Silversea Silver Spirit – Interview with the ship’s Captain

Despite his seafaring surname, which derives from corsaire – pirate in Italian, Captain Angelo Corsaro’s past is firmly land-based, with two generations of farmers in his ancestry. In 1993 he joined Silversea Cruises and today he is the most senior member of the fleet. He spends eight months at sea – four on and two off – and most recently captained Silver Spirit on her maiden Grand Voyage

Captain Angelo Corsaro

What first drew you to the sea?

My father was in the Navy during the war, but the reason why I chose to become a sailor was because at school there was a teacher who was an officer on cargo ships and he got to travel the world. I was fascinated by that, so I went to Merchant Marine School.

Why did you join cargo ships as opposed to passenger ships?

At that time – the mid-70s – it was very much a transition period. Cruising was not seen as a holiday as it is nowadays. Italy’s fleet was the second biggest, after the UK’s, and by the mid-70s it was reduced to just 12 ships, so obviously the competition to become an officer on one of those 12 was intense. There were hundreds of cargo and tanker ships, so it was much easier.

What are your favourite ports?

Tower Bridge, Venice, coming into the Laguna; Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, New York and San Franciso.

Do you get the chance to get off the ship and look around?

I like to go out incognito and join an excursion for two or three hours. My passion is visiting churches; I look at them from an artistic and religious point of view. I remember my first time in Rio I wanted to visit the Corvocado (crowned by the Christ the Redeemer statue). It’s quite a long way up and I overheard one of the passengers say to the guide, “We’d better not be late, we might miss the ship” – they didn’t realise the Captain was with them!

And what were the highlights from the Silver Spirit Maiden Voyage?

Carnival in Rio was amazing. It was my birthday that day, and we got to visit a School of Samba. The only sad part of that voyage was that the earthquake hit Chile during the cruise and that was on our itinerary. It was wonderful sailing down the East Coast and then up the West Coast of South America.

What’s the best part of being the Captain?

I want the crew to feel that they can talk to me. That’s important because a small problem can escalate. You can have the best ship, but if the crew can’t deliver the level of service then we’re not really doing much. And of course the guests are very important, and we have such a high repeat rate [50 per cent on all ships; 90 percent on Silver Spirit], that I know most of them now!

What’s the scariest situation you have been in at sea?

Recently, we had finished Spirit’s sea trials in the Med and we left Lisbon en route to Florida via Funchal in Madeira in a Force 10 gale. The wind was blowing at 70 knots and there was a 35-foot swell and it just made no sense to continue. I had to make the call and we diverted to the Canary Islands. There was also a time when we left St John’s, Newfoundland, en route to Cork in very foggy conditions. We received an alert that there were icebergs 35 miles north. This was exactly the route RMS Titanic took and I just felt that was too close and headed south. It’s a combination of common sense and experience.

What do you do to relax?

I enjoy backgammon and I love travelling. When I’m on holiday I try and get to places that I couldn’t on a cruise, so recently I visited Central and Eastern Europe.

Are there any countries that you haven’t visited that you would like to?

The other day I sat with my son and we took out a map of the world and we counted up all the countries I had visited. We got to 140 or 141, so there aren’t many left. Nepal is one place I haven’t visited – and I’m not going to get there on a Silversea ship!

Do you have a favourite itinerary?

I’m looking forward to the South Pacific cruise. We sail from LA to French Polynesia. From there to Peru is 11 days – the longest time we are at sea.

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Adam Coulter was a bit of a cruise novice when he took over the captaincy of Cruise International in 2010. In the past year and a half he's jumped right in, clocking up seven cruises in a year and a half plus a visit to the Panama Canal. When he's not on board a ship he likes nothing more than jumping off to do a spot of scuba diving, preferably in the warm waters of the Caribbean.