Captaining ship home 'career highlight'
Captain Mark Dexter has steered ships to Bora Bora, Costa Rica and Venice, but his high-seas high point is bringing a cruise ship into his home port.
The Darfield man brought the eight-month-old 200-metre long Seabourn Odyssey into Lyttelton yesterday morning, along with its 421 passengers and 334 crew.
It was Dexter's first time captaining a ship to his home port after 31 years in the shipping industry.
"There are only a few things that you can say are career highlights, but this is definitely one," he said.
The ship visited Lyttelton as part of its maiden world cruise, which started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 5. It is visiting 42 ports in 26 countries in six continents before reaching Athens in two months time.
He was educating passengers about Canterbury sights.
"I think it's one of the best parts of New Zealand to live in; we have the sea, mountains, wineries – it's a fantastic place."
He was also teaching passengers about local culture.
"A few of them asked if I knew how to do the haka, so I showed them the basic actions, and then they did it to some locals when we arrived [in Russell] – it was great."
Dexter moved into the passenger-ship industry after starting his career on cargo vessels and container ships.
"I'd had more than enough of sheep containers – with cruise ships, you meet some fantastic people, and they've all got stories to tell." Dexter was away from home for six months a year, so he tried to "pack in as much as possible" while with his family.
"The kids are used to it now they're older, but it was difficult trying to explain why you're not there – you'd miss birthdays, holidays, and when they got sick."
He lunched with with family and friends on board yesterday, before the ship left for Wellington.