Women of the Seas: Cruise Travel Gets in Touch with Its Feminine Side
Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
There once was a time when women were deemed bad luck at sea, but now they are leading a new charge in cruise travel, as high up as line presidents and ship captains, proving the opposite is, in fact, true.
Just on my last cruise aboard Fathom’s Adonia to Cuba, I was extraordinarily impressed by the prowess of Sarah Breton, who was made the first female captain for P&O Cruises back in 2010. Some captains are infrequently seen or heard beyond their usual PA announcements, but Breton was often out and about, greeting guests with a convivial demeanor. "Particularly the women passengers often comment on how proud they are to have a female captain,” Breton said. I also witnessed her extended leadership and friendship as she professionally engaged with crew members beyond the officers staff in casual conversation.
Elsewhere in the Carnival Corporation, Inger Klein Thorhauge was also made a captain in 2010 as master of Cunard Line's Queen Victoria. "The opportunities for women in the industry are the same as they are for men," said Thorhauge. "As long as you work hard and are dedicated, anyone can achieve anything.”
The female touch is even found in the engine department on Carnival Cruise Line where Francesca Dandriccio serves as a 3rd engineer and was recently recognized as the company’s Leader of the Year, nominated by her male bosses for her capable interaction with guests snd crew as well as her "brilliant technical abilities.” Hotel operations also benefit thanks to the tenacity of Terri Cybuliak, hotel general manager on Princess Cruises' Golden Princess. "I was constantly looking for new challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to prove my abilities," she said.
Female leadership runs strong across the board at Carnival where Christine Duffy – formerly president and CEO of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) – is now president of Carnival Cruise Line. She reflected, "There haven't been a lot of women in these roles and today you look at Carnival Corporation and there are … As women we do tend to have a different way of engaging. Studies have shown we tend to be more empathetic, more in touch with the human side.”
In fact, two other Carnival brands are led by women too. Jan Swartz is president of Princess Cruises, and Tara Russell is president of aforementioned Fathom, the corporations’s newest cruise line. "Women are into travel as an experience that creates family memories," Swartz said. "Most women want to create these experiences for their families, friends and loved ones and take great pride in planning trips – and more and more that includes cruises.”
Russel added, ”I think there's only more opportunity ahead as I look across the family of brands and the growth and vision of where we are headed corporately. It's one of Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald's beliefs that when you bring different perspectives to the table, you ultimately get a better outcome. I think we're seeing that every day.”
Additionally, Ann Sherry has been executive chairman of Carnival Australia since 2007, overseeing a total of seven regional brands and acting as a female mentor, saying, "I think it is incredibly helpful especially at the senior level to have a touch point for any questions that come up.”
Carnival Corporation isn’t the only cruise company with female leadership either. Dynamo Lisa Lutoff-Perlo has been with Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited for nearly three decades and is now the president and CEO of its Celebrity Cruises brand, where she took the role in 2014. Before that, she served as executive vice president, operations for Royal Caribbean International and in many other positions, also spearheading partnerships with the likes of Discovery Television, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Johnny Rockets, Fisher Price and Crayola.
Celebrity Cruises also named its first female captain in 2015 when Kate McCue took the command of the Celebrity Summit. "Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember," she said. "The honor is amplified by being the first at a company like Celebrity Cruises.” Of the honor, Lutoff-Perlo added, "From the first time I met Kate, I looked forward to this moment, when I could extend my congratulations to her for being such a dynamic and highly respected leader who will continue to pave the way for women in the maritime industry.”
Women are also making captain at luxury and adventure cruise lines as well. Silversea Cruises, for instance, appointed Margrith Ettlin, its first female captain, as master of the Silver Explorer expedition ship in 2013. “We’re very pleased and proud to extend this promotion to Captain Ettlin,” said Christian Sauleau, Silversea’s executive vice president of fleet operations.
What’s more, just this year Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Windstar Cruises also named their first female captains: Serena Melani (pictured above) and Belinda Bennett respectively. Melani said, “The ship is like a small village, and I take pride in ensuring that all of our guests experience a unique and enjoyable journey,” and Bennett said, “Earning this title has been a long and exciting professional journey and I’m ready to lead our guests through a safe and one-of-a-kind adventure around the world.”
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