A pool of one’s own within easy reach
ONE of the most memorable captains I have met was Augusto Lagomarsini, who commanded what was Sitmar’s Fairstar for many years. He was made commodore of the Princess Cruises fleet before retiring to his home in Italy.
Bearded and mustachioed, he was devastatingly attractive, and a bevy of female passengers across Australia would check to make sure he was going to be on board before they booked. I met a schoolteacher from Adelaide making her 16th cruise with Captain Lago, as everyone called him.
Lago grew herbs on his balcony that were used in the wonderful Italian meals served in his private dining room.
These dinner parties were grand occasions where I met the most interesting passengers, including maritime historian Bill Miller, who has written more than 65 books and is known as Mr Ocean Liner. I treasure the copy of The Great Luxury Liners — 1927-1954, a photographic record of the likes of Mauretania, Normandie and Queen Mary, that Bill sent me from New York after we had met at one of Lago’s dos.
At the end of every dinner, Lago would turn to the lady, often married, sitting next to him and say, ‘‘I think it is time for a kiss.’’
After an awkward silence, during which the embarrassed woman did not know what to say and her husband did not know what he should do, Lago would produce a box of Kiss chocolates.
He was not just a pretty face, either (hence his promotion to commodore). He ran a tight ship.
It seemed wherever you were on Fairstar, Lago was there in the background, keeping an eye on things. During his routine cabin inspections on one cruise he found some people smoking a substance other than tobacco. They were put ashore at the next port of call.
On one South Pacific cruise with Lago, I bought my husband, Patrick, and me a shore excursion to a Great Barrier Reef island.
It was a glorious sunny day and we were standing in line on deck, tickets in hand, waiting for a tender to take us ashore. Along came Lago, who asked what we were doing in the queue. I explained we were going ashore to swim at the local beach. I know a better place to swim, he said, pulling us out of the line and tearing up our tickets. ‘‘Wait here while I change and I will take you to Fairstar Beach.’’
We had never heard of Fairstar Beach and we wondered about its location. ‘‘He must be going to commandeer a tender to take us around the island to the other side,’’ Patrick volunteered.
Lago reappeared in swimming trunks and indicated we should follow him. We did and ended up at the ship’s swimming pool.
‘‘This is Fairstar Beach,’’ Lago said proudly. ‘‘All the passengers are going ashore and we will have it to ourselves.’’
He was right. Stewards were on duty to bring us all-day drinks and lunch and we felt like Mr and Mrs Onassis on a private yacht.
Now we go to Whatever-thename-of-our-ship Beach, while passengers rush off like lemmings. More often than not, we have exclusive use of the pool and the stewards, with no one else to serve, treat us as if we are Greek shipping magnates.