Women are continuing to make great strides in obtaining leadership positions in most segments of the workforce. Some bureaucracies have been easier to scale than others. Doorways need to be cracked open by trailblazers who are willing to lend a helping hand.
At the end of 2014, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo accepted the position as the first woman to lead Celebrity Cruises, a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brand. At the time, she achieved the honor of being the only woman CEO of a publicly traded cruise line on the New York Stock Exchange. In these leadership roles, she fostered an environment that has allowed women to enter positions that have, until recently, been a male dominated domain. Having made that journey over several decades, Lisa thoroughly understands what it takes to climb up a swaying corporate ladder.
From the time my family booked our first Celebrity voyage in the 1990s until the present, I’ve observed an increased number of women officers and supervisors. Clearly, the most notable was our autumn 2017 sailing up the coast of New England and Canada. During this cruise, I frequently encountered women who had worked their way up from a starting position to a supervisory position. On past sailings, men had held these jobs.
Midway through this Celebrity Summit sailing, the leadership was passed to a woman. The original captain, Alex Papadopoulos, was heading home. Captain Kate McCue took the helm.
Back in 2015, she became the first American woman to become the captain of a mega cruise ship. A couple of years later, swarms of guests congregated whenever she appeared in public areas.
Couples eagerly lined up to have a professional photo taken with Captain Kate. She encouraged an ongoing dialogue with passengers by taking time out to serve coffee and pastries at the Café al Bachio. Captain Kate openly shared her Instagram account information @captainkatemckue and news about her cat’s daily escapades. Yes, her cat lives onboard the ship. Her morning announcements caused people to listen and chuckle. Since I was usually walking around, I didn’t have time to jot down her words. Before I disembarked, Captain Kate sent me a note with a few of her favorites:
Woman who drives like hell, bound to get there.
If you can’t convince them, confuse them.
He who is insomniac, agnostic, and dyslexic is awake all night wondering if there is a dog.
While I never took part in the captain’s scavenger hunt, she asked passengers to look for a marble that she left behind during a previous shore excursion. Unlike other ship captains, she always shared her favorite places. Every day I heard her parting mantra “Life is a journey, so seize the day.” Until I received her note, I didn’t realize that she was actually saying “Seas the Day.”
I would have loved the opportunity to chat longer with Captain Kate. Her abbreviated time on board prevented such an extended encounter. In addition to seeing more women officers, I also observed an increase in the number of women in the main dining room. In the past, this arena was saturated with men. To gain a better perspective of women in the dining room, I sat down with Andreea Goia, an assistant maître d’ in the Cosmopolitan dining room.
Andreea had grown up in northwest Romania and initially wanted to explore the world as a flight attendant. To avoid a rift with her mother, she chose to complete her management degree at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca in Romania. After college, she worked for a family business that offered no room for advancement.
Instead of accepting the status quo, Andreea searched online for other opportunities. While her mother’s concerns remained, she still longed for a job that required extensive travel. Andreea wanted to see the world. A Skype interview with a cruise ship agency led to a Celebrity Cruises contract. Within a month, Andrea was working as a snack attendant in the buffet area on the Constellation.
She was determined to advance to a better position. She sheepishly admitted that her first cruise contract paid less than her land job. By the time she signed the next contract, she was promoted to assistant waiter. Shortly after returning to sea, she was asked to be a restaurant hostess. On a future contract, she became part of the management team as a Head Waitress. In this position, Andreea utilized her undergraduate business skills as well as her trilingual language skills. Her perseverance paid off. She is now an assistant maître d’ and looks forward to further advancing her Celebrity Cruises career.
I highly doubt that Andreea’s rapid advancement would have occurred in a work environment that didn’t encourage women to move ahead. Having a female CEO is a plus. Nevertheless, women who have defined goals will persevere until they find a way to accomplish their dreams. That journey will undoubtedly be littered with fewer obstacles when gender isn’t a deciding factor.
Sandra Bornstein is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She shares her experiences and recommendations on this blog and on other websites. Check out Sandra’s second website, https://thetravelingbornsteins.com.
Sandra is the content coordinator for Golden Living, a Best Version Media publication. In addition to writing family and business feature stories, she contributes a monthly travel tip column. She also writes for Fareportal’s online sites—One Travel Going Places and CheapOAir Miles Away.
Sandra is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. This memoir highlights Sandra’s living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. As a licensed Colorado teacher, Sandra has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. She also taught college level courses.
Sandra’s memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.