CLIA Celebrates Women Leaders

Captain Wendy Williams
Captain Wendy Williams

Published Oct 3, 2019 7:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) used World Maritime Day to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and gender equality in the cruise industry.

“A cruise ship may be a vacation destination for guests, but it's also a workplace for a diverse crew onboard. Gender diversity is as critical to a ship as it is to any enterprise, encouraging teamwork and creativity while bringing a range of perspectives,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO, CLIA. “Elevating women to leadership positions in the cruise industry makes good business sense. Research shows women hold the purchasing power when it comes to decisions and bookings in the multi-trillion-dollar travel and tourism industry. It’s more important than ever to have women at every level of leadership in the cruise industry bringing better representation and customer understanding.”

The CLIA recognized women in leadership roles including:

Captain Belinda Bennett 

Bennett of Windstar Cruises is setting the course for greater diversity, both as the first female captain at Windstar and the first black female captain in the commercial cruise industry.

Ellen Bettridge 

President and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and U River Cruises, Bettridge is leading luxury river cruising in new directions. In her leadership role, she helps to further Uniworld’s positioning and innovation in the river cruise industry.

Kelly Craighead 

At CLIA, Craighead is the third female CEO leading the cruise industry within the past 10 years. She brings a passion to empower female leaders and regularly offers her insight and advice to women in travel and tourism.

Christine Duffy

As the first female president of Carnival Cruise Line, Duffy leads the industry’s largest cruise line that includes a fleet of 26 ships, that sail 5.2 million guests annually and employs more than 40,000 people from 110 nations around the globe.

Vicki Freed 

Senior vice president of sales and trade support & service, Freed oversees the largest sales organization in the cruise industry at Royal Caribbean International, and is known as a vocal supporter of Travel Agent Partners. During her career, Freed became the first female chairman of CLIA's marketing and travel agent training arm of North America.

Pamela Hoffee

In 2018, Avalon Waterways announced Hoffee was taking the helm as Managing Director, overseeing all-things river cruising for the company. For 15 years, Hoffee has led product and operations for the Globus family of brands. As the managing director of the company, Hoffee is steering this leading river cruise company into the future, supported by a team across the globe.

Kristin Karst 

AmaWaterways executive vice president and co-founder Karst is a charismatic entrepreneur leading her teams by example and following what she calls her four pillars for success: positive thinking, passion, partnerships and personal interaction.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo 

In 2014, Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, became the first woman to lead one of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s brands, with a diverse, global workforce on land and at sea. She is a champion for diversity in the cruise industry and, in her role, has developed many initiatives to recruit more women to shipboard leadership roles.

Captain Kate McCue 

McCue became the first American woman to captain a cruise ship in 2015. She is currently at the helm of Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the 129,500-ton, 2,918-guest Celebrity Edge –  a billion-dollar ship designed by a collective of world-class designers and overseen by Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. McCue takes great pride in being a role model for women around the world and championing diversity in the maritime industry.

Captain Serena Melani 

Melani is an influential 30-year veteran of the maritime industry – one of the first women to work in maritime early in her career. She joined Regent Seven Seas Cruises where she was appointed the cruise line’s first female Master Captain.

Edie Rodriguez 

As Americas Brand Chairman and Special Corporate Advisor for Ponant Cruises, the world’s leading luxury yacht expedition cruise line. Rodriguez has over 30 years of experience in executive roles in the cruise and travel industry. She was named Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of The Year” in May 2017, and selected as Luxury Daily’s “25 Luxury Women to Watch” for 2017.

Jan Swartz 

As president of Princess Cruises, Swartz leads the fastest growing international premium cruise line in the world, overseeing a global cruise and tour company with a fleet of 17 modern ships that carry two million passengers annually to 380 destinations around the globe. Swartz believes diverse teams drive better results, including working to draw more women to the cruise industry.

Captain Wendy Williams 

Virgin Voyages, the newest cruise line to enter the industry, has formed a “Scarlet Squad” with the explicit intent of “growing leadership roles for women in marine, technical, and hotel management positions onboard. Williams is at the squad’s helm and is the first captain appointed to Virgin Voyages and the first Canadian woman to ever captain a major cruise ship.