What it’s like to be a cruise ship captain

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

She all the time features a word of how many individuals are on board the ship.

It is essential, says McCue, “to grasp the gravity of the duty.”

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

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

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

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

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

Sudden uneven waters

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

The US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) issued a No Sail Order for ships touring from US ports.

The load of duty 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 Worldwide Ladies’s Day, a particular Celeb crusing through which the ship was fully staffed by feminine officers.

“That was a pinnacle second in my profession, to have the ability to be on a ship that was manned by what we known as the ‘Oceans 27’,” says McCue.

“However that’s the cruise when every thing type of got here to a head with Covid.”

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

“All of us discovered the flights from Europe had been canceled,” she remembers.

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.

Captain Kate McCue has helmed Celeb Edge since 2019.

Courtesy Celeb Cruises

“I mentioned: ‘Don’t be concerned, I will be house in two weeks, no downside.’ Quick ahead to seven months later, once I lastly 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 greatest by her employees.

She stayed in control with cruise trade updates, however says she needed to restrict her basic information consumption to remain sane within the face of a lot uncertainty.

“From rules and closures of nations all over the world and conditions that had been popping up — you could not have written a Hollywood script that would embrace the entire issues that had been coming at us,” says McCue.

Advanced CDC tips, a scarcity of economic flights, widespread journey bans and closed borders sophisticated crew disembarkation.

Chatting with CNN on the top of the disaster, some crew members said they felt deserted by the cruise traces, amid stories the scenario was having an influence on employees’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 essential for me to remain so long as I may to guarantee that the 1,350 crew members that we had on Celeb Edge — and the entire crew members that we had in our fleet within the Caribbean — that we may get off, did get off.”

Considered one of a number of Celeb Cruise Line vessels anchored within the Caribbean, Celeb Edge grew to become the ‘mothership’ — the vessel designated to take disembarking crew members into Miami for log off. 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 had been all working once more.

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

“There weren’t stripes, there weren’t positions, it was — in the long run — 80 folks that simply knew one another as household. And that was actually cool.”

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

“I used to be petrified to get off,” she says.

Postcards from the Edge

As Celeb 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 Celeb, inspired by the PR workforce to indicate social media customers a slice of seafaring life.

She’s at present obtained 204,000 followers and counting.

“The way in which I all the time appeared on the Instagram was sure, it is an inside take a look at the captain’s life, but additionally, it is my digital photograph album. And whether or not individuals like it or not, that wasn’t actually my concern. My concern was to have the ability to return and take a look at my recollections that I’ve made since I grew to become a captain.”

From images of cotton sweet sunrises on the horizon, to movies of dolphins dancing within the waters under to clips of crew tie-dying shirts to cross 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 “only for enjoyable” — 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 stay up for the day the place, actually, being the primary feminine something is not a factor anymore,” says McCue.

Courtesy Celeb 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 is essential to McCue to be obtainable and accessible for the company as they get pleasure from life on board.

On port days, it takes about an hour and a half to 2 hours for the ship to dock. As soon as the ship’s arrived, typically McCue will exit on the cruise excursions and discover the vacation spot with the company. 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 company wasn’t the easiest way to attach with passengers. As an alternative, she hangs out in busy areas of the ship and chats with company as they get pleasure from their day.

Usually, McCue says she’s been capable of put her personal stamp on her job.

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

“On the finish of it, I sat down with a gentleman to undergo the outcomes,” remembers McCue. “And he mentioned: ‘Every little thing was excellent. However I discover that you simply are inclined to smile an excessive amount of.'”

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

“I used to be focusing a lot on that, that I could not get pleasure from what I needed since I used to be 12 years previous, that had come to fruition. So, I mentioned: ‘Throw that out the window, I’ll be me.'”

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

McCue spent months at sea because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Courtesy Celeb Cruises

These days, McCue enjoys injecting her character and vast smile into her function — and it is recommendation she offers others: you’ll be able to take your job significantly, do the job effectively, and be your self.

Providing these phrases of knowledge and appearing as a job mannequin for different younger feminine seafarers is essential to McCue, however she hopes sooner or later it will be redundant.

“I stay up for the day the place, actually, being the primary feminine something is not a factor anymore.”

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

“I nearly felt it was a bit unfair, as a result of the boys, once they had been promoted, they obtained to do their job. And so they obtained to do their job 100%. I felt like I needed to do my job 100% however then I additionally had to do that representing of being a feminine.

“However 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?”

Proper now, McCue is trying ahead to the resumption of cruising and is assured the trade will bounce again from 2020.

Long run, her purpose is to take a ship out of the yard in a brand new construct.

Her final dream? Turning into a ship’s godmother.

“I do not consider 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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