How long did it take to get to the top?
Nearly two decades. I began my career at sea as a cadet in 1996. I then worked on cargo ships, shipping bananas between Ecuador and California, before starting my career in the cruise industry in 2001 as third mate. I worked my way up the ranks, from second officer, first officer navigation, first officer deck, first officer safety, chief officer safety to staff captain (deputy captain, second-in-command). I then joined Celebrity Cruises in July 2015 with my promotion to captain.
You have made history as a female captain…
I honestly did not expect the overwhelming response of support and sheer enthusiasm for my promotion, but I meet people on a daily basis who tell me how much it means to them to see me in this position. It is a very humbling experience, and I really enjoy sharing the story about where and how it all started – with my dad, who told me I could be anything I wanted in life. I meet fathers who let me know that they tell their daughters the same thing. I meet grandmothers who have so much faith in their granddaughters and want to share my story with them. I enjoy speaking to young women and watching their faces and reactions as they come to the realization that becoming a captain of a cruise ship is a possibility for them.
What is your greatest high on the high seas?
The ability to actually maneuver the vessel – the arrivals and departures from ports are an adrenaline rush!
What is the roughest weather you have encountered at sea?
I have found that the term ‘rough’ is relative as everyone has a different definition, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not only applicable to going to sea, but also on land: Mother Nature is to be respected. There are several things that we can control but Mother Nature is not one of them. However, we have great, expert means of being able to make predictions and plan accordingly. The safety of our guests and crew always comes first, and we do not take chances.
How is it like to be away from family for months?
My contract is three months onboard and three months at home. I have the opportunity to invite my family to come sail with me when possible. Onboard, I have a family of 950 crew members. You can say we are a support system of our own. More than 65 different nationalities and backgrounds working together and supporting each other – they are truly special relationships.
When I am home, I can do anything I want, including travel, visit friends and family or learn a new hobby – there are plenty of those on my list! Also, communication has evolved so much since I began sailing; it is easier than ever to stay in touch with loved ones, they are only just a click or phone call away. Life onboard, doing what I love, is nice. Many things are taken care of, such as laundry, meals, cleaning, scheduling. When I go home, it takes a bit of time to adjust to making my own bed, sitting in traffic or going to the grocery store to buy ingredients to cook a meal.
What’s your typical day aboard the ship?
Days at sea are great for me to meet as many guests as possible. I like to walk throughout the ship, go where great events are taking place, talk to everyone and find out where they are from and how their cruise experience is going.
Would you recommend this career for other women?
Women are in the ranks. They have been since I began sailing. The opportunities are increasing for everyone, with more ships being built and positions opening up, and I believe you will see more female captains in the cruise industry soon. It is an incredible career, and I recommend it for anyone who has wanderlust in their veins, enjoys meeting new and interesting people, and experiencing the world by an awe-inspiring mode of transportation – cruising. Think about how you feel when you witness a perfect sunrise or sunset, now that is what it feels like to be at sea every day.