Cruise captains are held in high esteem. They bear great responsibility and are the bosses on board. Kjell Holm has been going to sea for more than 50 years, and now he stands at the helm of Mein Schiff 5, the newest member of the TUI Cruises fleet, due to be launched at Travemünde on 15 July. Even after years of routine, a new ship always brings new challenges. In the interview, Holm talks about his experience as a captain and about the new vessel.
Mr Holm, how did you get to be a captain and what is so special about being on a cruise ship?
I grew up by the sea and was on a sailing boat before I could walk. Although I’ve been working on ships for 50 years, I love the sea and I realise that a lifetime is simply not enough to discover this beautiful planet in all its facets. Apart from steering the ship, I am also responsible for lots of people on board. And it is this interaction with people that makes my job so special. Working on board a ship is a great experience that teaches you a lot about yourself and others. After all, we don’t just work together, we live together, too. And, of course, everything we do centres on the passenger.
Since 2009 you have been carrying TUI Cruises’ guests safely from port to port. You were the first captain at TUI Cruises and so you know all its previous ships What is special about Mein Schiff 5 in your view, compared with her predecessors?
Like TUI Cruises’ other newbuilds, Mein Schiff 5 is a low-vibration vessel, which is, of course, very pleasant for our guests. The new ship is technologically state-of-the-art, and that is reflected in particular in her environmental performance.
As you just mentioned, TUI is strongly committed to sustainability. Where does Mein Schiff 5 stand in this respect?
In terms of environmental protection, TUI Cruises is setting standards again with Mein Schiff 5: Like the other newbuilds, this vessel consumes 30 per cent less energy and therefore 30 per cent less fuel than other cruise ships of a comparable size. The exhaust gas treatment system – a combination of desulphurisation and catalytic converters – also significantly reduces the emissions on Mein Schiff 5: sulphur emissions are cut by around 99 per cent and nitrogen oxide emissions by around 75 per cent.
Mein Schiff 5 is the third newbuild in three years. The new ship was handed over to TUI Cruises by the Turku shipyard in June. Are you gradually getting into a routine? What is the most exciting moment for you?
Months ahead, we go on board as a team and support the development process. Seeing a ship grow is very special, and completely different from the work a captain normally does. We have to ensure that everything progresses according to plan and no technical errors are made. The big moments for me as a seafarer are when the ship puts out to sea for the first time and when the engines are tested during her first trial cruise.
You were heavily involved in designing the fifth ship, just as you were with Mein Schiff 3 and Mein Schiff 4. How much Kjell Holm has gone into the new vessel?
The bridge for all these newbuilds is based on my idea for a cockpit design, which is the fruit of many years’ experience. Team work is important on the bridge. The four seats in the cockpit, for example, are ergonomically designed so the officers can sit comfortably at their posts, fully equipped to perform their various duties. From the conning seats you have an unlimited 210-degree view, so you can see everything you need without having to move. That allows total concentration, which makes for a smooth voyage, and it means you can detect any hazards early before they turn into incidents.
As a cruise captain, you have certainly travelled the world and above all the seven seas. What itinerary is still on your personal wish list, or have you already been on your dream voyage?
This is a question I have been asked many times, and I always answer that every itinerary has its own beauty. But to be quite honest: I particularly like the Norwegian fjords on a clear day. There is another region I like very much: South East Asia – the culture, food, friendly people and good weather. I would love to go back on board Mein Schiff 1 and steer the Asia route.