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Where do they find Captains -- and river language?


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Having seen, in the relatively short time I have been cruising, the huge increase in river cruise companies and the number of cruise boats on the rivers since 2007,  I wonder where all the new Captains have come from and how much experience they have.


This year Viking will have 69 boats on European rivers, more than double the number when I took my first cruise with them, and companies like Emerald, Riviera, Fred Olsen have started operating.


What certificate and/or experience, is needed to be a river cruise ship Captain?


Secondly, is there a standard language for communication along the rivers? Many cruises pass through multiple countries. The common language used for aircraft communication is English: in what language does a Ukrainian Captain on a Swiss registered boat communicate with the Captain of a Hungarian tour boat?  (using the example of Thursday nights collision in Budapest)

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Training in Germany happens in specific colleges and is if course done on the boat. You are a crew member before you are a captain (I do not know specifics). For every river you need a patent so cruising the Rhine and Moselle means two at least - not sure if the Dutch waterways count extra. I have read of captains switching from working on ocean cruise ships - not necessarily having been captain - to river cruise ships. A few come from barges.


It is true that there have been concerns as to whether all those having been recruited in the last few years have the necessary experience. The jobs are advertised through the relevant agencies, also online, some companies recruit directly.


I spoke to a captain with CroisiEurope last year who said that the traffic on the Rhine was "mad", meaning very busy, he preferred the Main.


There are European-wide regulations with sign language used on the rivers (flags and lights). As regards human language, I do not know. The captain mentioned above spoke very good German, so did the higher-up crew members on my river cruise in 2013.




Edited by notamermaid
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Just our anecdotal experience:  We had two different captains (due to a ship swap) on our Budapest to Amsterdam Uniworld cruise.  They were both Dutch and spoke excellent English and German (and maybe other languages).  On our Rhine and Rhone Uniworld cruises both captains were French and spoke conversational English (but didn't seem as comfortable with it as the Dutch captains).  All of them, even the younger Dutch captains, had many years of experience on 'their' rivers and with Uniworld.

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I know it’s not passenger related but there was an excellent documentary on the building of the new super sewer under and along the Thames here in London. As they wanted to take a serious amount  of spoil down stream by barge they needed to train up new tug skippers to cope with the increased work load. They partly followed a first mate in his training which not only included taking charge of the tug pulling barges under supervision of an experienced captain but also at a land location further upstream. This was some sort of nautical training college and included a simulator similar to those used in the airline industry where they could programme in a variety of situations. It would be interesting if this is done for passenger captains on the european rivers.

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