Virgin Voyages announces Havana alternative and first Canadian female captain

Virgin Voyages has appointed Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlet Lady, the first cruise ship being built for the new cruise line, and has announced new itineraries for its Caribbean cruises following new US travel restrictions on Cuba.

Captain Wendy is the first-ever female Canadian cruise ship captain. With more than 28 years’ experience working at sea, she has spent the past 15 years in the cruise industry and said the new appointment was a dream come true.


Captain Williams (centre) with Sir Richard Branson (right) and Tom McAlpin (left).

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“I have saltwater in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” said Captain 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 minimise our footprint on our oceans.”

The announcement was made by Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin, who said that her unique approach to her job was what made her the right choice as Scarlet Lady’s fist captain.

“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.

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, Virgin said, in a statement.


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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 the crew for the Scarlet Lady, the company has already recruited Captain 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.

New itineraries following changes to US policies on travel to Cuba

Also this week, Virgin Voyages released its revamped Caribbean cruise itineraries for Scarlet Lady. The 2,770-passenger, 110,000-gross ton cruise ship was meant to overnight in Havana on its Havana Nights itineraries out of Port Canaveral. Those plans have now been shelved following the change in US policy.


Playa del Carmen, Mexico (image courtesy Visit Mexico)

Scarlet Lady will now call at Cozumel or Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, instead of Havana on her four- and five-night sailings.

Her four-night cruises will also be re-named “Fire and Sunset Soirées” and will include a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini, the cruise line’s private destination in The Bahamas.

In response to demand for longer voyages, Virgin Voyages also announced that it has added special seven-night sailings for the 2020 Christmas and New Year season, including calls to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and late-night sail aways in both Bimini, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

All voyages will feature a stop in Bimini, Bahamas, home to Virgin Voyages’ private Beach Club.

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