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Celebrity Cruises—My Interview with Captain Kafetzis

Parallel parking a cruise ship weighing 122,400 gross registered tons, measuring three football fields in length, and soaring 183 feet above the waterline, is no easy task. Captain Dimitris Kafetzis, who has worked on cruise ships for most of his career, has plenty of experience maneuvering giant ships like his present vessel, Celebrity Silhouette, into port. “‘Parallel parking’ is what we call ‘docking the vessel alongside,’” he explained. “We also use ‘Mediterranean mooring’, which is like backing up a huge truck to a platform.”

Married with two daughters, Captain Kafetzis, who—in addition to Greek, his native language—speaks English (required of all crew) and Spanish, was drawn to shipping from an early age. Born and raised in the port of Piraeus, Greece, where his father worked in the shipping industry, the young boy watched ships entering the port and imagined himself traveling the world. His dream realized, he now travels with 2,900 guests and 1,230 crew members, and has many stories to share. (And so does his brother, who recently completed his first contract as Master of Celebrity Constellation!)

“Once, when I was the captain on Celebrity Century, we were dispatched with the local coast guard and three other ships on a rescue mission,” said Captain Kafetzis. “A sailboat was sinking off the coast of Poland with four people on board and two in the water. Our efforts were successful, and we were free to continue our voyage.”  

“Another time, on one of the Celebrity Infinity South American Cruises, we faced winds up to fifty-eight knots and waves up to eleven meters (thirty-four feet) high. The vessel rolled seven to eight degrees on each side. We had broken glass and china in the dining room and gift shops, but thankfully no injuries.”

Such a leadership role on board a cruise ship is very unique: The captains have various social responsibilities, follow daily timetables for docking into ports of call, and often navigate massive oceangoing vessels into small ports that haven’t changed for centuries. “I served in the Hellenic Navy, the naval force of Greece, for two years as a Staff Captain on a minesweeper from 1992 to 1994. And since completing my active duty, I have served my entire career on cruise ships, and more specifically, with Celebrity Cruises.” 

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Captains develop a special bond with their ships. Having always loved traveling, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people, Captain Kafetzis sees this bond like a human relationship. “Sometimes you feel like talking to the ship. Since I was the captain who launched Celebrity Silhouette and took part in her life and safety, I personally feel it is like a father-daughter bond...”  

I asked about the responsibilities of the captain onboard the ship and Captain Kafetzis explained: “The captain is responsible for vessel compliance with local and international laws, with company policies, safe navigation, seaworthiness, the safety of all souls on board, and the vessel herself.” In other words, Captains are the highest authority onboard; they are like the CEO of a corporation or the mayor of a small city.

Among the many roles performed by a captain, officiating nuptials in international waters is one of the most endearing, and although many guests believe that wedding ceremonies at sea are common events, in reality, they are very rare.

The captain also promotes tradition onboard his ship. One of these traditions is hosting the captain’s table in the main restaurant, along with the staff captain, the chief engineer, and the hotel director. Those invited to his table are Celebrity’s most loyal guests (known as Captain’s Club members), VIPs, and distinguished guests. Another tradition commemorates the guests’ first crossing of the Equator with a seafarer’s ritual: Historically, it used to be a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates could handle long, rough times at sea. Today, the guests follow this age-old custom by kissing a raw fish and jumping into the pool fully clothed (the fish, of course, remains poolside!).

But the captain’s time is not only devoted to his ship and guests; he also takes the time to engage with his team in a variety of activities. According to Celebrity Cruises, a shipboard career is for those professionals who, like Captain Kafetzis, enjoy a diverse, multicultural environment, vibrant, fast-paced, and guest-focused. If you wish to explore your full potential—and some splendid and glamorous places—while helping vacationers from around the world relax and enjoy a luxury holiday, a job onboard a Celebrity Cruises ship may be perfect for you.

Onboard employees receive their schedule a week in advance for both working and resting hours. “We have two fully equipped gyms, one for the guests, and one for the staff,” explained Captain Kafetzis. “The crew has public-space privileges and plenty of programs in which to engage.”

Celebrity Cruises is always looking for skilled, top-quality candidates to join its team. As an industry leader in service and innovation, Celebrity provides employees with superb opportunities to grow and excel. (Fortunately, few positions demand the exceptional parking skills of Captain Kafetzis.)

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