What it’s like to be a cruise ship captain

(CNN) — Every night, whether or not the Celebrity Edge cruise ship is crisscrossing the Caribbean or meandering across the Mediterranean, Captain Kate McCue writes evening orders for her workforce.

She all the time consists of a observe of how many individuals are on board the ship.

It’s essential, says McCue, “to understand the gravity of the responsibility.”

Celebrity Edge is certainly one of Celebrity Cruise Line’s largest and swankiest vessels. It cost $1 billion to build and might home virtually 3,000 passengers and over 1,000 crew members.

McCue’s job is to take cost of this monumental floating metropolis and steer it safely all over the world.

Following her early days studying the ropes with Disney Cruise Line, McCue rose by way of the ranks at Royal Caribbean and moved to Celebrity Cruise Line to captain Celebrity Summit in 2015 — a promotion that made her the primary feminine US cruise ship captain.

She later moved to Celebrity Equinox and has helmed Celebrity Edge since September 2019.

Today, McCue chats to CNN Travel over video name from her dwelling in Las Vegas, the place she just lately returned after spending months unexpectedly caught at sea within the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unexpected uneven waters

Covid-19 introduced the cruise trade to a standstill — virus-hit ships have been quarantined and passengers have been denied disembarkation. Ports have been closed and cruise traces spent months attempting to get passengers, and later crew members, dwelling.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a No Sail Order for ships touring from US ports.

The weight of accountability of captaining a cruise ship had by no means been extra obvious.

McCue’s second stint on board Edge commenced in December 2019. The plan was she’d work three months on board, after which three months off.

The final voyage of McCue’s December-March stretch was to coincide with International Women’s Day, a particular Celebrity crusing wherein the ship was completely staffed by feminine officers.

“That was a pinnacle moment in my career, to be able to be on a ship that was manned by what we called the ‘Oceans 27’,” says McCue.

“But that is the cruise when everything kind of came to a head with Covid.”

McCue’s reliever, supposed to arrive from Greece, by no means got here.

“We all found out the flights from Europe were canceled,” she recollects.

McCue’s husband, who additionally works within the cruise trade, was on board Edge on trip on the time.

As Covid worries heightened and uncertainty grew, he traveled again to Vegas, and McCue deliberate to observe.

Captain Kate McCue has helmed Celebrity Edge since 2019.

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

“I said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be home in two weeks, no problem.’ Fast forward to seven months later, when I finally signed off earlier this month.”

McCue spent the spring, summer season and first days of fall navigating the uneven waters of Covid-19’s cruise restrictions and attempting to do her finest by her workers.

She stayed up to pace with cruise trade updates, however says she had to restrict her common information consumption to keep sane within the face of a lot uncertainty.

“From regulations and closures of countries around the world and situations that were popping up — you couldn’t have written a Hollywood script that could include all of the things that were coming at us,” says McCue.

Complex CDC tips, a lack of economic flights, widespread journey bans and closed borders difficult crew disembarkation.

Speaking to CNN on the top of the disaster, some crew members said they felt deserted by the cruise traces, amid experiences the scenario was having an affect on workers’s mental health.

McCue says the crew on Edge rallied round each other, and he or she celebrated each time a crew member efficiently disembarked the ship and reunited with their family members.

“It was important for me to stay as long as I could to make sure that the 1,350 crew members that we had on Celebrity Edge — and all of the crew members that we had in our fleet in the Caribbean — that we could get off, did get off.”

One of a number of Celebrity Cruise Line vessels anchored within the Caribbean, Celebrity Edge grew to become the ‘mothership’ — the vessel designated to take disembarking crew members into Miami for log out. The ship additionally took provisions and mail from Florida to the opposite ships.

When McCue disembarked in October, solely 4 crew members remained on board Edge — and he or she says they have been all working once more.

“I look back on that 10-month contract as the most satisfying contract of my career,” says McCue.

“There weren’t stripes, there weren’t positions, it was — in the end — 80 people that just knew each other as family. And that was really cool.”

