Marcus Cheesman started his maritime training in 1987 at the early age of 13, attending Trinity House Navigation School, the UK’s only Nautical school.
Upon graduation he was selected for a deck cadet apprenticeship with P&O Cruises and continued to progress through the ranks with P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line (including Windstar Cruises) and Disney Cruise Line, ultimately obtaining his Master Mariners license in 2002. He has piloted vessels on the busy River Humber based in his home town Hull, UK, before moving to the United States, holding positions responsible for Nautical and Marine operations and Training for Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Disney Cruise Line. Throughout his career, Marcus always had a passion for teaching and sharing his professional experience and so it seemed natural to start his own maritime training school in his new home state of Florida.
Seven Seas Preparatory Academy is a young but expanding maritime training business. Launched in 2018, it experienced 400% growth after its first year of operation, which led to expanded training programs to include yacht stewardess training, deckhand programs and cruise line entertainment training.
“We came into the maritime training business with a fresh approach and with the premise of not following the normal,” said Cheesman. “From my experience working ashore in the cruise line industry and responsible for training, time was a restriction, hence I saw the need for a blended approach,”
While he started his own maritime training at a very young age, the trainer never stopped learning and Cheesman explains that “we also studied the needs of our students in today’s world and it quickly became obvious that our preferred training should be delivered using blended training and that we should also prepare and mentor those new to the industry.”
Today, Seven Seas Preparatory Academy is centered on an online/blended program that includes the STWC Basic Training elements, security awareness, crowd and crisis management, personnel with designated duties and deck programs.
Seven Seas Today
Today, Seven Seas Preparatory Academy primarily provides and customizes maritime training to the cruise ship and yachting industry, serving a diversity of student from first-time maritime entrants to refresher courses for students from around the world.
“ In addition to STCW courses, we build customized maritime professional training programs for cruise industry, for example recently we developed a Health and Safety course for a new cruise line (Virgin Voyages) that was facilitated to all crew, when the ship was still in the yard,” said Cheesman.
Starting at such an early age in the industry has given Cheesman a unique perspective on evolving and effective training methods. “I have attended many courses during my career with a mixture of quality and it became apparent that occasionally while attending a course was a tick in the box and to collect a certificate with no real learning value,” said Cheesman. “Today, expectations are high, and we must ensure that we create the best learning environment to aid development. We believe we a best placed for that by delivering blended and online courses.”
While legislative mandate drives maritime education requirements and an increasing array of online tools enable distance learning, Cheesman sees practical experience as equally important. “As we need to embrace changes in technology, we believe that basic core principles must still be taught to ensure we do not become to over reliant on such technologies. This is a reason why we focus on preparing our students for life at sea.”
Give and Take
Teaching a course is one matter; gauging its effectiveness is another. “Our main focus is student feedback,” said Cheesman. “Our philosophy is ensuring that our students understand what we are teaching and not just completing a test to gain a pass mark. We have an active program in place that enables us to make changes with the goal of providing quality training with the expectations of our students.” Seven Seas Preparatory Academy’s online platform was developed by Marine Learning Systems and “has proven instrumental in reaching our needs and goals in providing online training. The system allows us to track student performance with their leading-edge reporting,” said Cheesman.
As the industry evolves, so too does Seven Seas. “We currently run a deckhand workshop for those interested in working on superyachts, where they learn valuable seamanship/navigation skills and as part of the course we shall be providing remote simulator assessments where we can operate instructor lead exercises using radar/ECDIS. We are very much embracing in this new and evolving technology.”