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Interactive Transatlantic Crossing

Interview with Captain Kevin Oprey

August 28, 2013


Posted in: Interactive Transatlantic Crossing

During my time on board Queen Mary 2’s recent Transatlantic Crossing to New York, I was given the opportunity to meet with Captain Kevin Oprey to have a chat about his life on board and to put our Facebook fans’ questions to him… And this was what he told me…

What made you want to work at sea?

I come from a long sea-faring background – my father, grandfather and great grandfather were all at sea. I was brought up on Southampton water and enjoyed sailing as a young lad. I was very interested in seeing all the great ocean liners going up and down the water – it got me enthused and I always wanted to be part of it, so at 17 I went to sea as a cadet.

What does your day involve as Captain of Queen Mary 2?

As you can see when you look out of the window, my office, if you can call it my office, presents a different challenge or different environment every day, so some of my work is dependant on what I see out of the window. I can wake up in lovely sunny weather and I just go to work as normal, or I can wake up in quite severe weather conditions, so I will be spending quite a bit of time on the Bridge, or we could be in fog, and again I would be up here. Outside of those environmental issues, I can do anything from maneuvering the ship into port, mingling and talking to guests – attending cocktail parties, dining with the guests, attending meetings, talking to the crew – there’s such a variety of roles I have to play and they’re all equally important to me and I find them all equally interesting. I can’t define which my favourite of them all is – but I do like interacting with the guests. When I go to the cocktail parties and when guests come in, I try and have a different conversation with everybody and they always say to me ‘you must be so bored doing this’ and my answer is ‘if I was bored, I’d go and work on a cargo ship’ – I really enjoy the interaction. So I could say I like that side of it, but I also love the ship handling aspect of my job.

How often does your wife travel with you?

Now that my girls have grown up, she travels quite frequently. I really enjoy having her on board, she’s a great ambassador, she mingles very well with the guests – she’s very popular. She’s a great support to me on the ship, particularly during cocktail parties and dinners.

Christian Reay wants to know what you do in your spare time when you’re not on the Bridge?

Because of the aspects of the job, you’re quite busy all day anyway, but you never know what is around the corner, so the best thing you can do is rest just in case something comes up. In the time that you have off, and to be honest, there aren’t that many evenings you have as a spare evening, it is best that you take it easy as you could sail into fog, and then you’re on call again.

Dean Williams asks, what is your favourite port of call?

I have lots of ports that I really like – New York is always good to sail into, and Sydney because of the bridge, the harbour itself and the Opera House.  I also love sailing into Valletta in Malta, because when you come in early in the morning there’s always a very blue sea and the sun is behind you, bouncing off the old historic stone walls which look pink, and it’s almost like going back in time. But if you want to know which my favourite port is, it’s Southampton, my home port.

The Bridge on board Queen Mary 2

What are the worst conditions you have encountered on a Transatlantic Crossing and are there any limiting factors where Queen Mary 2 cannot go to sea?

Any captain would be a fool to say there are no limits. Every day is different, every crossing is different and you judge it on the information that you have to hand. You have to take everything into account before you set sail. You wouldn’t just make that decision yourself, you would be talking to other people from the office, and so I would say there are limitations that you have to weigh up very carefully. With regards to the worst weather, I guess on Queen Mary 2 we have had 2 situations – one coming out of Quebec during a force 11, and the other was leaving New York on the night of Hurricane Sandy, again about a force 11. All the other ships around us were doing five knots, very slowly dealing with the conditions, but because of the way this ship is designed and built, we came out of the harbour, dropped the pilot off – the wind was up to about 70 knots, but we turned to the north, straight into the heavy seas and winds and took off at about 20 knots and everybody said that they didn’t feel anything, she just sliced her way through it, all the way up to Newfoundland. Although you can be in severe weather on this ship, sometimes you don’t realize you actually are in it. You see it all around you, but the ship is performing so well that you don’t often realize what you’re in.

With regards to the limiting factors, New York port authority declared that by 6pm the port would close and all ships in the port had to proceed to sea, so that was our limiting factor. We left marginally early, in time to get clear before the wind picked up. We just about made it because we had quite a bit of difficulty getting off the berth, even with the largest 2 tugs that New York could supply – the first time we tried we couldn’t get off – we waited a few minutes and the second time we got off. Coming out of the harbour was quite a challenge in itself. Preparations were the same as we would normally do, all of our safety checks were made, we went over our passage planning several times with the navigator and the Bridge team, all of the various departments were notified of what we were going to expect, passengers were addressed and advised of the conditions outside, so we made sure we’d made the appropriate preparations. It’s nothing more than we would normally do, but we just made sure we’d covered every aspect.

Judith Maloney Yocom wants to know how people are chosen to dine at the Captain’s table?

