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PRINCESS CRUISES
CARIBBEAN
PRINCESS
Leadership, Delegation and Responsibility

An interview with Captain Attilio Guerrini of Caribbean
Princess about the role of a cruise ship captain.

By

Richard H. Wagner
Captain Attilio Guerrini
Born in Tuscany in Italy, Captain Attilio Guerrini
“always liked to travel” but when he was a young
boy, his goal was to be an airplane pilot.  
However, no opportunities to learn that
profession emerged so, as a teenager, he tried
working in a fishing boat. “I didn’t think it was
the life for me and so I went back to school” at
the Istituto Nautico in Livorno, Italy.
After two years as an officer in the Italian Navy,
in 1968 Captain Guerrini shifted to the civilian
merchant marine working on cargo ships.  In
1981, he went to work for Sitmar Cruises as an
officer on one of its passenger ships.  Six years
later, Sitmar was acquired by P&O, which at the
time was the parent company of Princess
Cruises.  P&O merged most of Sitmar’s assets
into Princess.

As a result, Captain Guerrini’s career has         
included commanding several Princess ships
including Fair (originally Cunard’s Carinthia),
Star, Crown (I), Regal, Dawn, Sea, and Sapphire
Princess as well as the name ship of Princess
affiliate Ocean Village Cruises.         

Today, Captain Guerrini is the master of the
Caribbean Princess, a 113,000 gross ton mega-
cruise ship of the Grand-Princess class.  “The
captain is the leader but nowadays, he is not the
leader as in I do what I please.”
Instead, the captain sits atop a sophisticated
business organization with the three senior
department heads reporting to him: The
Passenger Services Director who is in charge of
the hotel operation; the Chief Engineer, who is in
charge of the engines and other technology on
the ship; and the Staff Captain, who is
responsible for navigation and the ship’s Deck
Department. “The Staff Captain has another job
because if I drop dead, he is supposed to do my
job,” Captain Guerrini chuckled.

The Captain does not attempt to micro-manage
his senior officers.  “I do not run the hotel
department. [The Passenger Services Director]
does his job and I am happy.  I am here, if there
is something.  I am available 24 hours a day.”

“I like to know what happens onboard.  
Sometimes [an officer] comes to me about a
problem to discuss it and to propose a solution
and I have had to tell them I think you ought to
look back at this because I don’t think it
happened exactly like that because I know this,
this and that.  When they return, they say you
were right, how did you know?   People talk.  
People come and tell me things and when I go
around the ship they come and tell me things.”
In addition, “as you move up through the ranks,
what you learn is to make sure that you do not
make mistakes - - [you learn how to] use
common sense, use experience. You become sort
of a mentor for the rest of the crew.”

“What I have come to enjoy is helping these
young kids.  I call them kids but they are men
coming up, getting their experience.  I see a lot of
young people who are better than I think we were
at that time.  I enjoy doing this and I think the
people appreciate it.    You can do something
more often than not by just talking to them
[about] the problem or what they think is a
problem.”

“Another thing that I enjoy is to bring people
together.  I like to facilitate.  Knowing this,
knowing that, you get in the middle.  It is
something I enjoy.”

While Captain Guerrini enjoys helping others,
with modern communications technology he is
able to call upon Princess’ home office and
government agencies such as the Weather
Bureau and the Coast Guard for information and
advice.  “You always need help and I welcome
the fact that we have the telephone and you can
talk, we have the computer, you can ask for help
and share with others and that is very good.”
Still, “there is responsibility that comes with the
job.  There are times when you have to make a
decision when there is no time to call or  when
you call and they say do ‘the best you can’  That
is when the experience, the judgment comes in.”
“The most important part of the job is to make
sure that the ship’s operation is done in a safe
manner - - that is the main job.  The top priority
is the safety of the ship.  You are here for that.  
The final responsibility is yours.  You have other
officers to do the things to do the job but the final
responsibility is yours.  You can delegate the job
but not the responsibility.  So, you are responsible
for the safe conduction of the expedition.”

Another part of the job is public relations -  -
being the public face of the ship.  “It is probably
a folkloric thing - - the captain is a [celebrity to
his passengers].  I can put on my civilian clothes
and go for a walk on the pier and passengers still
come up and say ‘Hi. Captain.’  I like to deal
with people.  The only thing is [it is difficult] to
be personal on a ship when every 10 days it is
another 3,000 people. Most of the time, [personal
interaction] happens during the day on the pier or
on the decks.”  

Some passengers want to meet the captain not for
social purposes but because he is the head of the
ship.  “We have mostly a good response, a good
feeling [on Caribbean Princess].  The great
majority of the people are quite happy.”  

However, “sometimes they have a problem, and
say: ‘I want to speak with the captain!’ If they
really want, I always say: 'By all means, we’ll sit
down and talk.”

The Captain is also at the head of more than
1,100 crew members.  “We have more than 40
different nationalities [in the crew] and I enjoy
the different cultures, the different people.”  

When a new crew member comes on board,
sometimes he or she is “a little bit suspicious or
some people have it in their mind that [people of
other nationalities are] going to be completely
different.  But, honestly, we don’t have a  
problem with that.  At the end of the day, all the
people want to do their jobs, want to progress,
want to send the money home so the problem is
not a problem.  It is all the same - - it doesn’t
matter where you come from or who you are.  
You are looking at doing the job the best you can,
get some money, send it home, go on vacation.  
Once you aim for the same thing even if you are
different, you end up doing the same thing.”
Above:  The Captain checks the ship's
course on an electronic chart.

Below:  The Captain speaking at a
Welcome Aboard reception.
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