Virgin Voyages Appoints Female Captain

Richard Branson and Wendy Williams
Sir Richard Branson and Captain Wendy Williams

Published Jun 12, 2019 5:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin announced the appointment of Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlet Lady, the cruise line's first ship. 

When Williams takes the helm in spring 2020, she will become the first Canadian woman to be captain of a ship for a major cruise brand.

“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 for Virgin Voyages. 

Originally from the coastal city of Sept-Îles, Quebec on the Northeastern coast of Canada, Williams now resides on her hobby farm on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Williams has more than 28 years of experience working on ships at sea. Her extensive background includes more than a decade as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the western coast of Canada as well as working as a ferryboat captain. Although she has spent more than 15 years working on the bridge of mega cruise ships, her role with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to Master of a cruise ship.

“I have salt water in my veins, and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” said Williams. “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 but for our crew as well; while also taking action to minimize our footprint on our oceans.” 

Last year, Virgin Voyages announced its Scarlet Squad program, an initiative dedicated to bridging the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry, where women represent less than three percent of the workforce. The program aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent and to grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions on board. 

While Virgin Voyages is still in the early stages of choosing the crew for Scarlet Lady, the company has already recruited Williams as well as nearly a dozen other female officers, including Jill Anderson as hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer, among other female engineers as well as second and third officers. 

In response to the U.S. government’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba from the United States, Virgin Voyages has also developed new itineraries including five-night Riviera Maya sailings to Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The itineraries feature multiple late-night sail aways, including a midnight departure on all new sailings. Four-night sailings will now become Fire and Sunset Soirées including a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini. Seven-night sailings for the 2020 festive holiday season which feature stops in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and late-night sail aways in both Bimini, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.