Princess Cruises Announces Leadership Team for New Ship Sky Princess

Captain Heikki Laakonen and Captain Michele Tuvo
Captain Heikki Laakonen and Captain Michele Tuvo

Princess Cruises has announced the leadership team for its latest ship, Sky Princess, with seasoned master Captain Heikki Laakkonen to take the helm and bring the ship into services from the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

Debuting in the Mediterranean in October 2019, Sky Princess will be brought into service by a team of officers with extensive maritime experience, including more than 140 years’ combined service with Princess Cruises.

Announcing details today, Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, said Captain Laakkonen would sail on Sky Princess’ inaugural voyage on October 20, 2019 in Europe, and would remain at the helm as the 143,700-tonne ship offers a series of European cruises before sailing to the Caribbean.

Captain Laakkonen will be joined at the launch by Chief Engineer Officer Fabio Braccelli, Hotel General Manager Terri Cybuliak, and Staff Captain Giovanni Cardile.

Captain Michele Tuvo, Chief Engineer Officer Mladen Ratkovic, Hotel General Manager Richard Harry and Staff Captain Brian Whelan will complete the leadership team. Captain Tuvo will represent the entire leadership team during a ceremony on February 14, at the Fincantieri Monfalcone, Italy shipyard to celebrate a significant milestone in the Sky Princess new build process that will celebrate the ships’ recent float-out.

“We are confident the deep seagoing expertise of these officers will allow our future guests to safely enjoy all that a Princess experience offers, and their strong leadership will support our crew in our commitment to create lasting memories,” Ms Swartz said.

Captain Laakkonen said he was proud to be bringing Princess Cruises’ newest ship into service.

“Sky Princess will be a magnificent addition to Princess Cruises’ fleet and I am deeply honored to have been chosen to introduce this awe-inspiring ship to our guests,” Captain Laakkonen said.

Sky Princess Leadership Team

Captain Heikki Laakkonen – Captain Heikki Laakkonen was born in the coastal town of Kotka, Finland and began his career in the Finnish Navy in 1991. After completing military service, he studied at the Maritime College of Rauma, Finland and graduated as a Master Mariner in 1999.  Captain Laakkonen joined Princess Cruises in 2001 and first served as Captain aboard Pacific Dawn in 2013. He has since commanded Pacific Pearl, Crown Princess, Island Princess, Caribbean Princess, Coral Princess, Golden Princess and Sapphire Princess.

Captain Michele Tuvo – Captain Michele Tuvo hails from Levanto, Italy. After completing naval college and serving on container ships, Captain Tuvo joined Princess Cruises in 2000 as a 3rd Officer on the Sun Princess. He worked his way up through the ranks on Sea Princess, Grand Princess, Golden Princess, Dawn Princess, Sapphire Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Star Princess, Coral Princess and Island Princess. He served his first command onboard Star Princess. 

Chief Engineer Officer Fabio Braccelli – Fabio Braccelli lives in Cerri di Arcola in Northern Italy and joined Princess Cruises in 1990. In 2004, Fabio began his first contract as Chief Engineer Officer aboard Sun Princess. He has since sailed as Chief on Sapphire Princess, Caribbean Princess, Pacific Princess and Royal Princess. He has been part of the Royal Princess crew since 2013. 

Chief Engineer Officer Mladen Ratkovic – Mladen Ratkovic lives in Zadar, Croatia and started his career with Princess Cruises in 2003. Mladen was promoted to Chief Engineer Officer on Pacific Princess in 2014. After his time on Pacific Princess, he has also served as Chief on Ocean Princess, Star Princess and Sea Princess. 

Hotel General Manager Terri Cybuliak – Terri Cybuliak hails from White Rock, B.C., just south of the port of Vancouver. She joined Princess in 1998 as a Junior Assistant Purser on the original Crown Princess. Her career has progressed through the ranks, and she has traveled with Princess Cruises to all seven continents.

Hotel General Manager Richard Harry – Richard Harry was born in Farnborough, England and now resides in Bristol. He joined Princess Cruises in 1988 as a Front Desk Receptionist and worked on the original Sky Princess in 1989.  Richard has been part of the newbuild teams for five Princess ships.

Staff Captain Giovanni Cardile – Giovanni Cardile was born in Messina in northeast Sicily. Following a family tradition of seafaring, he joined the Merchant Navy as a Deck Cadet, then after service in the Italian Navy, worked on tanker and cargo ships.  Giovanni joined Princess Cruises in 2005 and advanced through the ranks to be appointed Staff Captain on Regal Princess in 2014. He has since served as Staff Captain on Regal Princess, Sea Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess. 

Staff Captain Brian Whelan – Brian Whelan was born and raised in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. His interest in cruise ships started with some early family cruises, including onboard the S.S Canberra.  Brian started his cadetship with Princess Cruises in 2000. He has worked his way up the ranks, including working in the head office, before taking the position of Staff Captain.