Queen Mary 2 captain: Best job on the high seas?

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Feb 7, 2007 8:27pm EST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Capt. Christopher Rynd has the last word on everything that happens on the Queen Mary 2, the world's largest ocean liner. He's even empowered to arrest unruly passengers.

The 54-year-old New Zealander shared some of the secrets of getting a seat at the captain's table, seasickness and running a tight ship during a stop in San Francisco midway through a round-the-world journey.

The job, which puts him at sea about 200 days a year aboard the luxury liner, is the culmination of a 37-year career at sea.

"You start with a small passenger ship and work up," Rynd said in an interview on the bridge, the navigation center of the 1,132-foot-(345-metre-)long vessel. "My whole life has been in the passenger cruise ship business."

On a modern vessel, the captain spends more time on office work and hospitality than standing behind a giant steering wheel or peering through a spyglass. For his efforts, he said, he earns "probably a lot less than you think."

On his days off, Rynd says he enjoys traveling as well as sailing on a smaller boat in his wife's native Australia.

He starts his typical working day at 6:15 a.m. with a call from the duty officer for an update on the ship's progress and weather. "By 7 o'clock I will be meeting with the navigator and the chief engineer," said the bearded and balding Rynd.

Several hours of office work follow before he begins a series of inspections throughout the ship that accommodates up to 2,620 passengers and about 1,250 staff.

"At the lunch hour we do a broadcast live from the bridge here on position, progress, weather," he continued. "In through the afternoon, that would be mostly administration."

Evenings bring the social responsibilities of Rynd's job, as he attends dinners, parties and other events until about 11 p.m. Three times a week he hosts 10 guests at the captain's dinner table, which includes notable passengers.

In rotation, the 460 or so guests paying $21,000 to $185,000 per person for the current 81-day round-the-world voyage will be among those invited.

ON COMPLAINTS AND THE UNRULY

Passengers paying such prices have high expectations, and Cunard Line, owned by Carnival Corp., issued full refunds last year before Rynd took command after the liner missed some Caribbean stops amid mechanical problems.

"If I deal with more than one a fortnight, that would be unusual really," Rynd said of serious complaints. "Typically I would go and sit with the hotel manager and we would go and talk those things through. Ultimately, we have a very strong corporate base and we can refer these things back to corporate as well."

Yet on the high seas, the captain is lord and master. "A good manager never has to go that extreme so you would never have to say that," he said of his powers.

He says he has arrested passengers for unruly behavior, but not since assuming command of the QM2 last May. "Modern ships don't have a brig, but I certainly have the power to confine and disembark at the first convenient port. But it's very, very seldom."

Rynd admits that even a life at sea does not always keep seasickness at bay, but says he feels ill only in extreme weather. "That's also why I avoid rough weather," he said.

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