"I love what I'm doing - it's a lot of fun"

Meet Arsen Prostov, the esteemed captain of our expedition cruise vessel, the Ocean Albatros. At just 35 years old, Arsen has already carved out a remarkable career in the maritime industry. Currently based in Bucharest, Romania, he brings a wealth of experience and passion to his role, navigating some of the most challenging and breathtaking waters on the planet. In this interview, we delve into Arsen's journey, from his early days at sea to his current command of one of the leading vessels in expedition cruising.

  • How and when did your career at sea begin?

Well, it all started back in 2006 with a sailboat. Then I've been working on various ships throughout the years, and for the past ten years I've only been on expedition polar ships.

  • And how did you end up in the expedition cruise industry?

It's quite a funny story! I'd spent 7 years working on container ships, and I was looking to move to tankers, specifically chemical tankers. Then, out of the blue, I was offered a navigation officer position on an expedition vessel with Hurtigruten, the M/S Fram. That's where it all began – in Antarctica, no less! I was incredibly impressed by the experience, and that's when I decided to focus my career on expedition cruises.

  • So, you've been hooked on expedition cruises ever since – that's fantastic! When did you first achieve the rank of first officer, and on which ship did you serve?

I actually achieved the rank of Third Officer back in 2010. On that German container ship, I was responsible for fire safety and also took navigational watches.

  • Right, so that was the Third Officer. The next rank up is Second Mate, who acts as the Chief Officer's substitute.

Depending on the ship size, the structure can vary. Typically, you have Third Mates, Second Mates, then First Officers. Following that, there might be a dedicated Safety Officer role. The Chief Officer position can encompass safety and security responsibilities depending on the company. Finally, the Staff Captain role comes before promotion to Captain.

  • Perfect, thank you. So, since achieving your Third Officer rank, how has your career progressed?

Well, I spent about six years as a Second Officer, primarily responsible for paper charts and route planning. The transition to First Officer and Safety Officer was quite swift. Following that, I spent five years gaining valuable experience as Chief Mate, Staff Captain, and Second in Command. Finally, in 2021, I was promoted to Captain, and this is currently my fourth command.

  • That's fascinating! Since becoming Captain, what kind of ships or vessels have you served on?

As Captain, I've had the pleasure of working on ultra-luxury expedition vessels. I started with Crystal Cruises, then moved to Silversea, followed by Aurora Expeditions. And now, I find myself back here on Albatros – it's my second time commanding this ship!

  • And what innovation would you say is most important for the day-to-day operation of this type of ship?

There are two key features I'd highlight. Firstly, the vessel's design, particularly the X-Bow, makes a huge difference in rough seas. It allows us to cut through waves, significantly reducing pitching and creating a smoother ride. Secondly, since we explore remote areas with limited charted waters, having a high-tech sonar system on the bridge is crucial. This allows us to scan the seabed far ahead, ensuring safe navigation.

  • Absolutely, it's still an expedition ship, but with all the comforts of a luxurious vessel. How do you see your career unfolding from here?

That's a very interesting question. It's something I've been thinking about myself. Both my last relief captain and the one coming up are in their mid-60s. Sailing in the same position for another 35 years is a long time, so I'm definitely considering some options...

  • You advanced pretty early in your career, right? Would you say that 35 or like 32, was it?

Yes, 30, 32.

  • So that would qualify you as a rather young captain?

On the expedition and the passenger ships yes, but I was kind of just lucky so there's nothing special about.

  • I see - as you mentioned, another 30 years in this role would be a long haul.

Absolutely! That's exactly what's making me consider other options. An office role might be a possibility down the line, but honestly, I love what I'm doing right now. It's an adventure every day – sailing, exploring new places, and the best part? The energy I get from happy passengers. Their excitement is truly inspiring, and it makes me happy too.

  • Absolutely! The guests truly appreciate your work, especially when you go the extra mile.

Yes, and those positive emotions are like a recharge. It fills you right back up with energy.

  • How many weeks on and off do you typically have?

We work on a 12 weeks on, 12 weeks off rotation, which is pretty good if you ask me. However, we captains rotate duties. One captain will handle Antarctica and the Arctic back-to-back, while the other takes care of some warmer destinations in between. So, it's a good balance – the 12 weeks on isn't too long.

  • Yes, however, it does demand your full attention. You mentioned this before – are you working 24/7?

Well, there can be times. The longest stretch I ever did was 35 hours straight, of course with breaks. We never had a situation requiring me to go beyond that, and 35 hours was definitely too much. But generally, with a good night's sleep, I can handle another 24 hours without too much trouble.

  • Perfect, thank you. Now for a personal question: how do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

Travelling is definitely my top hobby! When I'm home, I'm always on the go, visiting different countries. More than half my vacation time is spent exploring new places.

  • Which regions do you prefer to visit?

Europe or Asia. Especially in the winter, I crave some warmth and sunshine after being in polar waters all the time. It's important to get that vitamin D!

  • That makes perfect sense. I think that covers all my questions. Is there anything else you'd like to add, anything you feel is important to mention?

Absolutely. If you truly love your job, it won't feel like work – it becomes a passion, almost like a hobby.

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