Chatting With P&O's Pacific Eden Captain Chris Norman
During a recent cruise on P&O's new Pacific Eden we caught up with Captain Chris Norman.
A sea-hardy veteran, Captain Norman opened up about how he made his start with the cruise ship industry, what he thinks of sailing Australian waters for the first time and the age-old question of the sea: how do you prevent getting seasick?
You grew up on the seas with your father in the UK?
Yes, he owned small fishing boats and work boats for the local community. First off he started in the sailing boats and yachts and pleasure, and then had working boats doing charters, surveys and fishing boats. So that was my whole childhood. Really wasn't much option from there, I just carried on.
You were also in the Merchant Navy?
Yes, but first I was in the fishing industry for 13 years and I was skipper at 19 years old. But then there was a big downturn in the UK and Europe at that time for big trawlers. So I went into the Merchant Navy and redid my sea time and qualifications.
I was in the offshore oil industry for a couple of years, and then, due to a friend at the time who was a chief engineer with Holland America Line, he put me forward to the cruise lines and I thought with nice big modern ships, why not? So I joined in 1999 and have been with the P&O company ever since.
What was it about big cruise ships that lured you originally?
It was a couple of things. Being able to travel far and wide was a draw card, and being able to work with a large crew and multitude of different people with a whole variety of nationalities and cultural backgrounds, which appeals to me.
And basically the size of ship was an appeal to me and very different to when I first started, so it was a great challenge.
Have you always been on the bridge?
Yes, I started as a third officer in 1999, went right up to staff captain and then eventually to captain.
I hear this is your first time in this part of the world. What's your impression of Australian waters so far?
It is, yes. It's very nice and the ports so far have been very welcoming and helpful.
Our first port was to Esperance in Western Australia and the weather was poor, plus Esperance at the time was facing challenges of their own with fires.
But the local community still came out to help and ensure we were able to get into port, which was lovely.
And you've never sailed into Sydney Harbour previously?
Correct, this is a new part of the world for me over the past 16 years, so it was a good opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to it.
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Which has been your favourite port to sail into to date?
There are different ones for different reasons, but I'm a little unusual and like the really remote places. I've done some very remote places in Greenland and Iceland, which have been really spectacular to enter and the fjords into Greenland are beautiful
But to date probably one of the most memorable ones was coming into New York on a winter's morning in January. It was minus seven degrees, crystal-blue clear skies, not a cloud in sight and the skyline totally dark behind the blue sky.
I have been told by everyone though that Sydney Harbour is going to rival that and become my new favourite and most memorable [laughs].
So when you're not Captain, where do you go for your holidays? Or do you become a total homebody?
No, I spend most of my time on the water still with pleasure boats sailing. I split my time between the UK and Vancouver and my oldest daughter sails competitively, so I'm with her when I can.
In Vancouver I'm currently refurbishing a 48-foot [14.5-metre] wooden boat to turn it into a cruising boat. It's just water, water, water for me.
With such long stretches at sea at a time, how do you keep yourself and your crew motivated?
One thing I've found is that self-motivated is easy to do if you like to be busy, because these big ships are busy. The nicest things I keep saying is we have three departments, and I enjoy when three departments come together as one.
And that depends a lot on each of the managers of each departmen,t but I have always said we can't go anywhere without the engineers, they can't go anywhere without us driving, and over the top of that we have all the guest services and hotel departments that make a ship function.
So we all need to work together as one unit and we are lucky we have such an incredible crew on this ship to make one crew.
You've been in the P&O family for 16 years. What does the name P&O mean to you?
Well, they have looked after me extremely well. They've always been good to me with contracts and personal requests.
They provide beautiful ships to amazing parts of the world and end of the day they are the ones that keep me going. It's a great family to work for.
How do you stay fit, eating these cruise meals every day. I've been on board two days and struggling with over indulgence already!
[Laughs] I wouldn't say I was overly fit, but walking around doing inspections constantly from one end of the ship to the other helps a lot. I don't get to the gym too much, but we do a lot of walking.
Being on the seas as long as you have, what's your secret remedy to not being seasick?
Well I'm lucky in that way as I've never ever been seasick in my life and can't say I know what it's like.
I do commiserate though as I've seen the effects a few times, but there seems to be a few remedies out there.
Keeping busy is my advice and I hear ginger tablets often calm the stomach also. We have seasick wrist bands and tablets, but I think keep busy, don't let it prey on your mind and keep going.
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