Canadian Woman To Be First Captain Of Virgin Voyages Ship

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Tom McAlpin, Wendy Williams, and Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin visited Toronto yesterday to announce that Canadian Wendy Williams has been selected as the first Captain for Scarlet Lady, the first Virgin Voyages ship.

When Captain Williams takes the helm of the new vessel in spring 2020, she will become the first Canadian woman to be captain of a ship for a major cruise brand. 

Originally from the coastal city of Sept-Îles, Quebec, Captain Williams now resides on her hobby farm on Vancouver Island. She has more than 28 years of experience working on ships at sea, including more than a decade as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the west coast as well as working as a ferryboat captain. Although she has spent more than 15 years working on the bridge of mega cruise ships, her role with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to Master of a cruise ship.  

“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 McAlpin. 

“I have salt water in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” Williams said. “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 minimize our footprint on our oceans.”

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 program aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent, and to increase opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions on board. 

While Virgin Voyages is still in the early stages of assembling the crew for Scarlet Lady, the company has already recruited nearly a dozen other female officers in addition to Captain Williams, including Jill Anderson as hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer, among others. 

The company also announced a new lineup of itineraries for its premier season, featuring destinations that its ‘Sailors’ – the name Virgin gives to its passengers -- expressed interest in exploring. 

The itineraries will feature multiple late-night sail aways, including a midnight departure on all new sailings. 

Virgin Voyages will now offer five-night Riviera Maya sailings to Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Cozumel and Playa del Carmen offer opportunities to experience some of the world’s best diving, as the area is home to 26 coral species. Sailors will also have the opportunity to explore ecological and archeological treasures, including Mayan ruins. 

For those who just want a quick getaway, Virgin Voyages’ four-night sailings will now become ‘Fire and Sunset Soirées’ including a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini. 

In response to demand for longer voyages aboard Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages has developed seven-night sailings for the 2020 festive holiday season. Those looking to get a jump start on their holiday planning can opt for the all-new ‘Holidaze and Nights’ and ‘New Year’s Ahoy’ voyages, which fall over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays respectively, and feature stops in 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 The Beach Club, a private club for Virgin Voyages Sailors while Scarlet Lady is on the island. 

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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