Let’s have a talk with Raffaele Iaccarino, the youngest Captain in MSC Cruises and the first to have docked in Cuba during the inaugural season of MSC Opera.
You are one of the youngest captains of MSC’s crew. What does it mean for you and what led you to choose to work on board cruise ships?
It was a family tradition to take me onboard cruise ships. My father did this job, he was a captain. Moreover I live in a country where 90% of the population works in close contact with the sea. Finally because working with MSC, particularly in Sorrento, has always been the simpler, most natural thing to do.
What are your responsibilities?
They are overall responsibilities: legal, civil and economic ones mainly. Economic towards the ship owner, in order to make the voyage safe and economical. Civil, as we have to take care of passengers but also meaning we ought to show civilized responsibility, for example by verifying a birth, a death or a wedding.
What is your day like?
I wake up very early, as I’m used to. My father has always told me that the early bird catches the worm. I try to spend most of the day among the people, the crew, trying to understand the moods and problems. Then there’s the paperwork, navigation and sfety on board. There is a number of things that eventually become the norm.
Besides the current command of MSC Opera, Which ships of the fleet have you worked on? What is your favourite?
As Captain I worked on Lirica, Armonia, Poesia, Musica and Opera. Let’s say I don’t have a favourite ship. The ship for a person who works “at sea” is his home and there aren’t favourite homes. instead, we can shape it according to the atmosphere and mood that we perceive, to make it more welcoming.
You were one of the first captains to dock in Havana with a large cruise ship as MSC was the first among most important company to offer cruise departures from Cuba. Tell us about this experience…
MSC Opera is the largest cruise ship ever to have docked in Havana with its 275 meters length. Cuba is a very charming place and we have clearly felt this atmosphere during the first call. Cubans are really welcoming, due to the Latin blood running through their veins. Quite careful people, but when you get to know them, they become extremely pleasant. We had a good time and we were able to establish a good relationship. At first we were looking for a relationship with them, but now it is them who want to settle this relationship. For what concerns me, it sometimes happens that I am at home and they send me messages asking when I’m going to come back. It must be said that we had the chance to learn from MSC something really special. It has the peculiarity of transmitting a sense of humanity, we are always ready to help others and perhaps it was this attitude that won Cubans over. I think they reckoned the difference between MSC warmth and other companies docking in Cuba. Our doors are always open.
As other record you were the Captain of MSC Armonia during maiden season after the Renaissance Programme. Have you already led ships of the same class before the stretching? What differences have you found?
Yes, I have some records, actually. I was the first to open the Ireland’s line, calling for the first in Dublin with MSC Lirica. I was also the first to sail around the Canary Islands with MSC Armonia. The difference between the ship before and after Renaissance is no doubt that now the ship is more confortable offering more services and places on board. Then, above all, significant investments in security have been made. Today this class of ships have a unique system, the “fire mitigation”. In case of fire in the engine room these ships are able to preserve the propulsion and electrical zones, thanks to a modification that has completely divided the engine room. Therefore in case of fire we are able to isolate the zones and the ship can return safely to the port.
What are the most difficult ports to berth in? What is your favorite?
A love story between the Havana harbor and me was born last year. I love the entrance to the canal, the atmosphere, people a lot closer to our culture.
Can you tell us the strangest thing that a guest asked you?
I cannot call them strange, I would say different from the others. There are questions asked by those not of this world, for example questions like: ‘on which side of the ship can I see dolphins?”. Recently a lady intent on taking a photo stopped me while I was walking in the evening on deck 12, during the transatlantic crossing from Europe, and asked me to slow down the speed of the ship because her daughter wasn’t here and wanted a picture of her before the Sun went down.
What do you think of Meraviglia and Seaside, the newbuilds of the Company?
From what I saw they are beautiful ships, with great innovations. I think the future of the cruise industry is there. Mr. Aponte has a peculiar sense of observation and with Vago and Onorato he can predict what the future will be. I saw these ships from renderings and they have great technical characteristics, which are our primary concern in order to make them comfortable for passengers. I’m sure that they will be unique.
According to you, why do those who love cruising have to choose MSC?
I can answer like my brotheir would do, by asking a question in return: why should not a passenger choose MSC nowadays? It is indeed a difficult question. I can say that people choose this Company because it has a 360 degrees care of its guests, not only day by day, in their cabins or remembering their names. We are talking about an important effort with catering, food, and a range of services that are also offered by other companies but with a different quality. Today we have passengers from all the competing companies that are fascinated by MSC which in recent years has become an important reality. I remember when I was in Brazil in 1998 with Rhapsody and the company in that area was “nobody”. Today we are leader in the Brazilian market. It’s hard to find something that can justify not traveling with MSC.