In truth, for McCue, disembarking and leaving the bubble of Celebrity Edge was weird, as excited as she was to see household once more.

“I was petrified to get off,” she says.

Postcards from the Edge

As Celebrity Edge spent months in limbo, McCue additionally documented life on board by way of her Instagram account.

She’d began the account when she first started working at Celebrity, inspired by the PR workforce to present social media customers a slice of seafaring life.

She’s at the moment bought 204,000 followers and counting.

“The way I always looked at the Instagram was yes, it’s an inside look at the captain’s life, but also, it’s my digital photo album. And whether people love it or not, that wasn’t really my concern. My concern was to be able to go back and look at my memories that I’ve made since I became a captain.”

From photographs of cotton sweet sunrises on the horizon, to movies of dolphins dancing within the waters beneath to clips of crew tie-dying shirts to go the time, McCue’s Instagram is a whirlwind take a look at life on board the ship.

This summer season she began experimenting with TikTok, which she says is “just for fun” — though she’s already gone viral in a clip responding to a sexist remark — and YouTube, the place she solutions extra in-depth questions on life at sea.
"I look forward to the day where, honestly, being the first female anything isn't a thing anymore," says McCue.

“I look forward to the day where, honestly, being the first female anything isn’t a thing anymore,” says McCue.

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Working as a cruise ship captain, no two days are the identical — even pre-Covid — however McCue says one factor most days have in frequent is a wakeup name courtesy of Bug.

On sea days, it’s essential to McCue to be accessible and accessible for the friends as they get pleasure from life on board.

On port days, it takes about an hour and a half to two hours for the ship to dock. Once the ship’s arrived, typically McCue will exit on the cruise excursions and discover the vacation spot with the friends. If she stays on the ship, she’ll do inspections and meet with crew.

McCue eschews the custom of captain’s dinners — she determined prioritizing time with a small group of friends wasn’t one of the simplest ways to join with passengers. Instead, she hangs out in busy areas of the ship and chats with friends as they get pleasure from their day.

In common, McCue says she’s been in a position to put her personal stamp on her job.

She recollects again when she labored at Royal Caribbean, and first grew to become workers captain — second in command on the ship. McCue had to take the necessary psychological analysis, which ensures workers are up for the job.

“At the end of it, I sat down with a gentleman to go through the results,” recollects McCue. “And he said: ‘Everything was perfect. But I find that you tend to smile too much.'”

When McCue began at Celebrity, she discovered herself returning to this suggestions, and attempting her finest to stay poker-faced.

“I was focusing so much on that, that I couldn’t enjoy what I wanted since I was 12 years old, that had come to fruition. So, I said: ‘Throw that out the window, I’m going to be me.'”

McCue spent months at sea due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

McCue spent months at sea due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Nowadays, McCue enjoys injecting her persona and huge smile into her position — and it’s recommendation she offers others: you’ll be able to take your job severely, do the job effectively, and be your self.

Offering these phrases of knowledge and performing as a position mannequin for different younger feminine seafarers is essential to McCue, however she hopes at some point it will be redundant.

“I look forward to the day where, honestly, being the first female anything isn’t a thing anymore.”

McCue says that, at first, having the highlight on her each as a captain and because the first feminine captain was “overwhelming.”

“I almost felt it was a bit unfair, because the men, when they were promoted, they got to do their job. And they got to do their job 100%. I felt like I had to do my job 100% but then I also had to do this representing of being a female.

“But then I spotted, if I do not do it, who else goes to do it? If I do not do it, how will individuals see it?”

Right now, McCue is looking forward to the resumption of cruising and is confident the industry will bounce back from 2020.

Long term, her goal is to take a ship out of the yard in a new build.

Her ultimate dream? Becoming a ship’s godmother.

“I do not imagine any time in historical past has the captain of the ship additionally been the godmother. So, we put that out on the earth. I do not know who will hear that, however fingers crossed.”

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