A day in the life of a cruise ship captain

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It’s not all fun on the high seas. While you’re busy gambling, drinking and dancing the night away, your ship’s captain is hard at work making sure it’s smooth sailing ahead.

Captain Angelo Los
Cruise ship captain
Carnival Cruise Lines, based in Miami
$500,000 Canadian, $338,000 U.S.

Ah, vacation. I’m cruising from Miami to Nassau in search of three days of fun, sun and … work?! In my ongoing pursuit of people with interesting jobs, I seized the opportunity to talk to Carnival Cruise ship captain Angelo Los. Captain Los, who’s been sailing with Carnival for 22 years, heads a 72,367-ton floating hotel valued at $320 million. It’s his job to make sure that 2,500 passengers have the time of their lives.

But, first things first. Toss out any preconceived notions that Captain Los’ days mimic those of “The Love Boat’s” Captain Stubing. Captain Los tells me that while he’s at sea, his days are packed with planning the ship’s course, checking weather reports and heading a crew of over 900 employees.

“There is no typical day,” says Captain Los. “I always have new projects to make sure it’s all working.”

For example, the day the ship was scheduled to dock in the Port of Miami, Captain Los had a wake-up call set for 4:15 a.m.

Once the ship docked, Captain Los met with public health officials who made sure that the succulent meals served on board were up to par with restaurant regulations. Then he met with the Coast Guard who inspected the ship to make sure it met their regulations. Also, at this particular docking, a crew of firefighters became familiar with the ship just in case there was an emergency. All of this had to be completed before the ship headed out to sea at 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Despite the hectic pace, it is as if Captain Los were destined for a life at sea. “My father was a captain,” says Captain Los. “My mother tells me he had me onboard ships from the time I was 6 months old.”

Besides learning the way of the sea from his dad, Captain Los had years of formal training to prepare him for his role. He received his classical — or basic — education in Italy. Then, on his path to the head of the ship, Captain Los received five years of sea training — two of them in the Italian Navy. He also spent 18 months at sea for officers’ training. Then he worked his way up the ranks to receive the nod to take over a ship.

Over the years, Captain Los’ job has changed along with advancements in technology. “Computers make my life a lot easier. There is a lot less paperwork,” he says. In addition, satellites help with navigation and allow him to adjust the ship’s course for smooth seas and sunny skies.

Along with spending a lot of his day at the computer, Captain Los can’t escape the telephone. “There are two phones in my office, one in my restroom, and three in my bedroom. Whatever happens onboard, I am notified — even if they burn a chicken in the kitchen.”

It’s no surprise that when Captain Los has time off he ditches Ma Bell at the dock. “When I am home, there are no phones and no computers,” he says.

Captain Los’s home away from the sea is Canada. After six months at sea he takes 10 weeks off in order to spend time with his wife of 10 years. “I am lucky to have found a good friend, and we can keep the relationship working while I am gone,” he says. His wife is also allowed to spend time onboard during his six-month stint on the ship.

Although being away from his family is difficult, it isn’t the worst part of his job. “It’s really hard when you see people who don’t participate in their trip and enjoy the love you put into your job,” Captain Los says.

However, Captain Los notes that his ship receives about a 99.2 percent approval rating with guests. “I am a people person. When you shake their hands, you find out little things about them,” and, he adds “you can find out if there are any little things that can be corrected, so they are happy.”

Captain Los’ efforts are rewarded with a boatload of smiling faces and a hefty paycheck. “I make just less than half a million [Canadian dollars],” he says. But, Captain Los adds, money isn’t his motivation: “I’d do this job for a lot less.”

As he gazes out of his office window, Captain Los takes in an amazing view of the sky and water. “Just look out the window. That’s the best part of my job.”