A lesson learned: Don’t mention the Titanic to a ship captain

We are on the final leg of our cruise. Tomorrow morning when we wake up, we’ll be in Hobart where we’ll disembark and I, for one, will spend a couple of extra days seeing a bit more of Tasmania.

So this afternoon I went up to the bridge to say hello to the captain, Andrey Domanin. He wasn’t the most gregarious guy in the world. Maybe because he was miffed I’d turned down an offer to eat with him in favor of dining with the whisky maker, Bill Lark, and the Bruny Island pig farmer, Ross O’Meara. Or maybe ship captains are just naturally taciturn. I don’t know. As I said, this is only the second cruise I’ve ever been on and the first where I’ve actually met the captain.

Just making small talk, I asked Captain Domanin where he was from (his English accent is very thick) and he told me the Ukraine. Which I found sort of interesting. He didn’t really expand on that (as I said, he doesn’t talk much) so, just to keep things lively, I said, “Well, if you were a Ukrainian sea captain 50 years ago, what sort of a ship do you think you’d be on? A submarine?”

Capt. Andrey Domanin and me

He didn’t like that question. What are you talking about? he said.

“I’m just saying that if it was 1961 instead of 2011, I don’t think you’d be the captain of a cruise ship sailing around Tasmania, would you?”

Well, that set him off. Why not? he said. Even in 1961 Russians captained all kinds of ships all around the world. Why would it have been so unlikely for him to captain a cruise ship in Tasmania?

Seeing that I’d sort of stuck my foot in my mouth (although I still can’t imagine that a Ukrainian would have been in charge of a cruise ship in Australia 50 years ago), I decided to change the subject. I told him that I’d had a wonderful time at sea and it gave me a greater appreciation for how grand it must have been back in the Golden Age of steamship travel when a ship like the Titanic cruised across the Atlantic and it was such a grand event.

Captain Domanin fixed me with his steely blue eyes and in a hushed voice said, “It is very bad luck to mention the Titanic when you are at sea.”

Oh. Okay. My bad.

With two big strikes again me, I decided to cut my losses. I shook his hand and told him I really had to be going. He nodded without smiling. Just one last thing and then I’ll get out of your hair, I told him. “Would you mind having your picture taken with me?”

“You want to take my photo?”

“If you don’t mind.”

He sighed, I handed the camera to one of the other officers, and he quickly clicked off six or seven photos. This one was the last one. And the only one in which Captain Domanin smiled. I think because I had just said, “I think we’re done here.”

And we were.


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