Exactly one year ago, an American woman took the helm of a mega-ton cruise ship for the first time in the cruise industry.
At just 37 years of age, San Francisco native Kate McCue took command of the Celebrity Summit – a 91,000-ton, 965-foot ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, sailing between the eastern United States and Bermuda. As Captain, she is responsible for the safe navigation of the ship and the onboard experience of its 2,158 guests and 952 crew members.
Kate started as a cadet and deck officer, and worked through a series of successfully more responsible positions all the way to the top. “Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember,” she says.
Kate’s parents took her on her very first cruise when she was just 12 years old, which she remembers as the most special vacation of her youth. When she told her father, she wanted to be a cruise director when she grew up, he answered her: “You can do anything you want in the world, including drive the thing.” Little did he know, she would make his words a reality.
Kate says she challenges quite some of the stereotypical ideas of what a ship’s Captain should look like. “I’m missing some pounds. I don’t have entirely grey hair. I don’t have a beard or a parrot, but I think when the guests meet me, they are pleasantly surprised.”
How does it feel to be a woman amongst the boys’ club of the maritime industry?
I think this is the greatest job in the world. Travelling, meeting all these people and getting paid for it.
I think women at sea have the same challenges as women in any male-dominated profession on land. Currently women are a minority in shipping. Even fewer of those women are in top leadership positions.
However, the industry is changing with the times. Much like the aviation sector, we are seeing an increase in women in the field, so we will hopefully see more women rise through the ranks.
What is the best advice you received for your career?
The Captain at President of the Maritime Academy told me not to put myself in a position to lose. Also Henry Ford, who said: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re always right.” That’s good advice.
Are you a pioneer?
I am the first female American Captain on mega cruise ships. However, both men and women have been doing amazing things for far longer than I have. I’m just proud to help contribute to break a little bit of that glass ceiling.
Who are your role models?
My mom and my family, my best friend and my co-workers.
Who are better drivers: men or women?
If you ask my husband, he’ll say that he is, if you ask me, I’ll say I am. But, I know three things for sure:
If I get lost, I have no problem pulling over and asking for directions.
I always wear my seatbelt.
And, I always find the better parking space…