When people talk about Royal Caribbean captains, inevitably the name Captain Johnny comes up. Guests who have sailed with him often have personal stories about him. Almost everyone points out that he is the captain who has a Harley motorcycle aboard ship. In short, he has become a cruising legend.
Captain Johnny Faevelen goes back a long way with Royal Caribbean. “I have been with the company for 38 years starting with the Song of Norway in December 1975. I started as a young ordinary seaman from Norway. It has been a fantastic company to work for. I have seen how it has grown from three small ships to this huge company with the biggest cruise ships afloat. It has been fun being a part of the ride. Seeing the company develop has been an absolutely fantastic ride.”
Of course, Captain Johnny has not just been along for the ride. His accomplishments include being the captain who brought all five Voyager-class ships into service. Now, he has command Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world.
A prestigious ship
Allure was the second ship built in the Oasis class. Usually, the first ship in a class receives all of the attention and with the massive attention paid to Oasis of the Seas when she entered service, it seemed likely that Allure would meet the same fate. “Ironically, the Allure got more coverage than the Oasis. We were covered in all types of media and all positive. We were built on what the Oasis had done but we have beaten them all the way along. And the premium price for a stateroom on the Allure has stayed higher than on the Oasis year over year. The demand for the Allure has been more than the Oasis.”
Part of the reason for Allure's success can be traced back to the fact that when she was measured by the shipyard, she was found to be a few inches longer than Oasis. The fact that Allure was the largest cruise ship was used to foster a sense of pride and spirit in the officers and crew. “Captain Zini was excellent driving that and making that well known. Those two inches might not be a heck of a lot and nobody knows where they really are but they are there. It is a positive thing. It doesn't mean anything to anybody but it is a positive thing.”
Captain Johnny believes that crew morale is key to continued success. “It is a lot of work on this ship. It takes longer time to get from one place to the other. More people, more potential for things good and bad.”
“For us on the management team, it is extremely important that the crew have a place to go, someone to talk to when need be and that we can take care of them and make sure that they are treated with respect. That pays off very well. It is all about consistency and giving them the tools to do a good job and have fun doing it. Having a happy crew is very important for us. ”
This philosophy is yielding results. “People are not asking for transfers. They don't want to go anywhere. They perform well.”
And the crew's positive spirit raises the guests' cruise experience to a higher level. Based upon feedback from the guests: “People are thrilled to be here. [They say that] the ship is magnificent, the hardware is outstanding, there is nothing like it out there but mostly it is the crew.”
An unusual captain
For Captain Johnny, being visible and approachable is another significant part of the job of being captain. “Having almost 20 years experience as a captain, [I've seen] how much the guests appreciate seeing the captain, having time to stop and chat with them, take a picture with them. It is very important for the guest's experience.”
Accordingly, Captain Johnny makes it a point to get out among the guests when time allows. “It is very easy to get hooked up in the computer and in work because there is a lot of work. So I do it on my leisure time. I enjoy doing it, it is a fun part of the job.”
Quite a few captains walk around the public areas of their ships. However, Captain Johnny likes to take his encounters with the guests out of the ordinary. “I have a motorcycle and a scooter aboard. I have a parrot in my cabin. I have a lot of unexpected things. It is a part of our philosophy from the company - - doing the unexpected, that surprise moment.”
Consequently, guests may encounter him walking with a parrot on his shoulder down the Royal Promenade or with his motorcycle in a port of call. “I have had motorcycles my entire life. It is a part of me. Sometimes I just park the Harley down on the pier and stay there for an hour. People can come up and take a picture with me. They use their own cameras and that is much appreciated. You see that in the comments from the guests.”
When he assumed command of Allure of the Seas, Captain Johnny saw that technology could help increase the captain's visibility. “The ship is so big, I could walk around the Royal Promenade and the outer decks and the guests didn't know who I was. [At the same time], we were getting a lot of adverse comments [at the end of the cruise] that 'we never saw the captain.' So I came up with this idea that I [should] be on the TV.”
The initial idea was to make a short daily program similar in content to the noon time announcements made by captains on other cruise ships. However, this blossomed into creating a nautical channel on the in-cabin television system that also showed other related content.
“I made this little half hour film about a day in my life because a lot of guests are very interested. What does it take to be captain? Then there is this [film] taking them around the bridge and showing them who is actually steering. That is a question that I often get from the kids and their parents - - 'I thought you were up there steering the ship.' They look at this channel and I educate people in a way.”
In addition, guests now recognize the captain when they encounter him on the ship or on the pier. “It is like you walk down Broadway in New York and all of a sudden you see a famous person, a musician or an athlete, and it is 'wow he is out there.' Its the same here.”
Other than receptions and similar events, Captain Johnny's personal appearances are not announced in the ship's daily program. In part, this is due to the fact that he can only do them when his other duties permit. Moreover, “it is those surprise moments that make it memorable for the guests.”
Cruise ship interview - - Royal Caribbean - - Allure of the Seas - - Captain Johnny Faevelen