Alan Moorhouse talked to Captain Tony Yeomans, master of Crown Princess, during a Baltic capitals cruise, about his career at sea, current issues in the cruise ship industry, and his current charge. This year is Captain Yeomans’ last before he retires at the end of a long and distinguished career extending over 46 years, all with ships in the P&O group.
How did your career start?My family originate from Derbyshire and had little association with anything seafaring. My fascination with ships and the idea of a career at sea began as a result of a coach holiday to Southampton. I visited the docks and watched the ships sailing out of port. I vividly remember the Cunard liners and ships of Shaw Savill, Palm Line, Union Castle and of course the ships of P&O. How did your career develop? My career with P&O began in 1967. My first ship was Maloja (1959/17,763gt) with Trident Tankers, a P&O subsidiary. In 1971 I transferred to the P&O Passenger Division and was sent to the Far East on the cargo ship Pando Gulf (1953). In 1972 I moved to the passenger ships of the fleet. The first was Orient Lines’ Orsova, which sailed from Southampton to Sydney and then undertook a number of Pacific voyages before returning to the UK. I served on other P&O passenger vessels in the 1970s, including Himalaya (1949) and Arcadia (1954).When did you become master?I was a chief officer for 15 years on several P&O ships, including Victoria (1966), Uganda (1952) and Canberra. Following the merger of P&O and Princess Cruises in the 1970s, I had assignments alternating between ships of the two companies. I spent six and a half years aboard the first Sun Princess (1972) and two years aboard Royal Princess (1984). I also spent time aboard Pacific Princess (1971) and sistership Island Princess (1972/19,907gt). I became Staff Captain in 1992 and served aboard Island Princess and later Royal Princess, Dawn Princess (1997), Sea Princess, Pacific Princess, Canberra and Victoria. My first ship as Captain was Pacific Princess. I have since been Captain on half the current Princess Cruises fleet.
What have been your most memorable ships?Pacific Princess, as she was my first ship as Captain and also where I met my wife Debbie in 1991, and Ruby Princess. I was privileged to be the first Captain of Ruby Princess when she was delivered new from Fincantieri in November 2008. This involved an association with the ship and her new crew at the Fincantieri shipyard, and familiarisation. This continued up to the handover and naming ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, and then into the ship’s inaugural cruising season.ore practical. She was a wonderful sea ship and very advanced for her time. Second, I think we could do a better job with the gangways by making them wider and electronic.
What has been your most difficult experience?Without doubt my most difficult experience occurred aboard Star Princess on 23 March 2006, when the ship was sailing from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay, in the Caribbean, and a major fire broke out on a balcony on Deck 10 on the port side. Fire-fighting and medical teams were deployed and an Emergency Response Plan was put into operation. The ship was given a port-side list to ensure water ran off the decks. The crew were magnificent, and onboard sprinkler systems successfully put out the fire after an hour and a half. The ship continued to Jamaica under her own power, but the substantial repairs necessary meant she was out of service for some time. Sadly, there was one fatality and issues with smoke inhalation. The fire, which was deemed to have been caused by a discarded cigarette, affected 79 staterooms, five decks, and three fire zones. It was a situation you hope will never happen in your career.
What major changes have you seen during your career?In terms of changes to passenger and cruise ships, these have been enormous and significant. The concept of cruising as a holiday experience has developed into a popular worldwide experience. The sheer size and number of cruise ships, the ever-increasing number of passengers, and the number of crew to service the ships have been major changes. There have also been major changes in SOLAS regulations, bridge technology, navigation improvements, environmental awareness and issues, and propulsion technology. I remain a traditionalist and have not yet been converted to the virtues of pod propulsion.
How do you see the future?I have had a marvellous career at sea, spanning in excess of 46 years, and I am proud to have a certificate on my office wall celebrating 40 years’ service. I have achieved some memorable milestones, and have had the privilege of rising through the ranks with P&O, and becoming a Captain with one of the largest and most modern cruise ship fleets in the world. I feel I have been fortunate and had a successful and rewarding career. My ambition now is to take all the wonderful maritime memories of the ships, the people, and the seas and places with me, and enjoy a long and happy retirement with my family and on the golf course
Read A View From The Bridge every month in Ships Monthly – subscribe here