OH CAPTAIN! OUR CAPTAIN!
Often when someone asks how you enjoyed your cruise, most people will say “that the crew was wonderful”,” the food was never ending”, “the ports were so interesting” “the shopping was fantastic”, or maybe not. However, have you ever heard anyone say that the Captain was amazing? Well I heard it and not just once but over and over again by my husband, the Crabby Old Guy, and by my fellow passengers this past summer on a Princess Alaskan cruise.
Captain Stefano Ravera, Master of the M.V. Tahitian Princess can be seen several times a day as he welcomes his passengers to his “Beautiful White Lady “ in a proud and warm way that is as a charming as any host would welcome friends and guests into his own home. This captain is more than just an intercom voice or brief encounter at a cocktail party he is warm, visible and approachable by all of his guests.
It didn’t take long for my curiosity to be piqued while cruising the beautiful Northwest Pacific on our way up to Alaska. I wanted to learn more about this interesting man who I saw so often during the first two days of our 14 day trip. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Ravera and hear his story. It was so compelling and one of experience, the love of the sea and his caring for passengers that I wanted to share it with all of you.
Captain Ravera and his brother were drawn to a career on the sea by their father who was a merchant marine commanding officer. Our Tahitian Princess Captain first went to sea at the age of 16 as an Ordinary Seaman on a merchant ship and as if embedded in his genetic-coding, he soon realized his strong love of the sea and sailing. He returned home to Vezzano Ligure, Italy and went on to complete his studies at the Italian Merchant Navy Institute in La Spezia, Italy. After this he entered the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno, Italy where he graduated as a Midshipman. His sea going exploits, adventures and credentials read like a Clive Cussler novel and include Special Forces training, graduated certified diver, service in Drug Enforcement and in Search and Rescue. Working as Second In Command on a cargo ship in the mid-1980’s his vessel was fired upon and captured by the Iranian Navy and, fortunately, soon thereafter released after some tense days and negotiations. Ravera’s adventures continued and in 1987 he volunteered to be reinstated in the Italian Navy to help preserve freedom and served on the Frigate “Scirocco” as Liason Officer during the war between Iran and Iraq. He achieved the Italian Maritime Title of “Capitano di Lungo Corso” (Unlimited Master Captain) in 1988.
Captain Ravera credits his background and training with giving him the ability to “think fast, be flexible, and look out of the box and work out difficult situations.” On 9/11 he was an officer serving off the coast of Istanbul aboard the largest non-military craft afloat. A big part of his responsibilities was to make sure the ship was prepared for any hostile encounters and to make sure all safety precautions were in place.
In 1988 Captain Ravera left the excitement of the military and merchant marine and signed on to Princess Cruise lines. Here he could continue his love for sailing and use his experience to provide his crew and guests with the kind of experienced seamanship and hospitality all can appreciate.
There is much talk these days about piracy in many parts of the world. Something any sane cruiser should give some thought to. When I asked him about cruise ships as targets for piracy and terrorism our conversation took a bit of a serious tone, as the experienced military-man surfaced in our gracious luxury ship Captain. “The immense security systems in place on modern ships, our training and protocols and the speed of these cruise ships deter hijackings on most large ships.” He also noted that all ships practice for such events and work very closely with global police and military officials to keep their guests safe and stand ready to deal with any adverse circumstance. His weighty responsibility is the safety of his passengers, crew and of course his ship and he smiles and says “this is not work for me…this is my life.” He believes in “treating passengers the way he would want his parents treated on a cruise.” This principled and dedicated man always finds time to stop and chat with his guests and even invites some to the bridge for an exciting moment.
Our conversations returned to his very refined and Italian-style bearing as a gentleman and host. I toured the Captain’s quarters and found many mementos of a wonderful life at sea. As our Tahitian Princess Captain pointed to several of these I could not only see but feel the pride and enthusiasm he has for each of his ships and assignments, something which helps make him a successful seaman, leader and gracious host.
The Alaskan cruise aboard the Tahitian Princess was spectacular and was made only more amazing by one man Captain Stefano Ravera. When you read reviews and cruise ship chat boards you will find that passengers on the Tahitian Princess almost always mention Captain Ravera. His passengers recognize and very much appreciate how unique he is in the modern cruising industry, His hard work makes a real difference in the cruise experience and he truly is a success in making his “Beautiful White Lady” ship a true “Home Away From Home”. His constant walk and talk about tours of the ship’s public areas and his constant pleasant, professional and charming interchanges with the passengers and with the crew are reminiscent of an all too-fast-fading era of cruising.
Thank you, Captain Ravera…may our paths cross again.