Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Eclipse - - Celebrity Cruises - - Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis
A Conversation with
Captain Panagiotos Skylogiannis,
Master of Celebrity Eclipse
Richard H. Wagner
Passengers on Celebrity Eclipse often comment on how such a
young captain has command of such a large and important ship.
However, Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis' youthful appearance
masks the facts that he has been a captain at sea for nine years and
that he has sailed as an officer aboard practically every ship that
has ever been in the Celebrity Cruises fleet. In fact Captain
Skylogiannis began with the line even before there was a Celebrity
Cruises, starting out in cruise ships with Celebrity's predecessor
Chandris Lines in 1988. Before that he was an officer in the Greek
Navy and spent time on passenger ferries in the Mediterranean
after graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy in Athens,
Greece. "If I look young and am a young captain, it makes me
happy, very happy," he laughs. "I guess I did something right or I
wouldn't be here."
Indeed, Celebrity clearly thought so when in 2008 it gave Captain
Skylogiannis the responsibility of commanding Celebrity Solstice
and bringing that ship into service. The Solstice was the largest ship
built up to that time by Celebrity. More importantly, the ship was
to combine new exterior and interior designs that were to serve as
platforms for innovative concepts in entertainment and dining.
Since the line had already contracted for four more of these ships, it
was vital that the first one start out successfully.
To this end, Captain Skylogiannis, who had prior experience
bringing out new ships, spent eight months at the shipyard in
Pappenburg, Germany, working with the designers and building the
team that would take Solstice into service. "Because it was the
prototype, the first one, it was different. You have to do everything
Solstice entered service in late 2008. "The Solstice class was
successful from day one. We won so many awards - - Conde Nast,
and many more."
Celebrity once again turned to Captain Skylogiannis to bring out
the third ship in the Solstice class, Celebrity Eclipse. This time, it
involved only a four month stay in Germany. "The Solstice and the
Equinox were already done so we had a little bit less of a load of
work to do - - a lot of things were already done because they are
"We had a very good start-up, an exceptional start-up, even better
than the Solstice. It was very hard to beat the start-up of the
"It has minor changes, minor touches. Usually, on the first and the
second [ships in a class], there are a few things that we find
operationally that you are able to change with the third. The
[interior] layout is similar. The colors are nicer. The staircases
look bigger. Technically, nothing much has changed since the
Solstice. The Solstice class was successful from the beginning so
very minor things were changed, nothing extremely significant. "
Still, "we say as seaman that every ship has a different soul and
different characteristics. There is something about the Eclipse that
is better than the [other] two. It is my preference; it is personal
Designed for seakeeping
Celebrity is directing Eclipse toward the British market and so she
will be based in Southampton, England from April to October. Of
course, the weather in Britain is different than in the Caribbean and
cruises from Britain to the Canary Islands, Spain and the
Mediterranean involve transiting the notorious Bay of Biscay. .
However, Captain Skylogiannis who lives in England when not at
sea, does not see the weather as posing any problems for Eclipse.
"Supposedly, this time of the year is summer and you have nice
weather. It is not winter with very bad weather in Biscay."
Even were Eclipse to encounter bad weather, the Captain is
confident of Eclipse's ability to handle it. This confidence is based
upon his experience with Celebrity Solstice, which handles "very,
very well, extremely well."
Her ability to handle so well follows from the fact that Eclipse,
like Solstice, was designed with her seakeeping qualities foremost in
mind. "It is one of the few ships that was designed for hull
efficiency. First they designed the hull to have fuel efficiency,
speed and, of course, seaworthiness in bad weather conditions and
then they built the interior. With many cruise ships, they decide
what they want to do with the interior and then they try to shape
"That is why [Eclipse] is so hydrodynamic. We have the spoiler in
the back [so the aft section does not sink down like a speedboat]
into the water as we speed up. It floats better. [The front of the
ship is flared] and her bulbous bow is long - - all these things help to
break the waves and give you speed. We can do 24 knots with
much less power than other ships this size. It is all because of the
Along the same lines, while much of the praise that the Solstice
class ships have received has been directed at her interior hotel
design, the ships have also been engineered to provide a high
degree of safety and efficiency in ways the guests never see. For
example, they have "two engine rooms with two engines each. This
is again for durability in case something happens. We can run with
one engine room, the full ship."
Delegation and responsibility
Driving the Celebrity Eclipse is not a one man operation.
Accordingly, prior to every arrival and prior to every sailing,
Captain Skylogiannis holds a meeting with the officers who man the
bridge of the Eclipse. ."It is so everybody is going to be on the
same page. [They know] what they are going to do, the weather
conditions, the environment, where is the pier, how things are, what
speed to go. In case something is not what we said, they will know
something is wrong."
Various responsibilities are delegated to the different officers.
"For example, somebody has the communications, somebody will
have the radar, a couple will have the command controls." Indeed,
in order to give them training and experience, the Captain may
delegate the actual maneuvering of the ship to the staff captain or
one of the more senior bridge officers.
While this is in many respects a team effort, it is all done under
the captain's supervision. "If you are the captain, you are in
charge. The decision is yours. It is not the team's. It is not a
democracy. It is nice to have feedback but at the end of the day,
you have to make the decision."
A captain's responsibilities extend far beyond driving the ship.
"The captain is in charge and has the full responsibility and
authority onboard Definitely, the safety of the vessel and every
one on board is at the top of his list [but] then you have everything
else, the hotel operation, the guest satisfaction, maintenance."
Here too, a captain must rely on his subordinates. "We are part of
a team called Celebrity Eclipse. Everyone has a different field. At
the same time, they all work for the same person with the same
goal. The day-to-day operations should be dealt with by them. If
there is an issue that they cannot decide, then it comes to the
Why pick Eclipse
There are many ships sailing out of Southampton in the summer
months and even more sailing out of Miami where Eclipse will be
spending her winters. Nonetheless, Captain Skylogiannis has no
trouble explaining why people should choose Eclipse over these
other ships for their holidays. "I think because we are better than
the other vessels. Nothing is for everybody in life. There might
be a few people who do not like it but the majority though they do.
We think we are better than the rest who compete. The service is at
least four-star. We have a beautiful ship, a beautiful product, and
lovely people. It is the people who will make this product live.
Ships are beautiful but without the people who are here with a nice
smile, with a friendliness, their service - - at the end of the day, we
are in a service business - - that is what makes Celebrity Eclipse,
Solstice, Equinox and Celebrity Cruises popular and successful."
The bridge on Eclipse
Above: Eclipse's bow is narrow at the
waterline which makes it easier her to
cut through the waves. It then flares up
thereby yielding more revenue producing
Below: Eclipse has a spoiler at the
waterline aft. This keeps the aft section
of the ship from sinking down in the
water like a motor boat as the ship picks
up speed. The result is a more efficient
motion through the water.
Captain Skylogiannis addresses a
reception for past passengers.