Meet Ben Lyons, QM2's Chief Officer

| July 11, 2008

We interviewed Ben Lyons, at 29 years old and a U.S. citizen, one of youngest chief officers ever hired by Cunard.

Many people dream of working on a cruise ship: You travel constantly, and everything is taken care of for you -- you don't have to pay rent or utilities, or spend money on meals or medical care including health insurance and dentistry.

One person who lives this life is someone many avid cruisers and Internet users may know by name: Ben Lyons, who has loved cruise ships since he was a child and now he works on one. At the tender age of 29, Ben is currently the Chief Officer aboard Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2.

Long-time CruiseMates readers might remember that he has written many articles for us and for other cruise publications both online and off. Ben started writing about cruising when he was still a teenager, and his obsession with ships started long before that.
Ben Lyons - American Cunard Chief Officer   Ben Gives a Lecture on Ship Design   Ben's Marquis

Ben is now the Chief Officer aboard the Cunard liner Queen Mary 2. That puts him third in command, after the captain and the staff captain -- quite an achievement for someone who's only 29 and an American, born and raised in New York City. An American officer is rare on any cruise ship.

Ben's love for ships started at a young age, and he got to know them intimately by going to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, N.Y. I recently interviewed Ben during a trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2.

Q: Ben, how did your love of cruising begin?

A: It actually started when I was just 5 years old. Every time I was on the Upper West Side and had a chance to see the Queen Elizabeth 2 (the Cunard Ocean liner built in 1969 and just recently retired in May 2008) I was enthralled. I soon became obsessed with the ship and wanted to learn everything I could about her. Finally, when I was in high school I met Ted Scull, a well-known ship historian and founding member of the New York Maritime Society. (Ted Scull, who has also written many articles for CruiseMates was working as a guest speaker on our Queen Mary Voyage.) Ted became my mentor, and soon he was inviting me to travel on cruise ships with him as he went on writing assignments. It was because of Ted that I got my first cruise writing assignment, an article for Porthole Magazine about Regency Cruises.

Q: So as Ted got you onboard many different ships, you soon decided that you wanted to work on a ship full-time. What was the next step?

A: My interest was truly about ships of all kinds. I was aware of cruise ships, but they weren't the only kinds of ships that fascinated me. I was obsessed with maritime theory and the way ships work. So I decided I wanted to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, N.Y. To get in, one needs to be nominated by a United States congressman or someone of similar status.

Q: So how did you swing it?

A: I was 17 and had graduated high school. I approached a Representative from the state of Maryland with my grades and some letters of referral; he nominated me and I was accepted.

Chart Shows Ranks - Ben is four stripes   Ben on Watch on the QM2 Bridge   View of the Main Steering Panel for the QM2

Q: What is the curriculum?

A: The school is like a four-year college, but you spend one full year of it at sea as a cadet. It is actually very similar to the British system, although they have their own academy. Here on Cunard we have a couple of British cadets onboard now.

Q: I noticed one of them is a young lady, barely 20 years old. I saw her attending to the bridge while we were on the bridge tour.

A: That's right. There are more and more women coming through every year.

Continue Article >> At the Academy (Part 2)

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