Monday, August 11, 2008

Seabourn Captain Buer Interview on John Heald's Blog

The very popular blog of Carnival's cruise director extraordinare, John Heald, posted a wonderful interview with Seabourn's Captain Karl Buer on August 9th. Hopefully without offending I have copied the meat of it below.

"Seabourn has a name that as with Bentley, Rolex and Cartier you know you are getting the best. I have disembarked many times in places like Cannes, Monte Carlo and Portofino have seen one of the Seabourn Yachts in the harbor and even though I have never been onboard you just know that the people onboard are experiencing something very very special. So, what’s it like to be Master of such a vessel………well, lets find out by talking to Captain Karlo Buer, Master of the Seabourn Legend.

1. Captain, please can you tell us about your career so far from your earliest child hood memory of wanting to work at sea to your current position.

Answer: I joined my first ship in 1970, never meant to make this a life long career. Like so many young men/boys at that time just thought I should use a couple of years to work on ships, see the world and make up my mind what to do with my life. But, I liked it and kept on for 5 years in different positions, before going back to join the Merchant Marine Academy in Norway. Then I graduated as a Master in 1980. I worked on different ships for different shipping companies until I permanently moved to cruise vessels in 1986 as chief officer (what is today called Staff Captain) on the Explorer Starship. I was part of the start-up team with that company. I moved to Seabourn in 1989 to supervise the building of the Seabourn Spirit. After Sprit launched I spent more than a year in the Seabourn head office in Oslo before rejoining the ships in 1991. Since then I have served as Captain on all the three Seabourn sisters until today. And now I will be the inaugural captain on Odyssey next June.

2. Standing on the bridge as Master of one of the most prestigious ships in the world must be quite a feeling. Can you tell us a little about the Seabourn Legend, how many passengers and crew etc and some of the features that as Captain make this command so unique.

I would say that Seabourn Legend is unique, but that isn’t quite true. She is one of three sisters that are virtually identical, but then there are no others like them. Seabourn Legend has 104 guest suites, so her maximum capacity is 208 guests. And we are nearly the same number of staff to take care of them. So we can quickly get to know them. Everyone on board can address them by name by the second day. And our stewardesses know how they like their suites arranged, the bartenders know how they like their drinks, and so forth. One guest asked for mixed nuts to have with drinks in his suite, and when the stewardess cleaned up, she noticed that all of the almonds were left in the bowl. The next night, there were no almonds in the mixed nuts. That makes everyone on board feel really special. And at the same time, they get to know each other really well, too. All the drinks are included on Seabourn, so it’s an easy sociable atmosphere like a country club. They tell me that they especially like that.

3. I would imagine that you have traveled to many fantastic ports. Which are your top three favorites to navigate the ship to and why.

There are so many fantastic ports in this world like Sydney, London, Venice, Hong Kong, Oslo, Halong Bay, etc. But if to choose one I would vote for Stockholm, Sweden. Cruising through the Stockholm Archipelago on a sunny summer day is the most spectacular approach to any city in the world. And mind you that is quite a statement for a Norwegian.

Another favorite day is our Caviar in the Surf beach party that we do in several ports around the world. Legend does it at Hunting Caye in Belize during her Panama , Belize and Costa Rica cruises. We anchor and the staff set up an incredible buffet on a private beach, with all kinds of barbecue and cold foods and silver and china from the ships, lots of loungers and entertainment and so forth. Then, at a certain point, we come rushing in from the ship in the Zodiacs with iced champagne and caviar and the waiters go right into the water chest deep and serve the guests who wade out to meet them. They use a surfboard for a bar and table and life-rings for the caviar-it’s is always great fun and a highlight of the cruise.

4. How would you describe the people who sail Seabourn? Is there such a thing as a typical passenger?

They are young and old, tall and short, they come from all over, but what they do have in common is they like to travel, and they like to do it in fine style. They really care about fine dining and wine, they like to live life to the fullest and they want the best. And they like people, too. Seabourn’s yachts are the friendliest places. Everyone loves to gather over drinks before dinner and talk about where they have been and where they are going next. A lot of them have met on board and now they travel together year after year. On any given cruise, more than half the people have been with us before, and of those, about two-thirds are coming back within a year and a half. About a third of them book their next cruise while they are still on board - so we must be doing something right!

