1 August 2019

TUI Cruises’ first captain retires ashore

After going to sea for 50 years, Kjell Holm, “Father of the Fleet” at TUI Cruises, will retire in August

Thousands of passengers travelling with TUI Cruises have met him – and many of them have instantly been impressed by his charisma: calm, friendly, open, experienced – come what may, you simply feel that Kjell Holm will fix it. The Finn will be turning 70 in September. He has been going to sea for more than 50 years. After nearly ten years as captain for TUI Cruises, he will go ashore in August. Holm, named the “Father of the Fleet”, will retire. “It’s time for me to do other things in my life,” he says.

From his early childhood in his native city of Helsinki, his grandfather taught him everything you need to know about the sea and ships. Although his parents initially did not support his aspiration to go to sea, he asserted himself and received a master mariner certificate in 1977. In 1982, he took command of the first ship, and when TUI Cruises was founded in 2009, he immediately joined the company – as the shipping line’s first captain. “I have commissioned all new ships”, he proudly remembers. He did not only launch all newbuilds – from Mein Schiff 3 to Mein Schiff 2 – basically from their “birth”, but was also instrumental in designing them. The ships’ bridges, for instance, have been completely designed according to his proposals – and his expertise has also been incorporated in other areas.

At the beginning of the year, he again played a key role in managing an extensive launch procedure when the new Mein Schiff 2 was handed over to TUI Cruises by Meyer Turku shipyard as the eighth and latest ship in the fleet this far. Commissioning a new ship is always a very special experience, he said at the handover ceremony in Kiel. “It’s like getting a new car – but a whole lot more. A ship has an enormous number of different systems, and you have to check them all. It is always a bit exciting before everything is up and running.” When asked whether it was not possible that something could go wrong, he replies with the calmness typical of the Finn, reflecting the many decades spent travelling the world’s seven seas: “No, it isn’t, because we start training long before the passenger arrive. When they get on board, we are ready.”

The new Mein Schiff 2 could be regarded as the culmination of his professional life: “She is a great ship,” he enthusiastically commented at the launch. “We have actually thought for a long time that these ships could not possibly get any better – but this ship once again takes it to the next level.“ Holm lives in Australia – but, of course, the sea will continue to play a crucial role in his life even after his retirement. Apart from cycling, his hobbies include sailing, and he will now have more time to pursue this leisure activity. At the handover of the new Mein Schiff 2, Dirk Claus, Managing Director of Kiel’s maritime port, said: “Kjell, you will always be welcome here – even with your own private boat.” “Don’t promise too much,” Holm replied, tongue in cheek. “I might be coming”. He is not likely to be put off by the many nautical miles to cover to arrive in Kiel.