Interview with Captain Magnus Davidson
This interview took place on February 23, 2016 aboard the Azamara Journey by our Chief Blogging Officer, Bonnie MacLaird
Captain Magnus Davidson became Master of the Azamara Journey in late-2015. His love of the sea, travel, Destination Immersion® moments, and good food, as well as his easy manner and quick sense of humor makes him the perfect new addition to the Azamara family. Welcome Aboard, Captain Magnus!
Let's start off by learning about your childhood. Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Norfolk, on the Southeast coast of England. I lived in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth until I was 9 years old, then moved way up to the Shetland Isles, the Northernmost Islands of Scotland.
Do you consider yourself English or Scottish?
My father was born in Northern Ireland; his father was Scottish, his mother was English. He grew up in St. Ives and considered himself to be a Cornish Englishman. My mother is from Shetland. Hence the reason I just consider myself British, it encompasses the whole lot!
When did you first 'take to the sea'?
I always liked the idea of going to sea and travelling the world. I also did a little sailing up in Shetland and always had an affinity with the water. Just before I finished high school at age 16 I applied to become an apprentice officer with P&O Cruises. After a rigorous set of interviews and an Induction Cruise on the S/S Canberra, they sponsored my training for three and a half years of nautical college. After receiving my license I began as 3rd Officer with the company. I sat for my Chief Officers license in 2004 and remained with the company through the ranks of 2nd Officer and Navigator. I joined Royal Caribbean Cruise Line as First Officer in 2006 and after sitting for my Master's Licence I spent time as Chief Officer on the large Voyager Class ship's of the fleet before taking a job with Oceania Cruises as Staff Captain in 2010. I happily returned to the RCCL fleet in 2011 when I had the opportunity to be assigned to their sister company, Azamara Club Cruises. I sailed from 2011 to 2015 as Staff Captain on both Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest and was delighted to take command of the Azamara Journey in late 2015.
You've been at sea a long time now! Do you still have time for sailing?
Yes, I've been at sea since 1997. Unfortunately I don't really have the time for leisure sailing anymore but I believe my job gives me all the time out on the water that I need!
What do you do for fun, when you're not working on our ships?
I really like to travel, for fun and for work! I like to eat but I'm not a particularly talented cook. When I'm travelling I like to try all local foods, discovering the culture through their cuisine which is a great excuse to eat. I also love music and going to concerts. I play a bit of guitar at home.
Speaking of traveling and learning about cultures, do you have a favorite that you've visited so far?
I like Japan. The culture is so different but very friendly. I still remember seeing all the bikes left out in the street unsecured at night. It is an incredible idea that people in Japan can leave their bikes out unchained in the city center overnight. In most countries the bikes would not be there in the morning! That made quite an impression on me and told me a lot about the culture of the people. The food is good too and I tried out a little Karaoke there, but I can't say that I was any good. I also like Australia a lot. Sydney is a particular favourite, especially the sail in to the harbour which is spectacular. To dock the ship almost at Circular Quay next to the Sydney Opera House is an unforgettable experience.
Any place you haven't been that you want to go?
I've been lucky enough to sail all around the world but I haven't yet been to Montreal, Quebec or New England. I'd love to visit there in the fall when the leaves are changing colour.
And how do you find it, being Master of the Azamara Journey?
It's the realisation of a lifelong ambition and I'm relishing it. The Journey was the first ship I came to when I joined Azamara Club Cruises and I sailed here for a little over a year before transferring to the Quest so it feels great to be back again. The Journey feels very much like the Quest to me. We do have a lot of crew that transfer between the ships so whichever ship I'm on feels very familiar to me and I find both have a similar atmosphere.
The onboard atmosphere on the Azamara ships is highly rated as the reason many, if not most guests, return to Azamara repeatedly. How do you maintain this positive onboard atmosphere?
As has been said before, it is the friendliness of both the crew and our guests that creates the unique atmosphere. The size of the ship makes this easy. The crew look out for each other and mentor those that are new to help them settle in and become part of the team, almost like a second family really. We see each other on a daily basis. We greet each other, and are genuinely happy to see each other. As well we have a HR manager and a HR specialist onboard who continually organise activities for the crew…welfare events, functions, special dinners in the messes. This means it's not all work all the time for the crew. They feel like they're being looked after, taken care of. Everyday there's a different activity, party or special meal going on, or even meals being prepared for them by the officers.
Really! You also make meals for the crew? You already mentioned you're not much of a cook ☺
Well, yes, not always successfully. On the last contract the Executive Officers and I made waffles for the crew, sadly I believe I burnt most of those I attempted. It was a fun event though for some reason my waffle making skills haven't been called upon again since then. Maybe next time we'll stick to serving ice-cream.
How long is your contract each time with Azamara?
My contract is 10 weeks on the ship and 10 weeks off.
Where do you live when you're not on the Azamara Journey?
