Captain Margo Nogara represents a milestone in the course of the cruises I've taken. Until our cruise on the FASCINATION, those in command of every ship I'd ever sailed on all had something in common: they were all older than me. Having just turned 40, I had no reason to believe this streak wouldn't remain intact, at least for a few more years.
Enter Captain Nogara, age 38.
CruiseMates: How did your career begin?
Nogara: I studied at the Italian Naval Academy and became an Italian Navy officer. After fifteen months, I left the Navy with the rank of lieutenant and joined an Italian line that then started to convert its passenger ships to cargo. As a result, I left them to join Sitmar.
CruiseMates: What Sitmar ships did you work on?
Nogara: My first ship was the FAIRWIND and then later, the FAIRSKY.
CruiseMates: In what capacity did you join Sitmar?
Nogara: I started with them as a cadet officer. I also served as a purser.
CruiseMates: How did you like that, working as a purser?
Nogara: I didn't like it to be perfectly honest, although it was a great experience. The point is that Sitmar was not doing very well at the time. A friend of mine was working for Carnival and he told me they were looking to expand. It was 1985 and the HOLIDAY had just come out. I applied with Carnival and started out on the FESTIVALE. I again started out at the bottom as a cadet officer.
I worked on a number of ships, the MARDI GRAS, CARNIVALE, TROPICAL and CELEBRATION.
CruiseMates: So you've sailed on a variety of ships. What's your preference, do you prefer the older steamships or the newer generation that's much more automated?
Nogara: I like this kind of ship, the Fantasy class, diesel electric ships. She's pretty big but she has a lot of power. She has a different shape, the wind has a lot of effect on her but we have a lot of power, three bow and three stern thrusters so it makes it very nice to maneuver the ship.
CruiseMates: Do all the Fantasy Class ships handle the same or does each ship have its own nuances and idiosyncrasies?
Nogara: Yes, each of them is a little bit different. That's why we call ships "she," each is unique like women. Of course, the base is the same but with new technologies developing each year, they always upgrade various electronic controls. Under the new generation of Fantasy Class ships, the ELATION and PARADISE, which use the new Azipod propulsion systems, the other captains tell me they're even more fun to work with.
CruiseMates: How so?
Nogara: There's more power. Understand that the stern of the ship is the heaviest part of the vessel which in turn can make it the most challenging part of the ship to fight wind and currents. On the FASCINATION, we have 6000 horsepower with our three stern thrusters. However, with one Azipod, instead of 6000 horsepower, you've got 20,000 horsepower to work with. There's no current that can affect you.
CruiseMates: Would you need some sort of additional training before taking command of an Azipod-Equipped ship?
Nogara: Yes, I think we'd spend about three or four weeks training under a captain already familiar with an Azipod ship.
CruiseMates: With a year under your belt as a captain with Carnival, what do you most enjoy about the job?
Nogara: I have a lot of opportunities to change things, to try to make things better for the crew, to try to improve service for the guests.
CruiseMates: And your least favorite aspect of the job?
Nogara: Being away from my family. I have a wife and young son (13 months old). They were just aboard for five weeks but you never can have enough time with your family.
CruiseMates: While we're talking about "favorites," do you have a particular favorite ship within the Carnival fleet?
Nogara: The FASCINATION. There's something about the ship. The ports of call are very different and also I think she's really beautiful inside, there's something about the FASCINATION.
CruiseMates: Does any one event in particular stand out in your career at sea?
Nogara: I've got a lot of memories but one that stands out was back in 1994, on the ECSTACY, when we rescued a Cuban family on a raft with a dog. To see these people who left everything behind to find a better life is something I will never forget.