Maiden voy­agers at the helm make in­ter­na­tional cruis­ing his­tory

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MERRY KIRK­WOOD CATHERINE MAR­SHALL

OCEAN lin­ers, once cap­tained solely by men, to­day have four women in the top job, in­clud­ing Cap­tain Sarah Bre­ton, 46, ap­pointed in July on board P&O’s Pa­cific Pearl.

Bre­ton previously served as cap­tain on P&O’s Artemis (for­merly Royal Princess).

Her pro­mo­tion also swells the num­ber of se­nior fe­male of­fi­cers on P&O’s lat­est su­per­liner to five: ho­tel di­rec­tor (ef­fec­tively the ship’s gen­eral man­ager), cruise di­rec­tor, ad­min­is­tra­tion/rev­enue di­rec­tor and ex­ec­u­tive house­keeper. ‘‘We are re­ally proud to be lead­ing the way by bring­ing the first fe­male cap­tain to the re­gion,’’ says Ann Sherry, CEO of Car­ni­val Aus­tralia, which op­er­ates P&OCruises.

In 2007, Cap­tain Karin Stahre-Jansen, from Swe­den, made in­ter­na­tional cruise his­tory on reach­ing her pin­na­cle role on Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Monarch of the Seas, while Cap­tain In­ger Olsen, from Den­mark, took the helm of Cu­nard Line’s Queen Vic­to­ria in De­cem­ber 2010. And since Bre­ton’s ap­point­ment, Royal Caribbean Cruises has an­nounced the fleet’s sec­ond fe­male cap­tain, Lis Lau­ritzen, who has taken com­mand of Vi­sion of the Seas.

De­spite the flurry of ap­point­ments, Bre­ton recog­nises that although many women set out on mar­itime ca­reers, the long pe­ri­ods at sea pose a chal­lenge for of­fi­cers with fam­i­lies and there is a high rate of at­tri­tion in such jobs.

‘‘It takes time to build up the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ says Bre­ton, who grew up near the coast in Es­sex, Eng­land.

Her pro­mo­tion is a pos­i­tive story for our lo­cal cruise in­dus­try, which con­tin­ues to grow steadily in tough eco­nomic times; the In­ter­na­tional Cruise Coun­cil Aus­trala­sia 2010 fig­ures show this coun­try boasts the third largest cruise mar­ket by pop­u­la­tion. In 2009, dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Aus­tralia’s cruise pas­sen­ger num­bers in­creased by 11 per cent, while in 2010 they soared by 27 per cent to a buoy­ant 466, 692. PAR­ADISE is not al­ways a pretty sight: white beaches can turn omi­nously dark with flot­sam that washes up on the tide, draw­ing an ugly line in the sand as im­per­ish­ables are de­posited along the high-wa­ter mark.

But it’s not just fish­er­men and water­side-dwellers dis­card­ing their rub­bish and watch­ing dis­pas­sion­ately as the cur­rent sweeps it along: tourists who cruise the high seas share re­spon­si­bil­ity for much of the de­tri­tus that pol­lutes our oceans.

‘‘[Lit­ter] is a prob­lem as­so­ci­ated wher­ever there are high lev­els of tourism, cou­pled with waste be­ing il­le­gally de­posited at sea, which washes up on to the beaches,’’ says Mikael Krafft, owner-op­er­a­tor of spe­cialty cruise line Star Clip­pers. ‘‘A lot of ves­sels are us­ing the same waters and can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

But the tide is be­gin­ning to turn, with pas­sen­gers on Star Clip­pers’ hi-tech, lux­ury replica clip­per ships tak­ing mat­ters into their own hands. Re­cently a group vol­un­teered along­side a West In­dian char­ity to clean up 770kg of rub­bish from two beaches on the Caribbean is­land of St Kitts. And many pas­sen­gers are turn­ing their hol­i­days into lessons in marine bi­ol­ogy, avail­ing them­selves of Star Clip­pers’ on-board ecoaware­ness pro­gram.

‘‘I try to give the guests an in­tro­duc­tion to the study of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the sea in this su­perb sub­ject called oceanog­ra­phy,’’ says Mar­i­ano Peruzzo, one of the marine bi­ol­o­gists work­ing aboard Royal Clip­per, the com­pany’s flag­ship.

Aside from con­duct­ing marine re­search, Peruzzo ed­u­cates pas­sen­gers about the en­vi­ron­ment through which they are cruis­ing and shows them how to ex­am­ine beach eco-sys­tems. Star Clip­pers says that by pro­vid­ing this ser­vice it’s not only en­hanc­ing the travel ex­pe­ri­ence of its guests but ed­u­cat­ing them about the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing the marine en­vi­ron­ment and leav­ing be­hind a beach that is cleaner than when they first stepped on it.

But not ev­ery­one is in­ter­ested in en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ecoaware­ness pro­gram is by no means manda­tory.

‘‘I talk each day to about eight to 12 per cent of the pas­sen­gers,’’ Peruzzo says. ‘‘It’s not that many, but it doesn’t mat­ter.

‘‘If more peo­ple had had the chance to fol­low an ecol­ogy course in high school, the world might not be in the mess it is to­day. At least some of them have a sec­ond chance here on board and will take steps as a re­sult to be more re­spon­si­ble and con­scious.’’

The pro­gram, cou­pled with eco-friendly cruise prac­tices such as the use of wind power, high-qual­ity, low-sulphur gas oil and biodegrad­able on-board clean­ing prod­ucts, is none­the­less help­ing to bring about a change in pas­sen­gers’ con­scious­ness. Peruzzo says he reg­u­larly re­ceives en­cour­ag­ing feed­back from guests once they’ve re­turned home.

‘‘[That’s] the best ex­pe­ri­ence of the project. Some of them send emails ask­ing how it’s work­ing, if my lab is ready, how was the last dive? One guest sent me Shark­wa­ters, a very nice doc­u­men­tary about sharks, which I show on board now,’’ he says. ‘‘I’m a con­ser­va­tion­ist so I am by na­ture an op­ti­mist.

‘‘You have to be­lieve it’s pos­si­ble to turn around the trends that you see on this planet. But we need to get go­ing.’’


Star Clip­pers pas­sen­gers clean­ing a beach on St Kitts

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