Captain Kjell Nordmo has spent most of his life at seas. “I went to sea when I was 16 years old and started at the bottom of the pecking order.” After returning shoreside to complete his academic training Nordmo spent 21 years in cargo vessels. In 1992, he joined Royal Caribbean, sailing in ships such as Song of Norway, Sun Viking, Nordic Prince, Rhapsody of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas and working at the shipyards to bring ships such as Grandeur of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas into service. He took command of Legend of the Seas in 2013.
Legend is one of six ships that make up Royal Caribbean's Vision class. However, if you have seen one Vision class ship, you haven't seen them all.
As Captain Nordmo pointed out the six ships are not identical. “It is more like the tonnage is the same, the layout is different. Grandeur and Enchantment were built in Finland. The other four were built in St. Nazzare in France. Legend and Splendor are identical. Vision and Rhapsody are identical and Grandeur and Enchantment are identical except that Enchantment has been lengthened.”
“Also, we have more power on the Legend. Legend and Splendor are the fastest ships in the fleet. We have five engines and can do 25 knots. Of course, 25 knots costs a lot of money these days - - those extra two knots you really pay for that [in fuel consumption]. So that is something we only use in case of an emergency like a medical emergency.”
Usually, a class of ships is named after the first ship built in that class. However, Legend was actually the first ship built in the Vision class. She entered service in 1995 but from a mariner's perspective, Legend's age not a concern. “She could do 40 years no problem.”
“The reason why the companies often sell the older ships is that the requirements [set by] the authorities are getting more and more strict, especially on the environmental side. Of course, we need to be in compliance with all these rules and regulations at all times.” Consequently, as new regulations are promulgated, a cruise line has to weigh the cost of bringing the ship into compliance with the new regulations versus the revenue that the ship can produce. If cost outweighs the future revenue stream “the company will prefer to sell the ship. If it is worth it, then they will invest in it to be in compliance.”
Royal Caribbean continues to invest in Legend. In 2013, it spent $43 million to revitalize the ship. Most of these changes involved the hotel facilities - - the public areas and staterooms. However, there were some technical changes.
The most visible of these was the addition of a “duck tail” at the stern of the ship. This is a large platform-like structure that projects out from the stern at the waterline. “It makes the ship very much more stable in rough seas and during turning at high speeds. It is like a stabilizer.”
Being able to handle rough seas is important for Legend because the ship's itineraries take her all over the globe. “We go everywhere. Last winter, we sailed out of Singapore. Then we had Europe [the Mediterranean] and now we are here [the Caribbean] plus Panama cruises. We are going to Scandinavia. Then we are going to Quebec. This ship is a little special in that.”
The demographics of the passengers who sail on Legend change as her home port changes. However, the fact that Legend tends to do longer cruises does attract a certain type of person. “These people are basically here to relax as compared to my previous ship, for example, where we did three and four day cruises and they were there to have a good time and party.”
“A lot of the people cruising with us are Crown and Anchor [Royal Caribbean's loyalty program] members. Two thirds of the people sailing with us, which means they have been on many of the other [Royal Caribbean] ships but they come back here because it is a smaller ship and you get to know the crew better. They come back here because they get to know the people.”
Maintaining that friendly atmosphere aboard Legend is a top priority for Captain Nordmo and Legend's senior management team. “You cannot go to the crew and say 'Be friendly' and do this and do that. You need to create an atmosphere where people are afraid to disappoint me. If you do that, people will go that little extra mile.”
“I spend a lot of time with the crew and talking with the crew. They see that it comes from the top. Also, I [emphasize] when [crew members] are coming aboard the ship, especially when they are new to the ship, that this is our home away from home and they need to be friendly and create a friendly and familiar atmosphere aboard among the crew. If you manage to do that, it automatically reflects to the guests because happy crew, happy guests.”
“That is why I prefer the smaller ships. Here, we have 750 crew members and you have possibility, to get know them - - not all of them but the majority - - and to talk them.”
Cruise ship interview - - Royal Caribbean - Legend of the Seas - Captain