By David Whitney
We all know the saying “Help is there a Dr in the house” Well, for others it maybe but hopefully not “Is there a Dr on the ship” A saying that some of our readers may not know but yes of course there is a Dr on board all of the amazing cruise ships that sail the oceans with many of the major and largest ships visiting Palma for passengers to experience not only the City but the diversity of our wonderful island of Mallorca.
Sometimes discussions rage as to how many cruise ships should visit in a day or week but thankfully they come bringing passengers, many of whom have never visited Mallorca before, but we trust that they will return. So it was that a few weeks ago I visited one of my favourite cafe restaurants in Palma, Vi Vermell whose owner is a friend. There I saw another customer enjoying a small beer and I could not but notice his jacket with the words “MSC” This being one of my favourite cruise lines. I have had many days at sea and traveling to many countries and cities on the ships of MSC.
The scene was set as we chatted and enjoyed our beers and coffee. I said to my new friend can I please interview you for our magazine and was delighted to receive “of course.” So it was that our little interview began. Dr. Alexsandar Bezar I found was from Serbia and his wife was still living in Belgrade and amazingly is also a Dr, but land bound unlike Alexsander who has travelled the World on some of most wonderful of cruise ships. Now on the MSC Bellissima. What a ship! It is some 315 meters long and weighs in at over 171,000 tonnes with 14 decks. It can carry over 4,500 passengers in luxury and 2,000 crew, so a floating City with clean engine credentials travelling indeed all over the seas from the Mediterranean to Japan, Australia and caribbean.
Here I was with the Chief Dr and what a responsibility. I am supported by another Dr and 2 nurses he said and their medical facilities are second to none. So how come you are on the MSC Bellissima? What is your story Alexsandar. A long history of marine life, but it all began from his City of birth, Belgrade some 56 years ago. From school attending the University of Belgrade studying medicine. For 6 years at the medical school. Then another 4 years studying specialist medicine which was, he said is really how to become a family Practitioner. Not only that Alexsandar did another 2 years of a post graduate course. A Master of Science awarded so for anyone on travelling on his ship you can be sure that you are in safe hands.
After University, Alexsandar did 3 years working with the emergency services and then moved to the prestigious medical centre in downtown Belgrade. The Medical Center Vacar caring for patients for some 12 years before again moving. This time became as General Manager of the Medical Center Glocka in Belgrade with 600 employees which included 150 Dr’s. Another 4 years passed before the sea called.
The sea and a sea of change did indeed call as Alexsandar joined MSC in 2016. Why I asked. He said it was one of the biggest cruise and indeed cargo companies in the world so a change from dry land to the sea was an exciting time and a decision never regretted. The first ship was MSC Orchestra as a Dr in the medical team sailing the med as we say. Long days with 6 months working and then 2 months leave. I said “not bad” Your own stateroom, food and nothing to pay out so life as an officer does carry rewards and experiences for certain. On return to the sea, another ship. The MSC Seaview. I know it well as I have read all about it but one yet to travel upon.
This is a beautiful ship with maximum of 5300 passengers and 1500 crew. Here Alexsandar told me that he became Chief Dr of the ship so a step up the ladder one can say but with more responsibility. Everything has to be overseen by the Dr as passengers can become ill or need on occasions to be taken off the ship by helicopter. Yes, helicopter as the big cruise ships have a heli port on the bow. Another 6 months and then in 2017 to 2018 joining MSC Splendida travelling the Far East, Japan, China and I was amazed that the cruises for Japan passengers are for Japanese only. They have special meals and do not like to mix with those not from Japan and the same with Chinese passengers. Chinese only and no mirrors in the staterooms or cabins to us. All over the ship they must be removed or covered. I learn something new every day as does Alexsandar.
The MSC Preziosa was the next and cruising the Caribbean with mainly US passengers, but mixed. I did not know that MSC has their own private Caribbean island but it does so the ship docks there for one fun day. A private island for guests only. Not bad and a cruise taking in this island stop is now on my bucket list. However, covid came and I asked “what happened” All were unable to leave for 10 days and then slowly checked and passengers flown home but the crew of some 800 remained but again most were taken off leaving Alexsandar and 50 others to keep the ship running. Decisions were made for the ship to moor at the private island and so all became the real Robinson Crusoes until being able to depart to Miami.
Life went on and another ship, the The MSC Grandiosa, one of the big ones and in April 2021 the MSC Grandiosa sailed with passengers. It was the only cruise ship on the med and indeed the oceans of the World at the time but with strict testing and much work with Covid testing for Alexsandar and his team.
Covid hit all cruise companies hard but Alexsandar carried on and in March 2022 he told me he joined his present ship, MSC Bellissima, the sister ship of MSC Meraviglia. A wonderfully designed ship and I have cruised on it’s sister ship. A fantastic experience. As with many of these super MSC cruise ships they have a long shopping mall and an 80 meters LED screen, the longest in the World spanning the roof of the mall showing many changing scenes, light shows and so much more. To see is to believe. So Alexsandar said he joined the ship in March 2022 in Saudi Arabia taking onboard some 5000 Saudis. Once again the ship had to comply with their tastes, cuisine and behaviour traditions. A change for all crew but passengers still get unwell so another challenge each day for Alexsandar is not far away.
One serious occasion on a cruise was having to deal with a passenger who had a cardiac arrest but after saving the passenger, form Liverpool in fact, he said with a smile as the passenger came back to life “where am I” He knew nothing of his ordeal. A busy shift and on call all day and night is no easy life. Alexandria said but seeing new places, new cultures and now one more visit to Palma before the ship travels 30 days to Japan from Barcelona but with crew only to start cruises in the sea of Japan. Yokohama, and around the country but Japanese only. They enjoy privacy but still require covid restrictions onboard. Also no Officers can even eat in the same restaurant with Japanese guests as is normally the case. Quirky details but one that has to be respected as with the Chinese and Saudi’s. Alexsandar has helped so many and he is proud of that and after the 30 day voyage next week another 6 months on board before having a well deserved 2 months off and on dry land, well not if it rains he said. His plans for the future look exciting and in a few years retirement beckons and his aim with his wife is to move to Mallorca a place he enjoys so much. A good choice don’t you think but if you do go on an MSC cruise then maybe Dr. Alexsandar will be the Chief Dr on board. Say hello and he would love to talk to you about Mallorca and all this came from a chance meting at Vi Vermell in Palma. An exceptional person and I thank Alexsandar for giving me his off ship time for this exclusive interview. A book of his adventures, travels and who knows he may yet see the next MSC cruise ship being launched as the “Godmother” of this Italian company is the iconic Sophia Loren. Now that would be an interesting interview.