MS Veendam ship doctor Christiaan Kotze.
Durban - Cruise ship passengers, whose average age is 77, are vulnerable to falls as the vessels move on water, but many still find it quite a thrill to travel through pirate-infested waters between India and Oman.

eManzimtoti born-and-bred cruise ship doctor Christiaan Kotze discovered this during his stint on the ocean between qualifying as at Stellenbosch University and specialising in emergency medicine.

“We have to cover the windows when we pass through pirate seas. Everyone gets so excited. The ship also has to report to headquarters every hour,” he told The Independent on Saturday on a visit home to perform in A Celebration of Voices event this week at his old school Kearsney College.

Kotze said being aboard a ship at sea means that patients cannot be referred to specialists in a hurry, unless it’s dire and a helicopter needs to be called in. “Still, the job involves a huge amount of logistics.”

It’s his call to tell the captain whether the ship must stay in port if a patient needs to be there.

“That costs millions in port fees and it also means the ship must then go faster once it leaves and that adds to the fuel costs.”

Kotze, whose singing career took him to Vienna as a schoolboy and Russia for the World Cup Choir Festival, has, on occasion, sung with entertainers on board and once, on a stop in Singapore, performed karaoke.

Being a cruise doctor has taken him from his Florida, US, base through the St Lawrence Seaway, to Florida and Bermuda, Jordan and Norway, Hawaii and Havana.

Kotze’s life has been as much about music as it is about medicine. While he can’t pinpoint overlaps between the two, he notes that the choir of the residence at medical school won campus singing competitions six years in a row.

“There were so many medical students who had talents and an interest in arts and culture.”

He said his love of singing came from his mother, Glynis Kotze, who was the music teacher at eManzimtoti Primary School, which he attended. She now has that job at Highbury Preparatory School in Hillcrest.

Kotze has started a fund to help members of Kearsney’s choir attend overseas functions like the World Choir Games in Belgium next year.

The Independent on Saturday