There’s no real set order to be honest. I’m not one to say I’m going to take all the VIPs – I like to have a good mix. I’ll invite people who have sailed many voyages with us, and people who are sailing with us for the first time, or someone who has just got married on board. Or I might be talking to someone who I find interesting and will invite them to dinner with me one evening. I pick them randomly. I also take a bit of advice from people on board on who to invite – I try to give everybody an opportunity.

Dining at the Captain’s table

Kieran Binns asks, would you say you are now at the pinnacle of your career?

I would say I feel that way. I’m very proud to be captain of Queen Mary 2, I can’t think of a better position to be in. To be offered this ship is beyond belief really.

Jill Jones wants to know if you enjoy music – what do you like? Who is your favourite composer?

I love playing Eric Clapton music, and the Stones and the Beatles. Having had 2 girls – who are now grown up – my taste in music changed as they grew up, as I liked some of the music that they played. I like playing classical music as well but I don’t have a favourite composer.

Finally, where do you like to go on holiday?

When my wife and I are on board in the final couple of weeks, we always say ‘we’ve got to go on holiday’. We talk about going to places like the Caribbean or the Canaries, which we did this year, but then when we get off we say we can’t be bothered to fly, so we end up going to the Isle of Wight for a week. I’ve just bought myself a new yacht, so that’s what my holidays for the next few years will be about.

Thank you to everyone who sent in a question for the Captain while I was on board Queen Mary 2 and of course to Captain Kevin Oprey for taking the time to answer our questions.

  1. Ann Wilkinson says:

    Hello, I am so pleased the New Captain loves his job, it is really nice to hear about the Captain. Cunard is certainly the envy of the world in cruises, i have been on all 4 including QE2 on one of her last cruises to Norway and it was fantastic.
    We went on Queen Elizabeth on her 2nd voyage, Queen Victoria to Norway and Fjords as we so enjoyed QE2. Our last voyage was on Queen Mary around Great Britain which also went to Cherbourg, France where we had lunch over looking our ship in the Cafe de Paris,, we then went to Ireland and saw where the last passengers boarded Titanic.
    On return from the round Britain we held a bit of a do to salute Titanic and her passengers and staff, it was a black and white event and everyone dressed as if they were on Titanic and we copied one of her menu’s. The evening was brilliant and everyone enjoyed it we had posters and even a to scale Titanic ship which was given to me by one of the captain’s family, I will treasure it for ever.
    Hoping to cruise with CUNARD again soon.
    Best wishes
    Ann Wilkinson

  2. We sailed with Capt Oprey on his last P&O Arcadia captaincy on the 72 night ‘Grand Alaska Adventure’ in 2011, he then transferred to Queen Mary 2. We are now looking forward to our QM2 World Cruise departing on 10 Jan 2014. We’ll be disembarking in Sydney on 19 Feb for 23 days to visit relatives whilst she circumnavigates Australia. We re-embark on 14 March to sail home. Coincidently, exactly 7 years previously, on 10 Jan 2007 we embarked QM2 in Fort Lauderdale for her inaugural world voyage. We only did the first segment to San Francisco but what a voyage: Cape Horn, Chilean Fjords and the fabulous welcome we received in San Francisco for her maiden visit. Wonderful memories…..see you all sooooon!!

  3. We also had the great pleasure of meeting Captain Kevin Oprey on the Arcadia Grand Alaskan Adventure in 2011. What a wonderful Cruise it was and Captain Oprey joined us on our 11th Wedding Anniversary Dinner on Table 3 and we all enjoyed his company and great humour. All now a distant wonderful memory and we wish him well for the future on QM2.

  4. judith says:

    We were on the trip from Quebec when it was rather windy, it was excellent, as the captain said, slicing through the seas is Queen Mary 2′s speciality. It was very nice to meet him and his wife at the cocktail parties, lovely couple, a good team.

  5. We were also on the QM2 during Captain Oprey’s first three weeks of command over the ship (2011). We really enjoyed that we met him during the coktail parties (and that he rememembered with all those passengers around some details about us personally!) and he and his crew did a brilliant job all together when there was the gale strenth 11 out of Quebec and the incident thereafter. We really wish him many more successful years to come aboard the QM2 and woud love to sail with him and his crew again sometime.

  6. Glen and Sadie Allen says:

    We celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary aboard Queen Mary 2 sailing from Southampton to New York under Kevin Oprey’s command. We both enjoyed the experience aboard – definitely the best way to cross the Atlantic.
    We did value being introduced to Captain Oprey at the cocktail party and meeting him in the library signing memorabilia, and he was so professional with a great sense of humour, we particularly enjoyed his daily midday ships position reports and the last night of the Cunard Proms, well done and thank you to Kevin and your staff – all of you are a credit to Cunard

  7. Marie Ross says:

    We were on the Queen Mary world voyage this year. We were married by Captain Kevin Oprey. We were invite to dinne with the Captain and his wife. I sat in his chair on the bridge and blew the ship horn. It was memorable cruise.

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