Richard Daniel O'Leary has recently written the memoir, One with the Sea, which chronicles his journey from being from a poor family to becoming the CEO of Cruise Ventures, a company with 2500 employees, 55 offices in 12 states and a fleet of harbor cruise ships.
You call your book a "rag to riches" story. What were your origins, and how long did your journey take?
My father was an Irish Immigrant, who came to this country when he was 19. He was illiterate but turned out to be a huge force in my life. He first worked in manual labor in New York and in Boston and ended up in Maine, where he met my mother and I was born. We were very poor, and moved 10 to 12 times in the same city. He worked several jobs, was selfless, and his only interest was working to provide for his family.
At some point, between five and eight years old, my parents took me to the beach. It was the first time I had ever seen the ocean. I loved everything about it - the tides, the waves. It really sent the tone for my whole life.
I eventually went to Maine Maritime Academy. I had previously been working for a bakery making jelly donuts and sandwiches for a year, from 62 cents an hour to the highest paid, $1.60. I didn't know if I should give up this job, but I did.
I had a rough time at Maritime Academy, because I didn't smoke or drink. That changed. I became a leader in some of those areas. A guy, Arnold Stenson, Jr., probably the most popular student, befriended me. He was a really great guy and this helped me, and my image.
Times were tough when I graduated, so I applied for a job in a Navy. The ship I was assigned to was an AE212 ammunition ship, about 450 feet long. I went aboard, and was told to take some bags to the navigator's room. I thought I would meet the navigator, but instead realized he meant I was the navigator. I was not in any way qualified to navigate a ship like this. I was astonished. It went very badly in the beginning. I could have crashed into something or blown the whole ship up.