Edinburgh, Scotland. I live in the Leith area, where the Azamara ships dock when we call. To enter, you go through the narrow locks and then dock near the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Ocean Terminal… only a short distance from the city center. Actually my apartment is about 5 minutes walk from the dock in Leith. I remember walking off the Quest with my suitcase and five minutes later was in my apartment!
What an easy commute!
Yes, an easy commute. But it is actually the second easiest commute after my commute here onboard ship, where it's only a matter of steps from my cabin to the door of the bridge.
How do you like living in Edinburgh?
I love it. We have the most Michelin starred restaurants in the UK outside of London…not that I've eaten in many of them! Leith itself is quite a hub for good food in Scotland…which some people may be surprised to find does exist in the nation... it's not all Haggis and Cullen Skink! Edinburgh itself is a beautiful city with so much historic architecture and a very cosmopolitan feel. We have the Edinburgh Festival each August which is the largest arts festival in the world.
What do you do in your free time when you are home on vacation? Do you travel on your own?
My first inclination is to go home and spend time relaxing there. It can be nice to spend some time in one place for a change. I have family and friends in Edinburgh. When I was younger it was a place I visited with my parents; we'd always visit in August when the Festival was on. Also I studied at Glasgow Nautical College so I would often make trips across to Edinburgh which is only about an hour away by train. I often visit Shetland and family up there too.
The Croatian Coast is a favourite of mine as well. My girlfriend is Croatian and we've explored quite a bit of the country together. Dubrovnik is of course a real gem on the Adriatic Coast. You know some of the TV show 'Game of Thrones' was filmed there and the next 'Star Wars' film too, it's such a unique place. Split is less crowded that Dubrovnik but no less beautiful. Another interesting port is Opatija. I've been there by land so arriving next time by ship will be fun for me. It has a beautiful coastal setting and a nice seafront promenade for strolling along or for sitting with a coffee and watching the world pass by.
So on your next contract you'll be in the Mediterranean?
I'll join the ship in Venice in July and I sign off in Venice in September 2016. Round trip Venice! Hopefully I won't keep the taxi waiting!
You host many events onboard, such as last night's Best of the Best dinner for the top suite guests.
That's one thing I really like about Azamara. I find such interesting and well-travelled people onboard. We share our love of travelling and Destination Immersion® experiences, getting to know other cultures and the excitement of seeing new places. We have a lot of repeat guests as well. It's always nice to see guests returning to us. This adds to the family feel onboard. As I said before, it's not just the crew, it's having the crew and the guests together that creates the family atmosphere.
On this voyage everyone says how personable you are, and how often they've seen you around the ship.
That's nice to hear. I enjoy walking around the ship and chatting with our guests. It's a smaller ship compared to some of the huge vessels that are around these days so this makes it easy to get to know people over the course of a cruise. It is not a requirement but I believe on our ships all of our officers naturally enjoy interacting with the guests. For me, that's the reason why I work on a cruise ship instead of a cargo ship. By chatting with our guests it gives me a good feel as to how the cruise is going and whether there are any issues that we can take care of. I like to greet guests sometimes at the gangway when they return from shore to see what they thought about the port, or by the exit from the lounge to see if they enjoyed the show. I also enjoy having a coffee with guests in the Mosaic Café, and of course hosting tables from time to time. It's not just me that likes to be social, many of our officers and crew become well known to the guests over the course of the cruise.
I've heard there are 152 back-to-back guests onboard this cruise. That's a real testament of loyalty.
Yes, we get a lot of back-to-back guests. One of the best things about our itineraries is that they don't repeat themselves sequentially. Many people decide to stay on for another cruise whilst they are onboard. If there's room on the next cruise we are happy to accommodate them! It's a good reflection that they are enjoying themselves.
And they all call you Captain Magnus. That is standard at Azamara Club Cruises?
Yes, everyone onboard calls me Captain Magnus. I like this tradition at Azamara. Formality exists but not in an overly stiff sense onboard.
Tell me about your name Magnus. It doesn't strike me as English or Scottish.
Much of my family background is from the Shetland Isles which historically used to belong to Norway. The name Magnus is a typically Scandinavian name that is found quite frequently up in Shetland. Place names, and even our own dialect, include a noticeable Norwegian influence. But a funny thing…when I joined Royal Caribbean I was possibly the only British officer at the time. I often joke that I only got the job because they thought they were hiring a Norwegian! When I got onboard the Captain and Staff Captain spoke to me in Norwegian and when they realised I couldn't speak Norwegian, they were somewhat surprised. So yes, you're not the only one confused by my name.
One final question, when do we get to see you in a kilt? (Sorry, I have to ask this!)
Ha, you and our Cruise Director Eric De Gray…he's always telling the guests that he has to iron my kilt! He gets people's hopes up that I'm going to appear on stage some evening in it. The truth is, I don't have one. The day I discover that there's an Azamara blue tartan, I promise to wear it in a kilt onboard. Not likely... but stranger tartans have been found in the souvenir shops on Edinburgh's Royal Mile so you never know...