A New Era At Sea

The cruise industry will rebound, but perhaps in a different format than before and passengers may have to expect that things will be different, according to legendary Commodore Ronald Warwick, who spoke with Cruise Industry News just after celebrating his 80th birthday. He also believes that the popularity of the very big ships may be fading.

After serving 50 years at sea, and 36 of those with Cunard Line, Captain Warwick was named commodore of Cunard in 2003. His link to the sea and the industry gives him a unique perspective, despite being retired since 2006.

While Warwick did not experience a pandemic while he was at sea, he did serve as chief officer when the Queen Elizabeth 2 was deployed to the Falklands.

Warwick, who went to sea at the age of 15, joined Cunard aboard the Carmania in 1969. His father, William Warwick, was already serving as captain of the QE2, but that just meant the bar was set even higher for him to join the line, to avoid any suggestion of nepotism.

His favorite ship? “I can answer that easier now when I am retired,” Warwick said. “Back then, the QE2 was the best ship, and when I was appointed to Queen Mary 2, she was the best ship, but the two were like chalk and cheese in terms of technology and how they ran, the construction, the automation, they were worlds apart. I was very honored to be named (the first) master of the Queen Mary 2, but now reflecting, I have to say the QE2 will always be my favorite.”

Given the command of the QE2 in 1990, Warwick admitted that being captain on a big ship is a huge responsibility, but said he was prepared for the role. “You have to remember you do not just step into the job,” he said. “I was 40 years old before I was in command so I had a lot of experience already in subordinate roles.

Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2

“One of my philosophies has always been to study my superiors so you can capture the moments they experience and especially the captains as they deal with different situations. So, you are indoctrinated into the role by virtue of the experience you have before you get there. But I cannot deny there is a lot of responsibility for the passengers and the crew and then the ship.

“People tend to reach senior positions faster today,” he continued. “We were able to do that aboard the QM2 through a very strict and controlled interview process so we got the cream of the crop with these young fellows because of their dedication, enthusiasm and technical knowledge. One of the junior officers we recruited is now captain of the QM2.”

Having also served as marine superintendent in the late 1990s, Warwick said he interviewed a lot of officer candidates.

“Obviously, the first screening is based on the resumes we get, but what would impact me most of all was the first impression face to face. So, if a candidate, came to see me, who had a good resume, but wasn’t smart in appearance, that would trouble me. It is important that the captain of a ship has a smart appearance at all times.”

Then, Warwick said he would look for ongoing training and awareness of current legislation. He would also look at their ability to inspire confidence, whether the candidate has the ability to delegate, and ultimately if they show leadership qualities.

He said that the main developments affecting captains today are all the changes in legislation, safety codes, environmental compliance, and the accountability they have.

The full interview with Commodore Ronald Warwick will run in the 2021 Spring Issue of Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine.

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