The worlds largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas has today embarked on its maiden transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Port Everglades in Florida.
The 227,000 ton ship, which spans 16 decks and can carry up to 5,479 guests will arrive in Florida on 5 November, ahead of her official naming ceremony on 10 November.
Ahead of today’s voyage, Cruise News took the opportunity to interview the ships captain, Gus Andersson.
What’s been your most exciting career highlight to date?
Without doubt, it has to be the lead-up to the launch of Harmony of the Seas, specifically when we took the ship out of the dock in St Nazaire from the shipyard. From the new ship just being an idea on paper, to steering the construction throughout all of its milestones, and then finally seeing the brand new ship set sail for the first time – it was an incredible feeling for all involved in the process.
The atmosphere when we left the shipyard was amazing – people were lining up on both sides of the River Loire to wave us off and we listened to “I’m Sailing” and “Time to Say Goodbye” playing over the PA. Once we had guided Harmony out of the Saint-Nazaire estuary and into the ocean, I took a moment to reflect on everything we have achieved, and that was definitely the pinnacle of my career!
As Captain on the world’s largest cruise ship, what are the challenges that you face on a transatlantic voyage?
The weather. When sailing west, we usually meet at least one or two weather systems, compared to sailing east, when you may stay with the same system that moves about the same speed as you, often resulting in great weather all the way.
What have your guests got to look forward to on this maiden transatlantic voyage?
Spending thirteen days on a fantastic, brand new cruise ship! Guests will be treated to great food, great entertainment and a friendly, helpful crew.
What’s the most unusual thing you have seen while voyaging across the Atlantic?
Flying fish. The first time I saw a flying fish I was amazed; I couldn’t believe how far they can fly and I always wonder how exactly it works.
During the ships season based in Barcelona, what was your favourite port of call, and why?
That’s a hard call to make! La Spezia is fantastic, with the small intimate port and the local traditions. What’s more, Cinque Terre and Portovenere are literally 30 minutes away, and Florence and Pisa are also within close distance, so it’s the perfect gateway for discovering more of Italy.
What’s the most rewarding thing you do in your role?
It has to be doing the manoeuvers; docking and undocking the ship, the feeling of driving it and being able to control its direction. That is the fundamental reason why I went to sea, to drive ships.
Secondly, it would have to be working with the junior officers and seeing them start to “get it” for the first time and start to understand how to improve their performance and develop as leaders. As the Captain of a cruise ship, you of course need to be good at handling ships, but you also need to be a teacher and a business leader. When you see this start to rub off on the junior officers, as they move up through the ranks, I find this really rewarding.
If you had a choice of three guests for dinner at the Captain’s table, who would they be and why?
The first guest would be my maternal grandfather that I unfortunately never had the chance to really talk to, as he passed away while I was still young. He led a very interesting life and I would have enjoyed discussing life with him.
The second guest would be Frederick Courteney Selous DSO, a British explorer who travelled around southern Africa and documented the surrounding wildlife and plants wherever he went. The Natural History Museum in London even has a section purely related to all his findings. As I live in South Africa and being very interested in its history and its development, it would be fantastic to spend an evening discussing how Africa was 150 years ago.
The third guest would be Captain James Cook, a great British Navigator who circumnavigated the globe a full two times. I always wonder how he motivated his crew to be away for such a long time and under such gruesome circumstances. How did he come up with many of the navigational features we still use today? I would love to ask him these questions!
Also, you may wonder why I haven’t included my wife in this line-up… she likes to stay away from the Captain’s table and prefers to share a meal just with Gus.