Wendy Williams will become the first Canadian woman to captain a ship for a major cruise brand when she takes the helm as master of Scarlet Lady in spring 2020.
The line also announced a rejigged lineup of itineraries for its inaugural 2020 season following the Trump administration’s sudden ban on US cruise calls to Cuba last week.
Williams has more than 28 years of experience working on ships at sea – including more than a decade as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the western coast of Canada and as a ferryboat captain.
She has also spent 15 years in various roles on the bridge of cruise mega ships and new her position with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to the rank of master of a cruise ship.
Williams’s appointment follows the line’s launch of its Scarlet Squad programme last summer.
The initiative aims to bridge the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry and will see Virgin Voyages "recruit support and mentor female shipboard talent, and grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions onboard," the line said.
The company has so far recruited "nearly a dozen" other female officers, including Jill Anderson as its hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer, among other female engineers and second and third officers.
Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages’ president and chief executive, said: "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."
Williams added: "I have salt water in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea. It’s a dream come true to be working with Virgin Voyages, a company that is focused on creating an incredible experience not only for our sailors [guests] but for our crew as well – while also taking action to minimise our footprint on our oceans.”
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