5. You must have met some very interesting characters during your service onboard. Who are some of the most memorable?

Let me just say; all our guests are unique in their own way. I wouldn’t single out anyone by name. They are very interesting people and on our yachts they really have time to talk with each other and with us. It’s part of the Seabourn way. But we do have some guests who have sailed with us more than 2000 days, and many more have more than a thousand, so they’re almost like family—but they welcome new guests just as warmly as they do their old friends.

6. lets now talk about your exciting new command The Seabourn Odyssey. How and when did you hear the news and how did you feel when you were told you would be the master of what will be one of the most luxurious vessels in the world.

I was simply asked by our VP Operation a couple of months ago and was of course very pleased to be asked. When it comes to luxury the Odyssey will be a natural and logical continuation of the present Seabourn yachts and it is a very satisfying feeling to be on any of our vessels. All the best features will be on board, plus there will be space for a lot of extra things like a huge spa and a great pool beach area, which we don’t have so much space on the sisters.

7. I was privileged to have a look at the mock ups of the cabins as well as have a walk through the vessel last month and both experiences were truly amazing. What will be your role in the building of the vessel?

These ships are built by the Carnival Corp. building department and our role will basically be to set up the operation and make sure that everything is as prepared as possible on the day our guests are walking up the gangway. My biggest job will be to train with my senior staff to be sure we know all about the technical details of the new ship. There are very sophisticated safety and waste management systems that are all new to us.

8. What are some of the features of your new command that you are particularly excited about?

It is difficult to mention any thing in particular as the whole ship is extremely well designed from guest areas to technical spaces and bridge equipment.

For instance there is a system that offers what they call computerized decision support in case of an emergency. So no matter what happens on board this system will suggest all sorts of actions that might be necessary, and the captain can either accept or reject the suggestions. We put all those suggestions in while we are under no pressure—just to be sure everything is covered. Then if there is an emergency nothing gets overlooked.

9. Can you tell us where the ultra luxury Seabourn Odyssey will sail to?

We will start her maiden voyage in Venice. We have just announced that all of the guests on board will be the godparents of Odyssey and will take part in the naming ceremony. Each of their names will be engraved on a plaque that will always be displayed on board. Then we will sail in the Greek Isles, Turkey and the Black Sea for the rest of the summer. We’re going to some new ports like Sochi in Russia and Batumi in Georgia. Then in the fall we will cross the Atlantic and end the year in the Caribbean. In January, though, Seabourn Odyssey will start our first-ever World Cruise, which will sail 108 days from Fort Lauderdale to Athens. She will visit 42 ports on 26 countries on five continents. It’s not very often you can become “well-traveled” on a single cruise!

10. Finally, and as is tradition here on the blog, I would like you to fill in the blanks please Captain.

The scenario is you are hosting your first Captain’s table on the Seabourn Odyssey and you have been given permission to choose your guests and the menu……………………so using the fantastic menu items from the Yachts of Seabourn please choose your favorites for the following.

APPETIZER Well, I’m Norwegian, so it would have to be seafood. I love Charlie Palmer’s Citrus Marinated Smoked Halibut, that he fixes with ruby grapefruit and ginger crackling.
SALAD Tossed tomatoes with grilled bread, cucumber and toasted pine nuts.
FISH COURSE Lobster, Lobster & Lobster with Lobster Sauce (it’s a specialty of Charlie’s)
MEAT COURSE Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, fondant potatoes in mustard jus, with peas and wilted lettuce.
DESSERT Without doubt the Crème Brulée En Parade in three flavors: Jasmine, Capuccino and Classic Vanilla.

And now please choose who you eat dinner with.
A FAMOUS ACTOR Mr. Paul Newman would be a pleasure.
A FAMOUS ACTRESS and his wife Joanne Woodward, of course.
SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH Robin Williams never fails.
SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF CRUISING I am always delighted to see our president, Mrs. Pamela Conover.
SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF SPORT I think maybe Stein Eriksen, the Norwegian skier who invented freestyle skiing.
SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISH YOU HAD MET. I would like to hear some stories from Roald Amundsen, who was the first man to reach both the North and the South Poles and traverse the Northwest Passage.

Thank you so very much Captain for that enthralling interview. We all wish you much success with your new command the incomparable Seabourn Odyssey and I hope one day to be fortunate enough to visit you and your super yacht. Can you imagine what it must be like to experience this kind of cruise vacation?………….I hope one day to be able to tell you all about it."

If you would like to read all of John Heald's blog post, or any of his many other posts, you can read them here: http://johnhealdsblog.com/