From his no.1 tip for avoiding seasickness, to the ridiculously small joystick that controls the 110,000 tonne cruise ship he is in charge of (plus: where to get the best coffee on board), I recently got a chance to explore the Bridge (the control centre of the ship) of Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady with captain Hannu Haaponiemi, and picked his brain along the way.
Some of his insights were helpful, while others were simply mind boggling. Have at them, below.
1. Don’t hide away in your room if you feel seasick
“If you get easily seasick, and you know that, then you should take your seasickness pill straight away, look out from the window and then go to the lower decks and midship,” Captain Hannu tells me.
“I think the worst thing you can do is try to stay inside.”
“It usually helps when you see the horizon and get some fresh air… and then everyone is talking about green apples. I don’t know about the green apples because I’m allergic to apples, but they say green apples help.”
“Ginger ale also helps. I don’t get seasick really, I get a headache if it’s really rough seas but I don’t get seasick.”
2. There’s no steering wheel or rudder
As I learned during my tour of the ship’s Bridge, there is no helm or steering wheel on Resilient Lady, because there is no rudder. Instead, Resilient Lady is propelled (and directed) by an azipod propulsion system, involving multiple giant propellers which can rotate 360 degrees, pushing the ship in any direction the captain likes. Interestingly, instead of pushing water, they pull it in “like a jet engine.” There are also bow thrusters which can be used to push the ship sideways, removing the need for the help of tug boats when maneuvering in and out of ports.
3. A tiny joystick controls the cruise ship
The 17 deck, 278 metre long, 38 metre wide, 2770 passenger carrying cruise ship, believe it or not, is controlled by a joystick that looks like it’s for a toy car. This left me floored, with Captain Hannu’s third officer Costas telling me that it’s “very important” the joystick, which is no bigger than your pinky finger, and which is used when the vessel is on autopilot, is facing the right way, “or we need to know we’re on hand steering.”
This Invisible Hand is what controls the ship for the majority of the cruise, with the hand steering joystick only typically being used once the ship is three or four miles from land. When I ask if he misses the olden days of steering using a rudder Captain Hannu says “no” because he used to have to spend “hours and hours” holding the wheel.
4. The best coffee onboard is at The Grounds Club
Captain Hannu says he usually drinks the coffee that is closest to him. Which, in his case, comes from his personal coffee machine in his room up near the Bridge. However, he also rates the coffee down in the Grounds Club on Deck 7.
5. His no.1 piece of advice for enjoying the cruise? Live it up
Captain Hannu’s number one piece of advice for enjoying your cruise is to try all the restaurants, see all the shows (think: 50 Shades of Grey meets Cirque de Soleil), and talk to the crew. “We have crew members from 70 different nationalities,” Captain Hannu says, encouraging cruise goers to make the effort to have a chat with them.
Talk about building bridges…