Perhaps the most standout women in travel story for International Women’s Day in 2023 is the DOUBLING of women at the helm of major cruise lines in just the first three months of this year. Open Jaw’s editor, Lynn Elmhirst, tracks the trailblazers and the new wave that’s changing the face – and the direction? - of cruise line executive leadership.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises
Lisa took the helm of Celebrity Cruises in 2014 – making waves in a new era of women in top leadership positions at cruise lines. Over nearly a decade, she has steered the transformation of Celebrity Cruises towards redefining the ‘modern luxury’ cruise experience, epitomized by the introduction of the distinctive and acclaimed Edge Series of new ships that stand out in any port in the world.
For Lisa, shepherding the success of Celebrity Cruises as a business includes ‘walking the walk’ of helping lift other women and minorities. In 2015, she appointed the first American woman to the position of Captain in Celebrity’s fleet. In an industry where an average of only 2% of bridge officers are women, under Lisa’s leadership, Celebrity’s percentage of women on the bridge jumped from 3% to 27% in five years.
Under her leadership, Celebrity Cruises has used the platform of new ship godmothers to promote diversity, human and women’s rights and excellence, including with the appointment of godmothers Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for female education and empowerment Malala Yousafzai, and Black American Olympian Simone Biles.
Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line
Christine has been president of Carnival Cruise Line since 2015. She moved to the helm of Carnival after serving as president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents the global cruise industry, where she led the industry’s adoption of the Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights.
Carnival Cruise Line is the world’s largest cruise company, with a fleet of two dozen ships and 43,000 employees from over one hundred countries. Under the leadership of Christine, and what’s been described as her “people first” philosophy, Carnival is certified as a “Great Place to Work.”
In addition to a commitment to passengers and workers, under Christine’s leadership, Carnival Cruise Line is showing leadership in making cruising more sustainable for the environment. Carnival’s new Excel class vessels are leading the industry’s adoption of more environmentally-friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG) in powering cruise ships in North American waters.
Jan Swartz, Group President, Holland America Group
As group president of Holland America Group, a role she was appointed to in 2020, Jan Swartz is responsible for Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, and P&O Australia, as well as Holland America Princess Alaska Tours – all brands that are part of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company. She’s been in executive positions with Carnival Corp brands for two decades, including serving as president of Princess Cruises.
Jan’s lengthy intimacy and institutional legacy with multiple Carnival Corporation brands gave her the incredible breadth of knowledge to pour into her latest role as Group President.
A remarkable highlight of Jan’s leadership came during the early days of the pandemic, when panicked governments around the world were closing borders closures, leaving cruise passengers unable to complete cruises and in some cases, disembark ships to return home. One of the most highly publicized was the Diamond Princess, and Jan took a highly publicized trip to Japan to personally greet medically-cleared guests once they were permitted to disembark, at the same time thanking cruise ship staff who managed an unprecedented scenario, as well as diplomatically thanking Japanese authorities for helping get guests home.
NEW WAVE OF WOMEN LEADING CRUISE LINES
Andrea DeMarco, President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Effective the beginning of 2023, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has its first female president. Andrea DeMarco also became the first woman president in the history of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ family of cruise lines (that includes Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent, and Oceania.) She was previously Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the cruise line.
“I am honored to lead the world’s leading luxury cruise line,” she said on the announcement of her new role. “The hard-working and talented team at Regent is truly unrivaled, and I look forward to contributing to the line’s future growth and success, particularly as we prepare for the addition of our newest ship, Seven Seas Grandeur, in 2023.”
Barbara Muckermann, President and CEO, Silversea
Barbara Muckermann also assumed her new role as of the New Year, rising from her previous position as Chief Commercial Officer of the 11-ship luxury fleet to become Silversea’s first woman top executive. She first joined the Europe-based company nearly 20 years ago.
“This is an exciting moment for Silversea as we continue to add new ships,” Barbara said on her appointment. “I am thrilled to build on our achievements.”
Barbara becomes the second woman to lead one of Royal Caribbean Group’s three cruise lines, alongside Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.
Natalya Leahy, President of Seabourn
In another small-ship, luxury cruise line first, Seabourn has its first woman president. Natalya Leahy’s appointment comes following seven years as Chief Operating Officer with Holland America Group including operational oversight of Seabourn. She joins Jan Swartz at Holland America Group and Christine Duffy at Carnival Cruise Line as another woman at the top of a Carnival Corporation cruise line.
"It's an honor to join the extraordinary Seabourn team and partners who take personal pride in curating transformative, enriching, one-of-a-kind Seabourn moments," Natalya said on her appointment. "We have built unmatched luxury experiences at sea that provide life expanding moments for our guests,” she said, adding she is “excited” to “continue to surprise and delight our guests in ways they would never imagine."