What is it Like to Be a Disney Captain?

Fran Golden

Guests onboard the Disney Dream may find Captain Tom Forberg's face is a familiar one. Captain Tom, as he is affectionately known, has also helmed the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, and was even involved in the construction of all three ships. He talked to AOL Travel at the shipyard in Germany where the Disney Dream is nearing completion.

Raised in Norway, Captain Tom went to nautical college, Captain's school and was a member of the Norwegian Navy. Prior to joining Disney in 1995, he worked for Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruises. When he is not at sea, he resides in Italy.

AOL: How does one become a Captain of a Disney cruise ship?

Captain Tom: Well, first of all I have been in the cruise business for quite some time. I have been a Captain for more than 30 years now, and the last 15 years with Disney Cruise Line. And it's just been a great experience working with Disney Cruise Line. And now of course we are all very excited, as we have been building the Disney Dream. So a dream came true for me, no question.

AOL: What's different about being a Captain for Disney as opposed to being a Captain for some of the other cruise lines?

Captain Tom: Disney is not a typical cruise line company. It gets so much input from Disney as a mother company that makes cruise business even more interesting.

AOL: What about the passengers? Are the passengers on a Disney ship different than you've encountered on the other ships you've worked on?

Captain Tom: Well, absolutely. We see many more families, and how we cater to make sure that each and every family member has the best experience in his or her life is just amazing. Nobody does that better than Disney. And that's a huge difference, how the family as a whole is looked after on a Disney cruise.

AOL: Do you enjoy the fact that there are so many kids onboard the ship?

Captain Tom: Yes, I do very much because we have so much to offer for children. We have big spaces for the kids to have a lot of fun, and the parents as well. I personally think it's very nice to have a lot of kids around the ship.

AOL: We unfortunately can't see the bridge yet, but if we did what would we see there? How technologically advanced is the ship?

Captain Tom: Well of course, if you looked at the exterior lines of the ship it's reminiscent of the early ocean liners of the '20s, but with modern technology. So if you'd come to the bridge, we have all the state-of-the-art equipment that you'd expect to find on a new ship today, whether it's navigation systems, safety systems and so forth.

AOL: Is there a steering wheel?

Captain Tom: We still have a steering wheel, yeah.

AOL: But you also have a mouse, right?

Captain Tom: Oh, absolutely, and for maneuvering we have a very advanced joystick as well. Incorporated in this joystick you have twin active rudders, five sideways thrusters and the main propulsion. So we can actually move the ship 360 degrees around just moving the joystick.

AOL: So it's like a giant computer game?

Captain Tom: Yes, it's like a video game in one way. I am looking forward to the sea trials now, that we are going to conduct over the next weeks. Then we will see how the ship will behave. But I have already been driving the ship in the simulator. All the characteristics that we have on the ship are in the simulator and it's probably about 90-percent accurate. So I have a feeling our ship will behave already.

AOL: Obviously you have a full contingent of officers on the ship, but you also have Captain Mickey. What does Captain Mickey do?

Captain Tom: Captain Mickey, he's still the boss. We enjoy having him onboard, and of course the guests like to see him around and also all the other characters.

AOL: I think they also like to see you around. You actually have quite a bit of interaction with the guests.

Captain Tom: Yes, I walk the ship all the time and I enjoy walking around and talking to the guests and the kids.

AOL: When captains get together and you say you're the Captain of a Disney ship is there envy there?

Captain Tom: In a way that may be the case, because it's personal, it's very special.

AOL: You are going to bring out this ship. And then you are going to bring out the next ship (Disney Fantasy, due in 2012)?

Captain Tom: Yes, I was the first Captain with the classic ships. I took the Disney Magic out in 1998, the Disney Wonder in 1999, and now this ship. I will spend time onboard the Disney Dream and then I will go back (to Germany) for the Disney Fantasy. I feel very good about that.

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