PHOTO COURTESY OF MINGTA YUEN/SEAPICS.COM|
Mingta Yuen, first officer for cruise ship Pride of America, recently spent eight weeks aboard the Norwegian Sun, traveling among the glaciers in southeast Alaska to places including Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
Sacrificing time off
for Project America
I understand that you were the first officer to be hired for Norwegian Cruise Line's new U.S.-flagged ship that is coming to Hawaii. Your rank also will be 1st officer. What does that entail?
>> Position: First officer for Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America
>> Previous posts: First officer of M.V. Norwegian Wind and M.V. Norwegian Sun; 3rd officer of C.S. Tyco Dependable; 2nd officer of M.S. Patriot; 3rd officer of S.S. Independence
I'm responsible for the safe navigation of the ship. I'm the navigational officer. So I'm responsible for putting all the voyage plans together for the different ports the ship will hit. I watch out for the traffic at sea and basically guide the ship through the waters. We rely very heavily on electronic navigation, but we still use celestial navigation to back up our electronics. As far as I know, I was the first American officer to be hired for this project.
How long have you been with Norwegian?
I just started last July with Norwegian. Before that, I was with Tyco Dependable, which is owned by Transoceanic Cable Ship Co. Tyco Dependable replaced the Long Lines at Sand Island at the beginning of this year. Before that, I was with United States Lines (M.S. Patriot) and American Hawaii Cruises (S.S. Independence). Both were jointly owned by American Classic Voyages.
Tell me about Norwegian's new ship, which the company purchased after American Classic Voyages filed for bankruptcy with the ship only partially finished?
The Pride of America was pretty much built in Pascagoula, Miss., as part of Project America, but was towed over to Germany for some finishing touches and she was also extended there to accommodate more passengers and crew. The other ship (that also was scheduled to be built in Mississippi) was bits and pieces lying around the yard and also was brought to Germany. I don't know what they're doing with that one. The Pride of America will be brought to Hawaii for the same run we had with American Classic Voyages -- the interisland run. It will be here year-round. I'm supposed to go to the Pride of America on Nov. 3 (to help prepare the ship for use). That's a very short break because I was just at sea for 11 weeks on two other Norwegian ships and got off Oct. 11 in Miami. Normally, we have longer time off. But the shorter time off is necessary for Project America to get on its way. We all have to sacrifice.
When will her maiden voyage be here?
She's supposed to get out of the yard in Bremerhaven, Germany, on April 27. She'll be hitting lots of ports and doing promos before she arrives in Hawaii. She'll hit the entire Eastern seaboard, then go through Mexico, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. She'll end up on the Western seaboard before arriving in Hilo on July 2. She'll begin her Hawaiian run from Honolulu on July 4, Independence Day. The regular run will consist of Honolulu; Nawiliwili, Kauai; Kahului, Maui; and Hilo and Kona on the Big Island.
How many Norwegian cruise ships will there be in Hawaii?
Right now, the Norwegian Star is permanently based and the Norwegian Wind is here only part of the year. Both are foreign flagged. The Pride of America will be U.S. flagged, which means she has to carry a U.S. crew. We also have another one coming out -- the Pride of Aloha. The plan is to bring her out in October 2004 and she'll be U.S. flagged as well. She's currently the Norwegian Sky, but will be reflagged and will be here full time. The Norwegian Star will be repositioned once the U.S. ships are brought in. Right now, the Star is doing the Fanning Island trip, which has become popular with a lot of people. That's why we have the Norwegian Wind here and why she'll continue to do Fanning Island.
How long are you normally on the ships during a rotation?
A normal rotation is you have the same amount of time on that you have off. I was just on board for 11 weeks and on two different ships. The first eight weeks I was on the Norwegian Sun, which traveled the Inside Passage in southeast Alaska, going to places like Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. It's very scenic. They have a lot of glaciers there and passengers go on these ships to see all that. Most of the cruise ships in the world do this in the summer time. The second ship was the Norwegian Wind. I was sent on that one for the repositioning because the summer season has ended and the ship needed to be brought back to the East Coast to go on the Caribbean run. The repositioning was a three-week cruise starting in Vancouver, British Columbia; then going to Astoria, Ore.; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Acapulco, Mexico; through the Panama Canal; Colon, a port just outside of the Panama Canal; San Blas, which is still part of Panama; then Cartagena, which is part of Colombia; and from there direct to Miami via the Windward Passage.
Do you get off the ships much during the cruises?
When you sign on and do your rotation, even in port, we work around the clock and have shifts. If you have time off, you try to go ashore but you don't go that often. When you're off, you often spend time relaxing. Sometimes, the shore time doesn't necessarily coincide with your time off.
How does your job affect your family life?
I'm married with one 5-year-old daughter, Kaili. My wife, Susan, is used to me being away because I've been doing it for 20 years -- not that we've been married for 20 years, but she has known me that long. We went to the same school -- State University of New York and Maritime College in Fort Schuyler, Bronx, N.Y. She also sailed herself. She was a 2nd officer for Mobil tankers.
What do you think about your lifestyle and your newest assignment?
I'm pretty excited about it. I think it's a great thing for the Hawaii islands. I think it's great for the people because it creates many jobs. I'm from Kona and there are jobs out there, and they're hiring local people. It's good for the economy on all the islands we're going to hit. It will be a wonderful thing. It's certainly exciting. It's also historic because this will be the first U.S. passenger liner since the Independence, which was built in the '50s. This is a good thing for the U.S. merchant mariners.
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