December 13, 2010
We Are Cunard
Welcome back to another week of Blogging. When Inger Klein Olsen assumed command of Queen Victoria on the first of December, she made history by becoming the Cunard’s first female Captain. Her first task as Captain was to take the ship to dry dock in Hamburg for its planned refit. This Wednesday on the 15th of December, she will be on the bridge as the ship sets sail with a full complement of guests.
Now living in Denmark, 43-year-old Captain Olsen was born and brought up in the Faroe Islands. She began her career at sea on a cargo ship, before applying to be a cadet with Scandinavian Seaways. After obtaining her Masters License Captain Olsen sailed for a couple of years on various ships before joining Cunard on the Vistafjord (which became Caronia), in 1997 as a First Officer. In 2001 she transferred to the Seabourn fleet, which was part of Cunard at the time. She sailed on Seabourn Sun and Seabourn Spirit before being promoted to rank of Staff Captain on Seabourn Pride in 2003. Captain Olsen then spent about a year in the Cunard office in Miami during the building of Queen Mary 2. She them spent some years with some of Cunard’s sister brands before finally joining Queen Victoria as deputy Captain in August 2010.
Commenting on the new appointment, Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks, told me:
“While we are far from being the first shipping company to have a female Captain, it is nonetheless noteworthy when such a long-established British institution as Cunard makes a break with its captaincy tradition. But as Mark Twain drily observed, ‘the folks at Cunard wouldn’t appoint Noah himself as Captain until he had worked his way up through the ranks’. Inger has certainly done that, and we are delighted to welcome her as our first woman driver.”
Captain Olsen was kind enough to let me interview her while she was busy in Hamburg while her first command was in Dry Dock.
Special Interview With Captain Inger Olsen
How does it feel returning to Cunard and being their first female Captain?
I am delighted to be back with Cunard, as Cunard was my first Cruise Line fourteen years ago, and I am most honoured to become the first female Captain in Cunard.
What were your first impressions of Cunard Line and Queen Victoria; was it as you expected and what do you think makes it different?
My impression of Queen Victoria was, and is that she represents all the things that I connect with Cunard. She is a very friendly ship and I felt at home from the moment that I stepped onboard. She is elegant, stylish and a Queen.
The position of Master has often been described as the mayor of a small town; please could you describe how you see your role on board?
To set leadership behaviour onboard and make sure that there is a good atmosphere onboard, while focussing on the customer satisfaction and crew morale. It is important for me that both guests and crew feel that I am approachable, but of course I am responsible for the Safety and Security of the ship, and all that sail on her. In reality it is about setting a good example and operating a safe environment for all.
What is the most frequent question you get asked and how do you answer it?
I am often asked what made me choose this career. It was never intentional really, I just wanted to travel and see the world. I always thought that I would do it for a few years and then go and do something shore side. But I guess this is where time and circumstances took me really.
Please could you tell us something about your job that would surprise us?
It is really difficult to say what would surprise you, but I think maybe it is all the other things that you do as Captain from renewal of vows to appraisals and chairing Health and Safety meetings etc. Most would think that I spend all my time on the bridge, which is not the case as in reality most of my working day is actually spent on wider onboard management activities and of course guest related activities.
What would be your favourite golden nugget of advice to Guests coming on a voyage for the first time?
Lean back, and embrace the excellence and adventure that Queen Victoria can offer you and get the most out of a fantastic voyage.
Although you have just rejoined Cunard, what does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?
To me it is the cornerstone of working on a Cunard ship. White Star Service is a very important and great part of our success, and I think that the service and style that Cunard offers is unsurpassed which is why we are able to say “We Are Cunard”. This is definitely where I like to be at this stage of my career.
Where would you like to go in the world where you haven’t been yet?
Maldives, Madagascar and Galapagos.
Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
Many! I believe that everyone needs to have dreams; this is actually what drives you forward. If your dreams have come through, you simply need to find new ones. But you are not suppose to tell about the ones that are unfulfilled as otherwise they will not come through!
When you are on leave; what is your perfect night?
A perfect night is at home with my fiancé, a nice homemade meal, candles and nice relaxing music.
What is your favourite quote and who said it?
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. Winston Churchill.
Thank you so much Captain Olsen for your great answers and of course congratulations again on your appointment. Meanwhile I’ll be back soon with Deputy Captain Andrew Hall and his second report from Queen Victoria’s dry Dock in Hamburg. Meanwhile I’ll be rejoining Queen Elizabeth tomorrow as we get ready to sail to the Caribbean for our three week festive get away, so I’ll have more news from her, and from across the fleet, soon as well.
Cheers for now, Alastair