A Conversation with
Captain Marco Fortezze of
Richard H. Wagner
Captain Marco Fortezze was born in Genoa, Italy, a city with
a long seafaring history. As a boy, he enrolled at the San
Giorgio Nautical Institute. However, in order to determine
whether he had a true passion for his chosen career, Fortezze
spent his summer vacations working as a deck boy on ships.
"I decided I loved it. I was working with the sailors,
scraping and cleaning - - lots of dirty work. I think it was
good because I learned the basics."
The next step was to become a cadet with the Italian Line,
which had a corporate history that included such legendary
ocean liners as the Michelangelo, Raphael and Andrea
Doria. While his dream was to work on passenger ships,
Fortezze was assigned to the company's cargo division, which
included primarily container ships. Once again, the work
was rigorous. "Most of the officers came from being in the
[Italian] Navy. We were very much square and disciplined."
Still, Fortezze sees the experience as having been quite
valuable. "The officers took good care of a young officer.
They taught me how to shoot a star with a sexton. At the time
there was electronic equipment [for navigation] but we were
still navigating in the old style as well just to keep up. They
wanted to make sure that we learned the right way to
In addition, the officers involved the young cadet in the actual
running of the ship. When a cargo ship is going to pick up
cargo, a plan is drawn up as to how and where the containers
will be placed in order to, amongst other things, ensure the
ship is balanced and to facilitate the efficient off loading of
the cargo. The senior officers had the younger officers study
and comment upon the plan. Then, "we were on the deck,
checking the containers and making sure that the containers
were secured as planned. We were not in an office, we were
Fortezze credits this hands-on experience with having helped
him advance rapidly through the officer ranks. In 1989, he
was able to fulfill his dream of working on passenger ships
when he was offered a position as a third officer with the
Italian cruise line Sitmar. Shortly before that, Sitmar had
been purchased by P&O Line and soon after Fortezze's
arrival, Sitmar was merged into P&O's American subsidiary,
Princess Cruises. After passing his master's license exam in
1992, Fortezze continued up the chain of command at
Princess, becoming a captain at age 40. "I don't regret the
discipline of the time because I believe it was good. It
probably helped me be at my position at a young age."
Nonetheless, Fortezze's style of command is not
authoritarian. On the bridge, he is clearly in charge.
However, he does not have to have his hands on the ship's
controls every minute. Instead, he allows his subordinates to
participate in driving the ship. "I have always allowed my
officers to put their hands on and not be afraid. I try to pass
on what I know to others."
Rather than barking orders, Fortezze watches what is going
on, interrupting only occasionally. "I never try to impose
myself. I always suggest: 'Maybe it is better to reduce speed.
Shall we do this' and a pause to let them think about it. I don't
talk much, I just observe that they do the job properly."
Driving Caribbean Princess
Captain Fortezze's experience has included driving all the
various classes of ship in the Princess fleet except the
variation on the Grand-class that was built in Japan (i.e.
Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess) and the small
R-class ships. "Each ship is a bit different. Each class of
ship acts more or less in the same way."
The majority of ships in the Princess fleet now are based on
the design first introduced with Grand Princess. Fortezze's
current command, Caribbean Princess, has one more deck
than the original Grand-class design and is sometimes
referred to as a Super-Grand class ship. "I love these ships
because it is a very maneuverable ship. It is like driving a
car. I treat my car very carefully and I treat my ship very
"These ships are like a big sailing boat," he says referring to
the fact that the tall sides of Caribbean Princess present a
huge expanse to the wind. "So, the ship acts in different ways
[depending] upon the wind, how much it is blowing, the
direction it is blowing."
The wind is a particular concern when the ship is docking or
leaving a berth. "Yes, I have been in New York a hundred
times but today I do not know what can happen. Things
happen, the wind starts to blow. I want to be always on
alert. I try to keep a very high standard every time I enter or
leave a port."
To maneuver the ship and counteract the effect of the wind,
Caribbean Princess has three 2992 horse power bow
thrusters and three 2339 horse power stern thrusters to give
her sideways thrust. Her two fixed-pitch main propellers
give fore and aft thrust and used in combination with her two
rudders also influence the ship's direction.
The ship's computer guidance system can be set to bring the
ship along side a pier. "The computer can basically adjust
the power of the engines and propellers to move the ship in
that direction. Personally, I enjoy thinking about what I have
to do rather than [relying on] the computer."
Under normal circumstances, Caribbean Princess does not
need help from tug boats to dock or undock. "If we are along
side and have 25 or 30 knots on the beam, the chances of the
ship coming off the dock are very slim to nothing. We cannot
work the thrusters at full power because at full power I do not
have any extra if I need help. If I do not have the spare
power, I call for a tug boat. Through everything, safety is
always first in what we need to keep in mind."
When at sea, the ship is usually operating under her computer
guidance system. This system uses information gathered from
the radar, the GPS and other systems in order to control the
ship's propulsion and steering. Thus, the ship's officers can
program in a course and the computer will maintain that
course making adjustments for wind and currents. Of course,
the ship's officers oversee the system at all times.
"The computer drives the ship from point A to point B. My
officer has to make sure that everything is working properly
and if we have any doubt, we immediately go to manual
One complicating factor is the weather. "The safety of the
people onboard is the most important part. So I personally
check and my officers check the weather forecast. We try to
avoid entering a storm. When unfortunately there is nothing I
can do [to avoid a storm], I adjust the speed accordingly. I
take every precaution and make the passengers aware that we
are entering bad weather."
The ship's computer guidance system also comes into play in
those situations where the ship cannot dock and must use her
tenders to ferry passengers ashore. If the ship can anchor, the
anchor will keep the bow in a fixed spot and "then the
computer will keep the ship in the same position with the
same heading, pushing the stern accordingly. We can then
operate [the tenders] safely on the [leeward] side."
In those circumstances when the ship cannot anchor, "the
computer keeps the heading plus it keeps the GPS position. It
knows where we are and that we want to hold this position
with this heading. It uses the thrusters, the main engines and
the rudders all together to keep the ship on our design."
As captain of Caribbean Princess, Fortezze is in ultimate
charge of all aspects of the ship's operation. "We are
structured as in the old days - - the captain has full
To perform this function, the captain must necessarily rely on
his three principal direct reports. "They are the front line.
The passenger services director is in full charge of the hotel
operation. The chief engineer is in full charge of the
electronic and technical part. Then I have a staff captain who
basically runs the deck department and the security
department. Of course, they are all important to me but I do
not interfere with the operations. We all share information
and we do meetings where everyone expresses their opinion.
We decide things together if there is something to decide
There is also a social aspect to the job. "My first part is to
drive the ship but at the end of the day, the contact with the
passengers onboard is very enjoyable - - our official function
like the Welcome Aboard Party, the Captain's Circle Party
and the Most Traveled Passengers Party. There are also
some groups that invite the captain. I also enjoy when I walk
around to stop and talk to any passenger I meet. It is a very
nice experience meeting people coming from so many
Cruise Ship - Caribbean Princess - Cruise Ship Feature Article -Capatin Fortezze - page 1
Captain Marco Fortezze
Captain Fortezze overseeing the bridge.
Above: Captain Fortezze at the Captain's
Below: Addressing the Welcome Aboard
Making an announcement from the
controls on the bridge wing.