Female Cruise Ship Captains

Jun 27, 2016

Every ship has a captain, but on larger percentage on the ships in the cruise industry captains are of the male gender. It has been the truth as old as time, men overpopulate the majority of the higher paying positions around the world and this position has not been any different for as long as the cruise industry has existed. It seems that this old-fashioned way of thinking has been shifting lately since the cruise industry slowly is incorporating female captains into their fleets.

Royal Caribbean Captain Karin Stahre-Janson (the first female in the cruise industry to command a major cruise liner)

It would appear that the cruise industry is recognizing their female officers who sacrifice their time with friends and family, as well as their hard work, just as much as their male officers. This new tradition of promoting female First Officers to captains begun with Royal Caribbean International's Karin Stahre-Janson in 2007. The Swedish born female mariner became the first woman in the industry to lead a major cruise ship, the Monarch of the Seas. The Monarch of the Seas is an 880 feet long cruise ship that can provide services to 2,400 passengers and harbors shelter and jobs for about 850 crew members. Captain Stahre-Jansen is responsible for all those people who work and vacation aboard her ship which is not an easy task for any person.


Following in Stahre-Jansen and Royal Caribbean's footsteps were the P&O Cruises with the promotion of Captain Sarah Breton, and Cunard's Captain Inger Olsen. These few hard-working women have interesting stories to tell on how to get to the top of the food chain aboard one cruise ship, but the just of it is hard work, determination, and a lot of sacrifices.

Cunard Captain Inger Olsen


P&O Cruises Captain Sarah Breton


Silversea Cruises Captain Margrith Ettlin

For the first time in Silversea Cruises' 20-year history, a female captain was promoted. A Swiss national with extensive maritime experience, Captain Ettlin assumed control of the 132-guest expedition cruise ship Silver Explorer on 7 August 2013 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Click here to read more about Silversea Cruises first female captain

cruise ship captain 5

Celebrity Cruises Captain Kate McCue

At 37 years of age, San Francisco native Kate McCue took command of Celebrity Cruises 91,000-ton ship, Celebrity Summit. As Captain, she is responsible for the safe navigation of the cruise ship of its 2,158 guests and 952 crew members. McCue climbed to the position of Captain following her 15 years of successful experience and leadership in the maritime industry. Click here to read more about Celebrity Cruises First American Female Captain.

celebrity cruises female captain

Regent Seven Seas Captain Serena Melani

Serena Melani made history as the first Italian female cruise ship Captain. She took over the command during the traditional handover of the ship Seven Seas Mariner in March 2016. The 210 meters cruise ship belongs to the Regent Seven Seas fleet, one of the Norwegian brands, offering ultra-luxury all-inclusive cruises for a limited number of guests. Click here to read more about the first Italian female cruise ship captain


Royal Caribbean Staff Captain Wendy Williams

Royal Caribbean Staff Captain Wendy Williams is one of three department heads overseeing everything that happens onboard the cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas. Take a look behind the scenes video with Staff Captain Wendy Williams here.


Virgin Voyages Captain Wendy Williams

The new player in the cruise industry Virgin Voyages announced the first female to captain their first-ever ship called Scarlet Lady. After her extensive experience as a Staff Captain at Royal Caribbean Wendy Williams will take the helm of Scarlet Lady in spring 2020, as the first Canadian woman master of a ship for a major cruise brand. 

Wendy Williams was born in Quebec City and now calls Vancouver Island home. She started her career on a commercial fishing ship and worked her way up the ranks through ferries, and finally serving on a bridge of other cruise liners.

“Captain Wendy’s extensive maritime background makes her an excellent choice to lead the Scarlet Lady, but it is her spirit and drive to approach life at sea differently that make her the perfect fit to join the Virgin Voyages family,” said Tom McAlpin, president, and chief executive officer.

Virgin Voyages is determined to put women in more leadership roles on their cruise ships and started recruiting more than a dozen other female officers and engineers. Williams calls her new gig “a dream come true. I have saltwater in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” she said.

Wendy Williams cruise ship captain

Windstar Captain Belinda Bennett (The first black female cruise ship captain)

In 2019 Belinda Bennett became the first black female captain in the cruise industry. Born and raised on the British territory of St Helena just off the South Africa’s Atlantic coast, she pursued a career in maritime studies in Newcastle, England. Captain Bennett has sailed for Windstar Cruise Lines for over 14 years and is now a master of the MSY Wind Star. She recently won the U.K.’s prestigious Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service.

captain belinda bennett windstar

With time every person might create a family even though their career aboard the cruise ships may take them away from the family with months at the time., but becoming a captain aboard one cruise ship does not happen overnight, it takes years of commitment towards one or several companies and experience. The acknowledgment that a woman can work as hard and sacrifice as much as one man aboard a cruise ship is a step forward to breaking away from those old fashioned stereotypes which have been lingering throughout the history of the cruise ship industry.

The new age is bringing a new breed of women, as well as men. Women are entering the workforce with the same understanding as men used to, while men are becoming somewhat more domesticated. This is not an emasculation of the male sex, but an understanding that the female sex might not be as gentle as history has portrayed it to be.