On the Bridge with Captain Roger Bilton

Last week, Cruise Waves experienced a voyage onboard P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer last week. While en route to Mooloolaba (Sunshine Coast) we got the opportunity to meet with Captain Roger Bilton.

Tell us your career highlights to date? Taking command of Pacific Sun which was my first captaincy. Bringing out Pacific Explorer. Originally the Dawn Princess, I was Safety officer on board her when she was originally built in the Monfalcone shipyards and completed in 1997.  APEC summit in Port Moresby Papua New Guinea last year 20018.

What’s your favourite port of call, and why? Port Vila due to the friendly and welcoming nature of the people and both the extensive and diverse range of activities that are available there.

Other than Explorer what’s your favourite P&O ship?  Pacific Aria being a smaller ship which tends to promote a club like atmosphere as to the resort type atmosphere you might experience on the larger ships. Additionally from a Captain’s point of view it is highly manoeuvrable.

What’s most challenging things you have to do? Without doubt it is the decision making processes, particularly those that are going to effect all those on board. As an example, when to abort a port due to weather conditions, how many tugs to take, when and where to make a medical disembarkation upon recommendation from the Doctor/ should a helicopter be used etc.

What’s the most rewarding thing you do in your role?  Whilst feats of seamanship in challenging conditions gives a great sense of achievement, there can no greater reward than when a guest tells me: “Thank you captain we’ve had a great cruise and your staff have been wonderful.”

Who’s the most famous passenger that’s travelled with you? Many years ago as 1st Officer I had Buzz Aldrin sail on my ship and he was doing lectures at the time. More recently, whilst not sailing, at APEC we hosted a number of heads of state on board Pacific Explorer which included President XI Jinping of China and Vice President Mike Pence.

What’s the most difficult request you have ever had? The most difficult request is probably the most frequent request which invariably is asked of me by  numerous guests at the beginning of each cruise. “Captain, please can you stop the boat from moving.”

What’s the hardest port to manoeuvrer in/out off Napier in New Zealand. It is extremely tight and there is a very narrow approach channel which can be subject to strong currents in which you first have to swing the ship before backing into the port.

If you had a choice of 3 guests for dinner at the captains table, who would they be and why?

John Cleese:  A hero of mine throughout my life who never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times you watch the re runs.

Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac: Another idol throughout my early years. Got all the albums and still listen to them but never seen the band live.

Boris Johnson: I’d like to know just how safe and secure we all really are.

For the record, over and above all the aforementioned , my wife Kathryn would take precedence for very obvious reasons. 

Why is P&O a good company to work for? P&O Australia is a comparatively small company which lends itself to a feeling of family and belonging. Over a relatively short space of time you get to know all the players and so when you transfer to a different ship there will always be people on board that you know.

Due to the small size of the fleet, there is a very close relationship on all levels with the shore side management and hence the flow of information and getting things done is much easier and in general much quicker.

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