Virgin Voyages Picks Female Captain to Command First Ship

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson introduces Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlett Lady.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson introduces Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlett Lady. Photo courtesy Virgin Voyages

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson has named Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Virgin Voyages’ first vessel, Scarlet Lady, set to debut in spring 2020.

Once Captain Williams takes the helm, she will become the first Canadian woman to hold the position of Master of a large cruise ship for a major cruise brand.

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

“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, president and chief executive officer for Virgin Voyages.

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

To help close the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry, Virgin Voyages announced last year its Scarlet Squad program which aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent, and to grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions.

In addition to Captain Williams, Virgin Voyages says it has already recruited nearly a dozen other female officers, including Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer and Jill Anderson as hotel director and other female engineers and second and third officers.

Scarlet Lady is one of four ships Virgin Voyages currently has on order with Italian shipbuilding group Fincantieri.