James Langley, head of marine operations at Saga Cruises, was commended in the Cruise Line Management category in Cruise Trade News’ Rising Stars Awards 2016. He reveals his career highlights.
James Langley may only be 33, but he has already spent half of his life in the world of ships, ferries and cruising.
“I grew up in Dover so I already had a connection with the sea, but my dad was also a ship engineer, so marine life is in the blood.”
James’ first job as a trainee deck officer at P&O gave him a strong understanding of life at sea. “P&O was a really good place to learn the trade as there is a lot of traffic in the channel.”
However, he decided to combine the hands-on experience with some time in the classroom, studying for a degree in marine operations while at P&O.
“By the time, I was 20 I graduated as a navigational officer and was responsible for driving the ship – a young age for such a responsibility,” he tells us.
After spending his formative years on the ferries, James swapped cross-channel sailings for cruising, as deck officer with Princess Cruises.
“I spent a couple of years with Princess to gain experience of life on cruise ships. I got to know the Caribbean well, and was lucky enough to visit some of the lesser-known ports.”
After his time with Princess, James returned to the UK and went back to college, studying to be a chief officer.
With his new qualification, he headed back to the channel, landing a chief officer’s job with low-cost ferry operator Speed Ferries.
“The company was aiming to be the ferry world’s equivalent to Easyjet,” he says. “It was a great experience and taught me a lot about business.”
After his stint at Speed Ferries, James swapped life at sea for a job on dry land with the International Chamber of Shipping. Starting off looking after manning and training, by the time he left he was responsible for marine operations and passenger safety.
In 2014, James landed the role of marine superintendent with Saga Cruises.
In the early days, James found himself planning and looking after itineraries, but rapidly climbed through the ranks to the lofty position of head of marine operations.
“The role grew with me through restructuring and now I head up marine planning, making sure all of the ports we visit are safe and suitable for our ships, as well as ensuring our ships perform our itineraries well.
“It’s a 24 hours a day, seven days a week role; all I ever think about are the ships, and trying to differentiate from our competitors by seeking out new ports and destinations, and exceeding client expectations.”
Saga currently has two ships – Sapphire and Pearl II – with one new ship being built, which means exciting times ahead for James, who will be drawing on his experience to help expand cruise operations.
James credits ambition, qualifications and good advice from the captains he first worked with as the driving force behind his meteoric career in cruise. “It’s been great to progress quickly, but I am looking forward to the next chapter, and being part of the team that delivers Saga’s cruise growth.”