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Cruise ships line the dock and harbor of Dutch St. Martin on a particularly busy January day when nine ships visited, depositing more than 25,000 shoppers and sightseers for a few hours. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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As the megaship Explorer of the Seas leaves Miami, passengers aboard a sister ship crowd the top deck and cheer. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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The Explorer of the Seas, foreground, docks at the Pan American Pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it’s tied up nose-to-nose with another cruise ship. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Capt. Carlos Pedercini charts the course of the Explorer of the Seas as it sails in the Caribbean. Although computerized navigation has revolutionized the industry, cruise ship officers on the ship still chart the course on paper every 30 minutes in case of power failure. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Guests enjoy a day at sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, sunning, swimming and relaxing in hot tubs. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Passengers gather at their emergency stations for a drill aboard the Explorer of the Seas. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Crew members on the Explorer of the Seas check engine room monitors. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Cruise ship captains line the harbor of Dutch St. Martin with their charges. With such awesome responsibility come some perks. There’s the celebrity factor, for one. Captains are popular guys. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Cruise ship captains have a TV series to thank for their popularity. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Gavin MacLeod glamorized the job in his role as Capt. Merrill Stubing, longtime master of “The Love Boat.”  (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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A ship’s captain is never off duty. The Explorer of the Seas sails every Sunday from the Port of Miami, returning the following Sunday. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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A bridge officer on the Explorer of the Seas uses binoculars for a visual check for other seagoing traffic while sailing in the Caribbean. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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Cruise ship captains are part father figure, part social guru, part navigator and part boss. The downside of the job is that they could end up going down with the ship if someone were to make a mistake. (Rosemary McClure / LAT)
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