Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship is led by 2 astonishing brothers serving as co-captains

Let me introduce you to the brothers serving as co-captains of the Celebrity Ascent.

The older brother, Dimitrios Kafecis, inspired Tasos to be like him when he was growing up.

“He would say he likes to play basketball, (back then) I played basketball.” He liked to draw, I started to draw,” Tassos, 44. When Dimitrios left their home in Piraeus, Greece, to start working on cruise ships when Thassos was 9, he soon decided he wanted to, too.

Dimitrios (55) joined Celebrity Cruises in 1990, and Tasos eight years later. Now the brothers have been named co-captains of Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the Celebrity Ascent, a first for the brand. The ship will debut in December.

The seafaring siblings about how cruising became a family business, their approach to the business, and their plans for sailing together. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you all get started working on cruise ships?
Dimitrios: (several) things contributed to this decision. The first is that our father was a ship supplier and whenever he (worked with cruise ships), he would pick me up and take me to the ship and have lunch at the buffet. So as a kid of almost 10, 12 years old from a very, let’s say, not wealthy background… seeing the world of cruises was like a magical world for me. Like my Narnia, if I may say so. You open the door and see a different world.

And then, later… there was “Love Ship”. So, watching “The Love Boat,” I now have an insight into what goes on on a cruise ship for business, not just the fun part that the guest gets to see, but how the business is done in a fun way. So that worked for me.

Tasos: I am 11 years younger. … When (Dimitrios) started working on cruise ships, I was about 9 years old. And then I didn’t like him leaving the house because I couldn’t see him. And then there was no communication, only letters and postcards. … I remember (when he came home), apart from the first hugs and excitement – what gifts he brought me from abroad, like remote control cars or Michael Jordan jerseys and things that were hard to find in Greece at that time – but I had access to his printed photographs.

He had tons of albums, so I would start going through the photos and see the world through his eyes: the Caribbean, Hawaii, listening to stories and stuff. So he put an invisible hook on me, like, “OK, that’s what I want to do, too.”

When did you both first become captains?
Dimitrios: 2004 for himself.

Thassos: 2013.

Does each of you have a favorite place you like to sail or have you been on cruise ships?
Dimitrios: For me, apart from the Greek islands – I don’t think there is a better place – my favorite ports are Vancouver, Canada and Honolulu, Hawaii. Like it.

Thassos: For me too, the Greek islands are, for example, at the top of the list, but we are biased in that regard. But I’ll agree with Honolulu and also put Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.

Does each of you have a different approach to the role of the captain?
Dimitrios: When I first started, things were very (largely) military-style on cruise ships… and the captain was deadly serious. … So when I first took office in 2004 … I said to myself, “I don’t have to be that soldier.” I can be fair – and that’s how I want to be remembered, that I was fair in all things – and funny, which helps us break down barriers and brings us closer together. So that was my thing, and it was well received, especially among the guests.

Tasos: For my part, I have seen Dimitrios introduce this new style of presentation to guests and crew and I have seen what a positive impact it has had. So I said, “Okay, I can be myself,” because that’s what he does. What you see is what you get. He’s not pretending to be funny, he’s just being himself.

How did it feel when you found out you were going to be named co-captains?
Dimitrios: Even now I get chills. The first time we heard about it, it brought tears. It was a very emotional thing, because in the back of your head, you always have the thought, like, (it would be) nice. We could see the pros and cons of being on board together. But we had this idea back and forth, coming and going, yeah yeah, it would be fun.

Tasos: I remember clearly, I had dinner. I saw a (FaceTime) call from my boss in Miami, our vice president of marine operations, and it was around 9:30 p.m., which is not very common after hours. It’s either something really good or something really bad when they call you.

So I answered the call and saw Dimitri was already there. I was like, “OK, maybe it’s a social call.” It was the best news we’d heard in years.

You will rotate for three months on, three months in Celebrity. How will it work?

Dimitrios: We’ll have to find ways to spend some time together because it doesn’t quite work like this. But there is a plan that we can be together for a while… and call it a captain’s cruise and have guests sail for a week with both of us, which will be advertised and it will be good. And we already have some plans in the mind for what we can do to confuse the guests as to who is who (since we look alike).

What do you think it will be like to share the role on a Celebrity?
Dimitrios: Knowing Thasos, I can trust his decisions in handling the ship or with my crew and guests with my eyes closed, and that’s not because he’s my brother. He proved from an early stage how talented he was to steer the ship and later became a very, very honest captain.

Tasos: I was trained by Dimitrios. … And as far as the other decisions, the day-to-day operations, it’s part of our nature to always consult with our colleagues and make the best possible decision, so we’ll do the same. Outside of the conversation, you’re not trying to figure out who’s right. You’re trying to figure out what’s right. So it will work fine. Worst comes to worst, rock paper scissors.