors with an Art Deco twist.

But being a cruise ship captain also comes with challenges, particularly as a woman.

In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted some of these pressures.

“The logistics involved and the mental stress of getting crew members home, and losing crew members to the pandemic is something I definitely do not want to repeat,” says Bennett.

Fleet coordination

While Bennett and Thorhauge spend much of their time at sea, MSC Cruises’ Captain Pierluigi Barrile works entirely on land.

Barrile is from the southern Italian island of Ischia, near Naples.

“I’m the captain’s point of contact onshore, and we discuss everything from operational issues to just a simple conversation,” is how Barrile describes his job to CNN Travel.

Barrile is also involved in MSC Cruises’ training program, helping to train the next generation of cruise ship captains.

Barrile enjoys seeing cadets rising up the ranks.

He spent two years at nautical college and 12 months working at sea.

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Source: CNN


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