An eight night TITANIC 100th anniversary memorial voyage will depart New York on April 10 aboard Azamara Club Cruises’ 30,277 gt MV AZAMARA JOURNEY. UK-based Miles Morgan Travel is chartering the ship for this once-in-a-lifetime sailing, which will include a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where there will be opportunities to visit three cemeteries (Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery) with TITANIC victims.
On April 15, under the command of Captain Johannes Tysse, the AZAMARA JOURNEY will stop at the TITANIC site and hold a memorial service at 2:20 AM, the time that the White Star liner foundered.
In addition to special events, entertainment and cuisine with a TITANIC and/or Edwardian theme, a distinguished group of guest lecturers will be joining the ship. Among the speakers will be Royal Caribbean International’s VP of Marine Operations, Captain William Wright, who also commands the world’s largest cruise ships, the OASIS OF THE SEAS and ALLURE OF THE SEAS. Captain Wright was kind enough to grant MaritimeMatters an exclusive interview about his sea-going career, the operation of RCI’s state-of-the-art vessels and the upcoming TITANIC Memorial Cruise.
When he was a young boy, William Wright’s mother jokingly warned that if he spent any more time in the water, “rust would set in”. With Miami’s warm turquoise seas at his disposal, the young Wright actively pursued swimming, diving and fishing. He would soon operate dinghies, sailboats and fishing craft, eventually working in the business of chartering and skippering sailing yachts and dive boats.
Wright fell in love with a Norwegian girl and moved to Norway where they married and he upgraded his seafaring license to a Masters Degree in Marine Engineering at the Vestfold College in Tønsburg (near Oslo). After working aboard several ferries that crossed between Denmark and Norway, he took charge of the largest marina in Norway, an experience that included diverse operations such as fuel bunkering and maintenance of a land-based facility.
In the early 1990s, he returned to Miami, joining Royal Caribbean in June of 1992 as the first navigation officer on board the 1971-built NORDIC PRINCE. He worked on the other two “classics”, the 1970-built SONG OF NORWAY and 1972-built SUN VIKING, moving up the ranks from first to chief officer, then staff captain. In 1995, he became master of the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS and went on to other ships such as the ENCHANTMENT, GRANDEUR and RADIANCE OF THE SEAS. In 2001, he was asked to take over as Senior Vice President of Safety, Security and Environment for both RCI and its Celebrity Cruises subdivision, spending the next four years in land-based duties.
In 2005, Wright was appointed SVP of Marine Operations and shortly thereafter, took command of what was then the world’s largest passenger ship, the 154,407 gt FREEDOM OF THE SEAS. From that point onward, he maintained dual roles in land and sea-based management for Royal Caribbean — unlike most cruise line heads of Marine Ops, whose duties are strictly land-based.
Captain Wright not only introduced the yacht-like CELEBRITY EXPEDITION to Galapagos Cruising, he was the first captain of both the OASIS OF THE SEAS and the ALLURE OF THE SEAS. Wright oversees the operation of all the Royal Caribbean ships as well as the ships that sail for the company’s two subsidiaries, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. He will be adding another interesting facet to his maritime career by joining the AZAMARA JOURNEY in April as a lecturer for this very special TITANIC 100th Anniversary cruise.
I recently had a chance to ask Captain Wright about what it is like to command ships the size of OASIS and ALLURE. Despite their 225,282 gross tonnage, which is 50% larger than the next biggest ships (RCI’s FREEDOM Class), Wright assured,”From the perspective of maneuvering, the OASIS Class is in essence the same as the FREEDOM, thanks to the advanced technology, more thrusters and a larger crew.”
He added, “The biggest challenge of mastering the OASIS and ALLURE is being responsible for 8,000 people and such a wide variety of venues. Also, of course, getting from one part of the ship to another takes much more time than it does on smaller ships, so sometimes I have to plan where I am going well in advance.”
“On the JOURNEY, I look forward to giving some perspective on what being captain of the world’s largest ship is like today in contrast to the era of the TITANIC. Interestingly, on the delivery voyage of the FREEDOM OF THE SEAS, we crossed from Southampton on almost the exact same route the TITANIC took (without tendering at Cork), at a similar time of year (early May versus mid April). Of course, the FREEDOM completed her crossing without incident, unlike the TITANIC. It took a chain of events to sink the TITANIC and if any one of the factors that led to its demise was averted, the story would have ended much differently.”
“I also look forward to presenting some exclusive, exciting videos on the building of the OASIS and ALLURE.”, he added.
When asked about Royal Caribbean’s upcoming Project Sunshine, an entirely new class of ships (the first of which will enter service in late 2014) he remained tight-lipped, only indicating that it will be slightly larger than the FREEDOM Class and will be offering some exciting new “wows” to the world of cruising.
An A-list of maritime luminaries will be joining Captain Wright at the lectern, including Ken Marschall, whose life-like paintings helped inspire James Cameron to make the 1998 blockbuster movie. Ken served as a consultant on the film and has made several dives to the wreck. He is considered one of the great authorities on the subject.
“Mr. Ocean Liner”, Bill Miller, author of dozens of ocean liner books and quite possibly the world’s most popular maritime lecturer, will be on hand to make sure the AZAMARA JOURNEY’s theater remains filled.
Gunter Babler, president of the Swiss TITANIC Society will also be among the growing list of lecturers and historians on board.
The 697 passenger, 2000-built AZAMARA JOURNEY is an intimate cruise ship with modern amenities. Azamara Club Cruises is an “all-inclusive” line providing complimentary specialty coffees, wine and beer with lunch and dinner and gratuities for staff in the fare.
The AZAMARA JOURNEY has an inviting midships lido area with a large pool and two Jacuzzis in addition to a jogging track and observation deck.
The handsome vessel has Edwardian-inspired public rooms that will make an ideal backdrop for this particular voyage.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."