Published on Sunday, February 23, 2020

Virgin Voyages has lost female captain

Virgin Voyages confirmed at the launch of its first ship, Scarlet Lady, that the vessel will no longer be captained by Wendy Williams, whose appointment was announced with much fanfare last June.

Williams would have been the first Canadian woman to captain a ship for a major cruise line. At the time of her appointment, Virgin Voyages' CEO Tom McAlpin said she had been chosen not only for her 'extensive maritime background' but also for her 'spirit and drive to approach life at sea differently'.

However, Virgin Voyages senior vice president hotel operations Frank Weber said at the launch in Dover on Saturday: "Unfortunately it didn't work out and we parted ways.

"Working for Virgin is a little bit different to working for other cruise lines, we do things differently. It's like dating, you like each other at first but a couple of weeks in you might feel differently."

On most ships there is a hierarchical structure, said Weber, which he likened to the navy, but Virgin is attempting to 'flatten out' the organisation. "Our officers don't have stripes, there's no officer restaurant, there is no big captain's presentation, it's a very different environment to other ships," he added, suggesting this wasn't to Williams' liking.

Captain Marco Carsjens, who was appointed as Williams' second in command last October, will now be master captain on the Scarlet Lady. He joined Virgin from Holland America Line.

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 3% of the workforce.

The programme aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent, and to grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions onboard.

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