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Home | Elegant Traveller | Women Making Waves: Celebrity Cruises' CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Captain Kate McCue

Elegant Traveller

Women Making Waves: Celebrity Cruises' CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Captain Kate McCue

schedule7 Minute Read

Laura Jones

Join us as we set sail for International Women's Day...

An annual occasion celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, International Women's Day provides the perfect chance to honour some of the most remarkable women in the travel industry.
Championing gender equality, Celebrity Cruises is a brand at the forefront of supporting women, while also effortlessly delivering luxury cruise holidays like no other. Led by President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the company has grown the number of women on the Celebrity Cruises bridge dramatically in just four years, with Captain Kate McCue becoming the first female American captain of a 'mega' cruise ship in 2015, onboard Celebrity Summit.
Exclusively for International Women's Day, we spoke to CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Captain Kate McCue about how the brand has balanced gender equality with building the world's most revolutionary ships.

How did you begin your illustrious career in travel?


Completely by accident, actually. I was looking for a 'new start' in my quest for a fulfilling career in the early '80s and happened upon a job advert for someone to sell cruises for the top travel company in Boston, Massachusetts. They hired me and one year later I found myself as the District Sales Manager for Royal Caribbean in New England - and the rest as they say, is history!

You've played a critical role in empowering women at Celebrity Cruises. Could you share how the brand is championing gender equality?


When I joined Operations at Celebrity in 2005, it hit me that there was a very big gender gap in the operational side of our business. I was the first woman to run Hotel Operations for Celebrity, the first woman to run Hotel and Marine Operations for Royal Caribbean after that, and am now the first woman to run one of our brands and sit in the C-Suite. Additionally, only 2% of the mariners in the world are women. So, I found myself with a unique opportunity in this role to truly narrow the gender gap in our business - I believe it is my responsibility, obligation and opportunity. Fortunately, I work with amazing men who share my belief that we need more gender balance in our operation, and five years ago we began the journey to significantly increase the number of women on our bridges. We are now at 25%, up from 3% just a few years ago - a tremendous accomplishment we are all very proud of.

How have you and the female bridge and officer team been preparing for the International Women's Day sailing?


It's very much business as usual for navigation, hotel operations and our daily jobs, but with the added anticipation and excitement for the International Women's Day sailing. It's a unique opportunity for us to all work together.

We have a great events program lined up for the cruise featuring a female film series, brands highlighting female designers and founders, an art exhibition and auction by female talent, and panel discussions with a host of inspiring women, including Madeline Stuart, our CEO Luisa Lutoff-Perlo and the all-female crew onboard Edge. We also have a special event in the evening planned to mark International Women's Day - all guests are invited and it will be a great opportunity to celebrate this historic sailing and the amazing women we have working at Celebrity Cruises!

How does it feel to be leading a monumental sailing?


I am so excited about our International Women's Day sailing and to be working alongside so many incredible women on Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises has been working hard to get greater female representation, with Celebrity Edge launching with 30% of the bridge team being female. In my crew, there are 72 different nationalities, all of us a minority of some sort, whether by race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We don't pick on our differences, we celebrate them.

New vessel Celebrity Apex is setting sail in April 2020. What makes this ship stand out?


Celebrity Apex is the sister ship to Celebrity Edge that we introduced 18 months ago. The design is extraordinary, and the experiences are luxurious without being pretentious. Our Retreat experience, suite accommodations and all the spaces and amenities that go with them are the best in the industry and our spa is beautiful, offering treatments you won't find anywhere else. Celebrity Edge has won over 50 awards and counting since her launch, and has been named in Time Magazine's Top 100 Places In The World To Vacation. Both ships have transformed our brand and the industry, with never before seen features like the Infinite Veranda which increases room size by 28% and bathroom size by 30%, and the Magic Carpet which serves as a custom launch platform, restaurant or extension of our resort deck, hovering 16 stories above sea level - you won't get a perspective of the sea or the destination like this anywhere else in the world!

The brand seems to be going from strength-to-strength. What are you most excited about in the next twelve months for Celebrity Cruises?


Well, certainly the launch of Celebrity Apex at the end of March, but I am also excited that the Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Infinity will be 'revolutionised' this year. We are completely modernising these ships, inspired by the beautiful design on Celebrity Edge and Apex. Once transformed, these ships will look brand new! We are receiving rave reviews around Celebrity Millenium and Summit which have already been revolutionised. I am also excited about our partnership with Goop - founded by Gwyneth Paltrow - and our increased focus on Wellness that will now become a pillar of Celebrity. Finally, I am excited about finishing the design work for Celebrity Beyond, which we will be introducing at the end of 2021. So, lots of exciting things going on for sure.

Why do you love working for Celebrity Cruises?


I love working with Celebrity Cruises for a couple of different reasons: I want to work in an office with ever-changing spectacular views, have the chance to visit seven different continents and work with over seventy different nationalities - all within unmatched modern luxury. When you introduce diversity into an organisation, you see increased productivity and creativity. When you have different perspectives, whether it be gender, race, religion, cultural background or sexual orientation all in one environment, it produces amazing things!

What advice would you give to the next generation of ambitious females, particularly in travel?


I think that travel is a great business for ambitious women. If you look around, you will see many women who are running companies and who hold very senior positions within the travel industry. That said, there is still significant opportunity to increase these numbers, especially in some roles that have historically been held by men. I believe the next generation has to think about that and see themselves in those roles by following their ambition and desire in order for us to raise the number of women and narrow the gender gap. The only way we can do that is for women to opt in and want them. There are many of us who are proof that if you want it, you can achieve it, so go for it!

Laura Jones

Digital Content Executive

From my home in picturesque North Wales, my travels have taken me from the idyllic Greek Islands to the bright lights of New York - always with a very full suitcase, of course!

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