By Published On: 31 Dec 2015

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Carl Smith is captain of the Azamara Quest. He looks young, almost too young to have been at sea for 26 years. The Captain hails from the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. He started out on cargo freighters and joined Azamara 8 years ago for what must have seemed a dream job to a man who confesses to being passionate about natural beauty and a good challenge.

We caught up with Captain Carl on the bridge of the 180m / 600ft long Azamara Quest in the Gulf of Carpentaria on its maiden voyage to Australia. The 2016 itineraries in Australia and New Zealand have sold out. “There is a lot of interest”, said Captain Carl. “We’ve always had incredible itineraries, but the one part that was missing was Australia. When you throw in an entire continent its not surprising it sold out very quickly.”

The Azamara Quest will remain down under until February 2016. Its sister ship, the Journey, will visit Australia in 2017 and as we’ve previously reported, Azamara have announced Australia/New Zealand itineraries for 2018 on both the Journey and the Quest.

What’s it like being captain of the Azamara Quest?

But what is it like being the captain of the Azamara Quest? Captain Carl tells us, somewhat understatedly, that he likes it. “My crew are phenomenal and the itineraries keep me interested and mentally challenged.” His biggest day-to-day challenge is manoeuvring the ship in and out of harbours. It’s the wind, he explains. “Every balcony fills up with wind just like a sail on a yacht and that presents a serious challenge when you’re performing a manoeuvre with 30,000 tones of steel moving toward a quay in 30 knots of wind.” There’s no room for error, “It’s all about being at the right angel, the right speed and mathematics and physics.”

Captain Carl has visited so many destinations that he’s probably forgotten more than most of use can remember. When we asked about his favourites he says it depends on the time of year. “I love Norway, but you wouldn’t want to be there in January! I’ve done that on cargo ships and it’s not fun.” In the Mediterranean Captain Carl’s favourite port is Kotor in Montinegro – known as Europe’s southerly fjord for the breathtaking shear mountain faces that rise from the narrow waterway. “It’s stunning and on every cruise I go up to the top of St. John’s fortress – it’s just a beautiful place”, says Carl.

If it’s not natural beauty, the captain of the Azamara Quest revels in extraordinary challenges and sailing the ship up the river to Seville in Spain is among the hardest of all. “It’s 50 miles inland up the Guadalquivir river. That is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”

“Being away from the family is tough”

Life at sea can be more than just a challenge though, being away from family presents its own difficulties especially when you are the father of three children as Captain Carl is. These days he spends three months on and three months off the Azamara Quest. “Being away from the family is tough, there’s no two ways around that”, he admits. However technology has made a big difference. “Now we’ve got Skye and Facebook and I get to see photographs and videos of the kids. That is lovely and certainly very different from when I started.”

On occasion Carl’s wife and children join him onboard, as they have on this Australian voyage which throws up its’ own challenges too. For instance on this occasion the family will be at sea for 5 weeks and with the oldest children now of school age Carl and his wife have had to make sure the kids can be home schooled – at sea.

The Captain’s children are a delight and have endeared themselves to many of the guests onboard, however Carl is quick to point out that we only get to see the good side. “The guests don’t see them being naughty”, he jokes. “Kids will be kids, especially when you don’t want them to be!”

Captain Carl would seemingly have the perfect life. A great family, excitement, challenges and visits to exotic destinations. So when we asked what he might do if he wasn’t a sea captain his response came as a surprise. “I’d be a farmer!” he said without hesitation. “I started life as a farmer and now my wife and I have bought a small holding in the Czech Republic with chickens and sheep, so I’ll end my life as a farmer as well.”

But something tells us this genial sea captain won’t be exchanging the Azamara Quest for a farm tracker any time soon!

Image: Courtesy Azamara Cruises.

About the Author: Jason Kerr

Jason is the founder and Managing Editor of The Luxury Cruise Review. He has a passion for travel, a weakness for espresso coffee and a love of Greek cuisine.

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