Holland America Line's Captain Timmers shares what's 'really important' about role

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Holland America Line’s impressive new flagship enters service this summer with Captain Werner Timmers on the bridge – and he couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of cruising...

Holland America Line named Werner Timmers, a captain of nearly 40 years’ sailing experience, as master of its newest cruise ship earlier this year.

Entering service this July, Rotterdam will be the third of the line’s Pinnacle-class vessels, carrying 2,668 guests and sharing the widely acclaimed features of her sister ships, including the 270-degree surround-screen World Stage, Rudi’s Sel de Mer restaurant and the Grand Dutch Café.

Captain Timmers joined Holland America Line as an intern in 1984 and has worked on all classes of ship within the brand, most recently as master of Koningsdam.

Here he shares a glimpse of what guests can look forward to aboard the new ship – and what cruising will feel like, post-Covid.

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As captain, how will the new health and safety protocols change your job?

In the maritime world, the rules change constantly. The situation with Covid is not much different in that respect.

We will adapt and make changes as appropriate to comply with the new legislation and latest science, and we will continue to work with the Centers for Disease Control in the USA and local health authorities in Europe on our eventual return to cruise operations.

As we coordinate these efforts, our top priorities are compliance, environmental protection, and the health, safety and wellbeing of our guests, crew, shoreside employees, and the communities we visit.

What will be the best thing about returning to the sea?

I’m looking forward to welcoming our guests back on board to resume a somewhat normal schedule with the new protocols. And when I return it will be aboard the brand new Rotterdam. This ship will be state-of-the-art and we are very optimistic that we will be able to start cruising with guests right away.

"When I return it will be aboard the brand new Rotterdam."

What are the qualities that make a great cruise ship captain?

Cruise captains come in many guises, and during my early career, I looked at all my captains to try and see what I liked and disliked. When I became a captain myself I took all those good attributes and tried to live up to them.

What are those qualities?

Well, I think it’s really important that you listen to those around you, whether they are guests or team members. You must always have a plan A, B, C and sometimes even D to avoid surprises. And once you know the plan, you need to share it with the team. You also have to be patient – sometimes really patient – and lastly you should never go faster than you can stop.

And what about a great ship?

A great ship – now there is a subject that could fill many pages. All the amenities and services help, but in the end, it is the team that makes the ship work. If the different departments don’t cooperate, it doesn’t matter what you offer.

A good comparison might be with a symphony orchestra. The concert hall may be fabulous, but if the orchestra doesn’t play well together, the music isn’t going to be uplifting. On the other hand, if you have a great orchestra the music can still sound fabulous, regardless of the concert hall.

Captain Timmers joined Holland America Line as an intern in 1984.

Of all the destinations you have sailed to, which has been your favourite?

We cruise to many beautiful places, but I really enjoy the nature in Alaska, where you can see a bear walking on the beach or spot a breaching whale in the ocean. For history, I like the Mediterranean as it offers so many things to see in each port.

Where in the world would you still like to cruise to, and why?

I missed out on South America last spring so I’d like to have another try at that, and maybe include Antarctica.

What can guests look forward to on your new ship when sailings resume?

Rotterdam will spend the first season in Northern Europe, sailing out of Amsterdam. There are some really nice itineraries to Norway, Iceland and the Baltic Sea, which are all beautiful areas to sail in.

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