Captain Wendy Williams will make cruise-industry history as the first Canadian woman to helm a ship when she takes command of Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady next April.
She joins a small but growing group of female cruise ship captains – the first was Karin Stahre-Janson, who was appointed captain of Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas in 2007. Regent Seven Seas recently announced that Serena Melani will captain its newest ship, Seven Seas Splendor, which makes its maiden voyage in February; other lines that have female captains include Cunard, P&O UK, Windstar, Sea Cloud, AIDA and Silversea.
Originally from Canada's coastal city of Sept-Iles, Quebec, Captain Williams has more than 28 years of experience working on ships. She spent 10 years as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the western coast of Canada, as well as working as a ferryboat captain. Although she has spent 15 years working on the bridge of cruise ships, her role with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to Master.
"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 [passengers] but for our crew as well; while also taking action to minimise our footprint on our oceans."
Virgin Voyages has employed several women in senior officer roles on Scarlet Lady – the "Scarlet Squad" – and intends its shipboard crew to be at least 50 per cent female.
NOT JUST FOR VEGANS
Alongside its sister line Oceania, Regent Seven Seas is introducing an extensive array of plant-based dishes on menus across its fleet. From October this year, more than 200 gourmet plant-based selections will be offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner to meet the evolving tastes of luxury travellers who are following vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, or just enjoy having more choice of meat-free mains and sides. Dishes will be taken from global cuisines including Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Italian and Malaysian. See rssc.com
ARCTIC CIRCLE DISCOVERY
Passengers on Adventure Canada's voyage through the Northwest Passage this September could be among the first visitors to the wreck site of HMS Erebus, one of the two ships of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin expedition. Other highlights include up-close encounters with icebergs, fiords and glaciers, meeting the Inuit who call the region home and the chance to see the Northern Lights. Last-minute bookings on the 18-night "Out of the Northwest Passage" expedition package are still available; fares include two nights' free accommodation and there is no solo supplement (subject to availability). See cruisetraveller.com.au
FAMILY FRIENDLY TAHITI
Paul Gauguin Cruises, which operates luxury 332-guest ship Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific, is running a free, family-friendly discovery program on select cruises between July and December this year. In partnership with Te mana o te moana, a South Pacific marine education and conservation foundation, the Moana Explorer program invites children and teens to join daily activities on-board and ashore to learn about Tahitian culture, marine life and nature. Depending on the itinerary, naturalist-led activities include treasure hunts, making natural jewellery, designing a Polynesian tattoo and underwater adventures. See wiltrans.com.au
Aussie celebrity chef Curtis Stone's Share by Curtis restaurant is available exclusively on one major cruise line – which one is it? (Hint: five of its ships will sail Down Under this summer.) Last week's answer: Pacific Islands
Whether you're viewing wildlife, sea conditions or searching for a distant landmark, a good pair of binoculars comes in handy. Avalon Optics' Avalon 8x32 Mini HD model is compact, lightweight (416 grams), water- and fogproof, and have a wide field of view and top-quality optical performance. A carry strap and case are included. RRP $235; see avalonoptics.com.au
CATHY LUCAS, RUSE, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN Five
LAST CRUISE A 10-night Pacific Island cruise on Carnival Spirit. It was our first cruise on this line and we loved it. We visited Noumea, Mare, Port Vila and Mystery Island. All the ports have a lot to offer, particularly Vila – we have snorkelled, jet skied and taken day trips there. The duty-free shopping is great too. Mare is another favourite port. You get the bus up to the beach (make sure you buy your transfer on board) and the beach is very special.
NEXT CRUISE We are looking at cruises to New Zealand, Fiji and other Pacific Island destinations we haven't yet visited.
DREAM SHIP It would have superb food, entertainment, attentive staff and a few extra places for adults only. A balcony is a must and of course the room should be clean and spacious!
DREAM CRUISE Wow, every cruise is amazing! I really want to fly to Hawaii and sail back through the islands of French Polynesia. I think that would be just awesome.
DREAM PORT Champagne Bay in Vanuatu, hands down. It is picturesque, peaceful and unspoilt. The water is crystal clear – absolute paradise.
BEST CRUISE TIP Relax! Don't stress about the small stuff. If you can't stop at a port due to weather, then just enjoy the ship more. Don't overthink things, just go with the flow. We always take $100 worth of $5 notes in cash to tip the room steward every day and cash is always useful in the Pacific Islands for souvenirs.
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