Captain Charles Teige has taken charge of Royal Caribbean’s latest big ship in China. He spoke to ASEAN Cruise News in Singapore.
Where are you from and how did you become a ship captain?
I’m from a small island in Norway that has the oldest Viking ship. I’m a third generation captain, and wanted to do this since I was 5 years old.
I started on cargo ships, sailing all around the world as an apprentice. Then, I worked in the offshore industry and did a business degree. When I started working on a cruise ship, I intended to join for only one year. I’ve now been in the industry 27 years!
How is Spectrum of the Seas different and why is she special?
Whilst Spectrum is not the biggest cruise ship in the world, she’s one of the most expensive and technologically-advanced. We have added a Suite area, and the Ultimate Family Suite is the biggest suite on Royal. We also have upgraded technology: Wi-Fi everywhere for guests and crew, virtual games, laser tag and the new Royal app on which guests can order dinner, shop onboard or reserve shows and shore excursions.
People just love the ship. Guests who have been sailing with us numerous times tell us that Spectrum is their favourite.
Would you say the ship is the destination?
Very much so. Lots of people choose to stay onboard even on sail days. They have the whole ship and facilities to themselves. More experienced cruisers come for the ship and not the destinations.
Spectrum has been designed with the China market in mind. How is handling a ship with Mainland Chinese passengers different to anywhere else?
Chinese people are very friendly when you get to know them. They are happy people and love cruising. Of course, they like speed and service – in contrast to the Italians who want to sit and eat for 5 hours. The Chinese want to have their dinner as fast as possible. In terms of food preferences, they do like international menus − but also appreciate traditional Chinese cuisine. They enjoy shopping and care about their families as well.
Chinese passengers are becoming increasingly experienced cruisers too, and love travelling all over the world. We see a trend of repeat Chinese guests who keep coming back.
What were the highlights of helming Spectrum since her launch and bringing her to Singapore?
Sailing the ship out from Meyer Werft in Germany to Barcelona, and visiting historical landmarks like the Acropolis of Athens, Suez Canal and Petra in Jordan. The journey has been a combination of culture and new technology. Of course, I love coming to Singapore and visiting the famous Raffles Hotel and Marina Bay.
What are the challenges of captaining a ship like Spectrum?
The weather can be challenging sometimes, but we’ve been blessed with good weather so far.
Sailing into Shanghai, another challenge will be the traffic volume as it’s a popular route. There’s also the language barrier as many Chinese passengers don’t speak English, so we need more Chinese crew members.
Your ship is made up of crew members from 71 countries. Are you drawing them from other Royal ships?
We were very blessed − 10,000 people from Royal Caribbean wanted to work here. We could only choose around 1700. Most of the crew are very experienced.
What would you say to assuage new cruisers who are concerned about safety?
The ship is built on the highest safety standards. We have the latest technology and a lot of training for the crew. All the equipment has to be approved as well. Our classification company tests all the technical specifications, and the United States coast guard and port state control do checks on the ship.
Favourite destinations to call at?
I love nature, so places like Norway and Alaska are great. Going to Norway and being on top of a mountain alone is my favourite feeling. However, I love Asia too, especially Singapore and its culture.
Lastly, what are your own favourite experiences on board Spectrum?
I ski a lot, so I’m actually pretty good on the Flowrider. The North Star is amazing too − one of the first things I did on the ship was marry a couple on the pod!