Many months back I promised that if there were events that were cruise-news worthy I would issue a newsletter. Well, such an event has occurred.
It is with great sadness that I send this. The man whom many consider to have been the greatest captain to sail the seven seas, has passed away. I am of course speaking of Captain Jean Marie Guillou.
Though I knew Captain well I cannot tell you of his birthplace nor the events of his childhood. I cannot tell you about his early career and how he became a seaman. I can tell you about a man who touched everyone he met and transformed them, as if by magic, into being the best people they could be.
He would walk the corridors of the ship every morning just to say hello to the crew. He poked his head into the laundry and the galley. Everywhere he went the crew followed behind him like a Piped Piper lingering in his aura which sparkled with humor and wit.
Over the years I have thought about his leadership style and how it was that he was able to instill in those around him such an uncanny sense of value. He made everyone feel like they were indispensable. When he spoke of someone for whom he had high regard he always said, “he is a good man.” You knew this was an unconditional endorsement of the person’s moral character. No jokes. No games.
I have plenty of Captain Guillou stories. Brian O’Brien and I were ardent admirers of the Captain and collectors of the stories we were privileged to hear. Sometimes it was not so much the story as the way it was delivered. It was Captain Guillou who first said he was a mixture of Maurice Chevalier and Inspector Clouseau!There were the storeis about the Sudanese crewmen on the cargo ship who were near starvation in the Arctic Circle during Ramadan - no one realized that the sun was not setting and these men could not eat until it did. Or the time when a now-defunct cruise line could not pay its port fees and resorted to plundering the ship’s casino’s slot machines and paying the past-due port fees in quarters. And then there was the evening a very pretentious family asked the Captain to taste a fine wine they had decanted just because he was French.He raised the glass to inspect the color, he swirled the glass and admired the legs, he smelled the wine to absorb its aroma and then he held the glass to his ear to listen to — who knows what? The look on their faces as they scrambled to remember this part of wine-tasting protocol was priceless.
I hope those of you who had the pleasure of cruising with Captain Guillou will raise a glass to your ear and toast an original. He was a good man.