March 1, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 224 days
Firstly thank you so much for all the messages of congratulations on my appointment to Queen Elizabeth. I really appreciate your kind words and I have to say I am very excited at the prospect of being part of something so special and to work with what I know will be a fabulous team. It’ll also be fantastic to meet so many of you during her maiden season; what amazing voyages they’re going to be.
With exactly thirty two weeks to her maiden voyage, Queen Elizabeth is making remarkable progress at the ship yard in Monfalcone, Italy, and I’ll have some new pictures of her later this week. In the meantime the huge task of manning our new Queen has begun, and now that the senior officers are in place, many other officers will soon be appointed. Over the next few weeks I’ll be interviewing many of those officers, so you can get to know more about the team who’ll be leading Queen Elizabeth’s inaugural crew.
This week on board Queen Victoria, as she makes her way along the southern coast of Australia, we were able to welcome a very special guest, the master designate of Queen Elizabeth, Captain Chris Wells. I had never met him before, so it was a real pleasure to talk to him for a while about his appointment to his new ship. If you would like to read about Captain Wells’ career, you can click on this link to the Blog that first announced his appointment last September.
I’ve done many interviews on this Blog, and although you may expect me to say it, this one with Captain Wells was not only easy and fun to do, but also gave me a great insight to why he’s such a popular Captain amongst our guests and crew.
Special Interview – Master Of Queen Elizabeth – Captain Chris Wells
Firstly, congratulations on being appointed Queen Elizabeth’s first Master. How did you feel when you were told?
I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised; I certainly wasn’t expecting it. Once the news sunk in I realised what an honour it was to be asked to be the first Master, and of course I was delighted as well as being proud.
Looking back at your career, could you ever have imagined you’d be the first master on a brand new Cunarder?
I never thought I would be on passenger ships, let alone being a Captain of such prestigious ships as the Cunard Queens. When I am on board and host a table for dinner, the most frequent question I’m asked is how I became Captain. The truth is I ran away to sea so I didn’t have to go to university! I always had wanderlust so a career at sea seemed perfect, but I always thought the height of my career would be a Captain of an oil tanker; it never crossed my mind I’d be the first Captain on a Cunard Liner.
What do you think will be the most exciting part about bringing Queen Elizabeth in to service?
That’s easy; it’ll be bringing her to Southampton for the first time and then to see her being named before welcoming her very first guests. With the maiden voyage being sold in just 29 minutes it’ll be great to see so many of our most loyal guests on board. Then of course it will be up to all of us to ensure we deliver the very best of White Star Service, so our guests have the most memorable voyage.
What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of being involved with a new ship?
Although most of the ship’s company will be coming from either Queen Victoria or Queen Mary 2, we will have some crew who will be new to Cunard, and our job will be to establish a sense of community. We won’t have that much time, but it’s very important to me that we get a great team spirit amongst the ship’s company as quickly as possible.
Do you know when you’ll be going out to join Queen Elizabeth in the ship yard?
It hasn’t been confirmed yet but I think it’ll be some time in August, although I may make a couple of visits in the meantime to see how she’s progressing.
Where would you like to go in the world where you haven’t been yet?
As far as being on a ship is concerned, I would like to go to the west coast of South America, the Chilean fjords are really appealing to me. I’m a real outdoor type so I would love to walk on top of the world, literally, by hiking in the Himalayas; a bit like Michael Palin but without the camera crew!
Please could you tell us something about your job that would surprise us?
I think many people, who don’t work on ships, don’t realise what a double life we lead. When I am on board I am the Captain of the ship for that time period, but then when I go on leave another Captain will come on while I’m away. I’ll then follow my other life of husband, daddy and gardener, though not necessarily in that order! I love my life at sea, but I am also a real family man. I love spending time with my wife Hedda and kids, Henry (10), Emily (8 this month) and William (6).
Doing the normal things at home is great and we are lucky to live in a lovely house just ten minutes from the beach and ten minutes from the Sussex downs. We are all great walkers and this time together is very precious, whether it’s at home, taking walks or just playing on the beach.
What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?
Stepping back on a Cunard ship, having been away on our sister brands ships for a while, it was wonderful to feel like I was literally coming home. Already in the few days I have been on Queen Victoria I have met literally hundreds of familiar and friendly guests and crew. That’s what it means to me; the tight knit community and family spirit which are unique to Cunard.
Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
Not really. My career has already surpassed my expectations. Mind you I love music and enjoy playing the piano when I get a chance. We are a very musical family, with most Saturday mornings at home dedicated to music. Perhaps one dream would be to play the piano better, but that might have to wait until I retire. Another dream is to own an Aston Martin one day, but I’ll cope with the people carrier for now. Mind you, I’d also have to arrange for the humps to be taken out of the road as well, so I could get it in our driveway!
When you get home after a contract what’s the first thing you do?
The first and most important thing is to catch up with Hedda and the kids.
After the first weekend of relaxing, I’m then presented with a long list of DIY jobs to do. But that’s OK, I actually like doing all those jobs like painting and a bit of wood work; in fact I’ve just finished decorating our lounge. I’m quite a perfectionist so the jobs do take me a bit longer.
When you are on leave; what is a perfect evening?
We would have some friends round for dinner. Hedda is a great cook and she loves to entertain while preparing a fantastic meal, making it a lovely event.
We love social dinners and we’ve just built an extension with a large kitchen dining room, so we can all enjoy each other’s company, in great surroundings.
Thank you so much for your time Captain Wells; we look forward to seeing back on Queen Victoria at the end of April and then later in the year in Monfalcone. I’ll be back later in the week with pictures from the Fincantieri ship yard, as well as news from Queen Victoria’s 2010 World voyage dinner and lots more to come. Cheers Alastair