Tasos Kafetzis aspired to be like his older brother Dimitrios as a child.
“He’d say he liked to play basketball, and I’d say the same thing. He liked to draw, so I began drawing “Tasos, 44, spoke to USA TODAY. When Dimitrios left their home in Piraeus, Greece, when Tasos was nine, to begin working on cruise ships, he quickly decided he wanted to do the same.
Dimitrios, 55, began his career with Celebrity Cruises in 1990, and Tasos joined eight years later. In a first for the company, the brothers have been named co-captains of Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, Celebrity Ascent. The ship will make its first appearance in December.
How did each of you end up working on cruise ships?
Dimitrios: (Many) factors influenced this decision. The first is that our father was a ship supplier, and whenever he (was working with cruise ships), he would pick me up and drive me to the ship, where I would eat lunch at the buffet. So, as an almost 10-, 12-year-old kid from a less-than-affluent family, seeing the world of a cruise ship was like entering a magical world for me. As if it were my own Narnia. When you open the door, you enter a different world.
And then there was “The Love Boat.” So, after watching “The Love Boat,” I now have a better understanding of what goes on on a cruise ship in terms of business, not just the fun part that the guests get to see, but also how business is done in a humorous manner. So that was the end of it for me.
Tasos: I’m 11 years younger than you… I was about 9 years old when (Dimitrios) started working on cruise ships. And I didn’t like it at the time he left the house because I couldn’t see him. And there was no communication back then, only letters and postcards… Apart from the first hugs and excitement, I remember what gifts he brought me from abroad, like remote control cars or Michael Jordan jerseys and other items that were difficult to find in Greece at the time – but I also had access to his printed photographs. He had a tonne of albums, so I’d start flipping through them, seeing the world through his eyes: the Caribbean, Hawaii, listening to stories, and so on. So he put an invisible hook on me, as if to say, “OK, that’s what I want to do, too.”
Do you have a favourite location where you like to sail or where you’ve been on cruise ships?
Dimitrios: Other than the Greek islands, which I believe are the best, my favourite ports are Vancouver, Canada, and Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s fantastic.
Tasos: And for me, the Greek islands are at the top of the list, but we’re biassed. However, I agree with Honolulu and will include Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.
Do you each approach the captain role differently?
Dimitrios: When I first started, cruise ships had a very (much) military structure… and the captain was dead serious. So, when I first took over in 2004, I told myself, “I don’t have to be this military guy.” I can be fair – and that’s how I want to be remembered – and humorous, which helps us break down barriers and bring us closer together. So that was my specialty, and it was well received, particularly by the guests.
From my vantage point, I witnessed Dimitrios introducing this new style of presentation to the guests and crew, and I witnessed the positive impact. So I told myself, “OK, I’ll be myself,” because that’s what he does. What you see is exactly what you get. He’s not trying to be funny; he’s just being himself.
How did you react when you found out you’d be named co-captains?
Dimitrios: I still have goosebumps. It brought tears to our eyes the first time we heard about it. It was a very emotional thing, because in the back of your head, you always have a thought, like, (it) would it be nice. We could see the benefits and drawbacks of being on a ship together. But we kept saying to each other, coming and going, that it would be fun.
Tasos: I recall having dinner at the time. I received a (FaceTime) call from my boss in Miami, our vice president of marine operations, at around 9:30 p.m., which is unusually late after business hours. When they call you, it’s either something really good or something really bad.
You will rotate three months on and three months off. How does that work?
Dimitrios: We’ll have to find other ways to spend time together because it doesn’t always work like this. But there is a plan for us to spend some time together… and call it a captain’s cruise, where guests will sail for a week with both of us, which will be advertised and will be a good thing. And we already have some ideas for how we can perplex the guests about who is who (since we look alike).
How do you think sharing the role will go?
Dimitrios: Knowing Tasos, I can close my eyes and trust his decisions in handling the vessel or his crew and guests, and not just because he’s my brother. He has demonstrated his ability to handle a ship from an early age, and he has later become a very, very fair captain.
Tasos: Dimitrios trained me…. And as for the other decisions, the day-to-day operations, it’s in our nature to always consult with your colleagues and make the best decision possible, so we’ll continue to do so. You don’t try to figure out who’s right in a conversation. You attempt to determine what is correct. So it should work just fine. Worst case scenario, rock paper scissors.