Interview with Captain Filippos "Filip" Adelfoulakos
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Athens but I spent my early childhood on an island called Samos. Then, at the age of six or seven, we moved back to Athens. I come from a marine background—my father was a captain and owner of a ferry-boat liner—and I spent my childhood on the bridge with him, wearing his captain’s hat as a young boy. So, I guess you could say that ‘’it runs in the family.” They’re beautiful memories that I’ll never forget.
Besides being exposed to seafaring since you were young, what inspired you to want to be at sea yourself?
I had the privilege to be in a marine environment from a young age. We always had a boat that we often used to go early-morning fishing and I remember my father, on the way back home, would let be at the wheel for a short time—my “pay off” for getting up at 4am to go fishing with him! My professional career began with me as a sailor for my father on his ship. I was just 15 when I got my seaman’s book with a signature from both parents—because back at that time you weren’t allowed to work at sea without the signature of both parents and a special note from the authorities giving permission to work only on ships where there is a 1st-degree relation with crew on board. Having my father as a captain was actually one of the toughest contracts in my career but at the same time it filled me with knowledge and experience, plus the privilege of gaining a lot of good principles that have followed me throughout my career up to now.
What led to you wanting to be a captain on a cruise line?
Starting at an early age, my first professional contracts at sea were during the summertime when I worked on sailing yachts—before I even finished high school. I then decided I wanted to join the Merchant Marine Academy, where I graduated as a second officer after four years. During my time in the MMA I did a few contracts on several ferry boats, tanker ships, small cruise liners, and—after I graduated—I decided to join Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean Corporation in September 2000. In 2005 I had a one-and-a-half-year break from cruise ships to join the Greek Navy as a captain. But being on a cruise ship is my favorite working environment.
What is it about cruise ships that you find most interesting?
I guess it’s mostly about the interaction with the people, guests, and crew, plus the ports that we visit, and the destinations we go to. I always liked to see the world and working onboard a cruise ship really gives you this advantage. Each port is a different experience and there’s nothing better than walking around the ship, talking with guests, and receiving comments about how much they’re enjoying their cruise. I also love hearing from our fantastic and friendly crew about what a wonderful experience they’re having onboard. It really fills me with pride.
Do you have any favorite destinations that you’d like to go back to and why?
Well, I have sailed all around the world—apart from a few areas. Of course, the Greek islands are one of my favorite destinations, especially for summer vacation. It’s a combination of several elements—the rich history, the tasty food, the beaches, the warm sun, the crystal-clear waters, the variety of entertainment, the friendly people, and the perfect natural sceneries. Alaska is another favorite destination and I’m quite privileged to start my captaincy on a ship that’s currently sailing there. I’ve spent quite some time in this area during my career and the wild nature, the different environment, local culture, and the adventures you can have here will always continue to fascinate me.
Knowing how diverse the Azamara itineraries are, being a smaller ship, is there a specific destination that you’re excited to go to that you may not have been to?
Well, Africa is one of the few destinations that I haven’t ever been to during my career and I’m really excited to visit there with Azamara.
What are you most passionate about outside of work?
I love spending time with my family and friends. Of course, travelling is my passion, so even while “at home” it’s quite difficult for somebody to find me actually at home. I love sailing around the Greek islands with my wife and daughter. I also enjoy scuba diving—every dive is a unique experience. For someone who’s grown up at sea it may sound a bit strange to talk about mountains and snow but my other passion is skiing, and during winter vacation I take my family to the mountains where we enjoy the beautiful forest sceneries, the snow, and skiing.
Is there anything else special about you that no one knows?
Very few people know that before I joined the Merchant Marine Academy, I used to play professional basketball in Greece for a short period of time. However, the sea is a ‘’lady’’ that requires full commitment so when I joined the MMA I had to quit professional basketball but I enjoy playing on amateur local championships with my team back home.
Tell us a little about your family.
For a person that’s spent so much time at sea you might think that I met my wife onboard but this is not the case—she has nothing to do with the ships and, to be quite honest, when I first met my wife she had no idea how it would feel to be with a person that works on ships for a living. We still laugh about our first year together when she flew to see me on the ship I was working on. It was her first time flying out of Europe to the US and things didn’t go to plan at all, with her flights being diverted to different airports—or even cancelled—due to a severe snowstorm covering most of Europe. Thankfully, she eventually managed to get on board the ship just 10 minutes before we were due to set sail. That was a great adventure for her and showed me a lot about her determination and character. We were married in 2013 and we have a five-year-old “princess” who we love to spoil.