A conversation with Cunard Line’s
Commodore Christopher Rynd
by Richard H. Wagner
On 21 April 2011, Cunard Line announced that
Captain Christopher Rynd had been appointed
Commodore of the Cunard Line fleet. While in the
military, a commodore is an officer with authority over
more than one ship, traditionally, the title of
commodore of a passenger ship fleet or cruise line has
been a ceremonial title honoring the senior captain in
the fleet. And while Cunard is perhaps the most
traditional of lines, Commodore Rynd does not see his
new role as ceremonial.
Before turning to Commodore Rynd's new role, it
is worthwhile to review what the Commodore has been
doing since the last time we spoke with him. After
commanding ships for P&O and Princess Cruises, Rynd
came to Cunard in 2005 and at various times
commanded Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 (see
interview). When we last spoke with him, he was in
command of what was then Cunard's latest ship Queen
Victoria. (see interview) "That ship is very suited to
certain types of voyaging and certainly it was very good
in the Eastern Mediterranean where we did some time
and on the worldwide itinerary. I very much enjoyed
His time on Queen Victoria was followed by a
brief return to the ship that had been his first command
when he was with Princess Cruises - - the former Royal
Princess which was then P&O Cruises' Artemis.
"That was great. It certainly was a step back in terms
of technology. Once again coming to terms with a ship
that did not have the high level of sensors and displays
to tell you what the ship is doing, it was returning back
to fundamentals. We went up the Amazon and down
again and that was a great experience in a high flood
year. She was - - is - - a very beautiful little ship.
Now she is considered a small ship but the amazing
thing is that when she came out  she was
considered one of the larger ships."
Commodore Rynd's next assignment was different
than any of his previous assignments and involved
working with officers from multiple ships to implement
a new way of doing things. To train and develop their
officers, Cunard and sister companies Princess Cruises
and P&O Cruises have established a facility called “C
Smart” near Amsterdam in The Netherlands. CSmart
offers high quality simulation training as well as
classroom-type training. Under the auspices of CSmart,
Rynd visited the ships of the Cunard, Princess and P&O
Cruises fleets to train the officers in a new program
called "'Bridge Team Operation and Control."
"The whole idea of having teams started with the
airlines many years ago but has evolved over time. It
allows us now to set up systems of operating that catch
errors and help ensure error free performance in the
direction and safety of the ship."
"We have taken the rank out of it and put functions
in. Part of this new system allows that the captain does
not have to take the role of navigating the ship. He can
delegate it and stand back and take an operations
director role. And that is a very good and fundamental
change to make. It allows the officer of the watch to
do the actual navigating of the ship under his direction.
It is a good system."
"I did a year away doing what is called 'coaching' -
- coaching of bridge teams in new operating
procedures. I was going around the ships, seeing that
this new way of operating was being assimilated. It
gave me a chance to visit ships in all the three fleets
including the Princess and P&O Cruises. I really
Following his appointment as Commodore, Rynd
returned to Queen Mary 2 as her master. "It is
delightful coming back here. There is the sense of
solid, seagoing integrity when you come to this ship.
She is just so strong, so powerful, so comfortable. She
is truly a one of its kind. We saw her in the heavy
weather yesterday - - 20 knots into a five and a half
meter swell and she was relatively comfortable and
enjoyable. When you are on the ocean like this, there is
nothing like it."
While QM2 is one of a kind technologically, she
does compete with the cruise ships in the sense that they
are all seeking to attract people to spend their
vacations/holidays on them. One of QM2's competitive
strengths is her enrichment program. "The quality of
the lectures remains very, very high. It is such a
pleasure to have people of that quality on these
transatlantic voyages giving talks on various subjects to
stimulate the mind and excite the imagination. We
remain very strong in that field."
In addition, the enrichment program is continually
being enhanced by innovative programming such as a
professional song writing program (see article) and a
relationship with the Juilliard School of Music Jazz
Program (see article). "They have been wonderfully
innovative programming the offerings that they have had
for the ship. I can only say that I am delighted to be
associated with this ship and with what they are
offering. We had a group of teenagers on and their
parents wondered what on earth they would do. They
got into the song writing and instrumental side of it with
known writers and bandsmen and they were absolutely
completely engaged and enthusiastic for their time
Still, Rynd sees his role as not just being the master
of Queen Mary 2. "It is evolving beyond that. Before it
was a position of honor and it was confined to this ship
or the flagship of the time. Now it is a role that also
involves helping to manage all three ships along the
lines of the company's objectives, particularly in what
we call our health, environment, safety and security
focus on the operational seamanship side. I also intend
to sail on all three ships too. Because the ships are
widely deployed in different areas, otherwise we don't
have much interaction with each other. There is a need
to have a consistent product in Cunard and this is one of
the ways that we can help ensure it."
Part of his role will involve being an interface
between Cunard's shoreside management and the
people who actually operate the ships. "When
[management ashore is] introducing new ideas or are
asking for a sounding board for ideas or developments,
then I, along with my fellow captains can come to
conclusions and [I can] report back to them."
"As master of the ship, I have a lot in common with
the other captains. Speaking both to and for my fellow
captains - - which is not just the two on the other ships
but those on leave as well - - and being involved in the
development of new policies and procedures, then [it
will] become a joined approach."
Of course, success in such a role will very much
depend upon interpersonal skills and Commodore Rynd
sees his experience in coaching and developing bridge
teams as facilitating this work. "I learned a lot
through that. In some ways we think that if we have the
technical knowledge we can be trainers. In fact, I
learned through professional training that I received for
that job that there is a lot to learn about being the trainer
or the coach. I have benefited from it hugely."
Another factor that should facilitate Commodore
Rynd's fleet-wide responsibilities is that the
composition of Cunard's top rank is becoming more
stable. "It is settling down now after a period of
transition. The captains who have come into this fleet
will be regularly returning to this fleet. As I see it, it is
now set. We had three retirements [during the] last
year. Three new captains have come into the fleet.
There is Captain Hutley on the Queen Victoria, Captain
Olsen, who was promoted in that time and who has
been enormously successful and very well accepted;
and we have Captain Oprey coming here."
At the same time, there will continue be some
movement between Cunard and P&O Cruises in the
more junior ranks. "We share engineer officers and
navigating officers to a degree, particularly when it is
the Victoria and the Elizabeth.. There are many
technological aspects of those ships which are identical
[to the P&O ships] so officers can easily shift across.
It doesn't affect the brand. That just makes sense."
FOR MORE ON COMMODORE RYND:
THE PRINCESS YEARS ..... Page 1
THE CUNARD YEARS ...... Page 2
QUEEN VICTORIA............ Page 3
Commodore Rynd at the controls
of Queen Mary 2.
ABOVE: Queen Victoria
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Commodore Christopher Rynd
Queen Mary 2.