Meet Kate McCue, the First American Woman to Captain a Cruise Liner: 'Let's Go Together' Season 2, Episode 22

She's not a "female captain." She's just a captain.

Female Cruise Ship Capitan, Kate McCue
Photo: Courtesy of Captain Kate McCue

Through the ups and downs of the last two years, one thing has remained consistent here at Travel + Leisure: Our deep and unabating love for exploring the world around us.

We still believe in the power of getting out, experiencing new things, and celebrating what makes us all unique. Be that with a staycation to reacquaint yourself with your home town, or a bucket list trip somewhere on the other side of the world.

As borders reopen and vaccines continue to get distributed to the global population, we're honoring our love of travel with new episodes of our podcast, Let's Go Together, which highlights how travel changes the way we see ourselves and the world.

In the first season, our pilot and adventurer host, Kellee Edwards, introduced listeners to diverse globe-trotters who showed us that travelers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. From the first Black woman to travel to every country on Earth to a man who trekked to Machu Picchu in a wheelchair, we met some incredible folks. And now, in our second season, we are back to introduce you to new people, new places, and new perspectives.

On this episode of Let's Go Together, Edwards sits down with Captain Kate McCue, the first American woman to captain a commercial cruise liner, to discuss her experiences as a female maritime officer.

"The greatest thing about my job is there's nothing typical because every day changes. Whether it's, you're in a different location, you're in a different port, you're surrounded by different people, even the weather is different every day," McCue said. "Adapting to those changes is the biggest challenge of my job, but also one of the most satisfying as well, because I don't think I could do a nine to five, honestly."

McCue, who is celebrating her 25th year at sea and six years as captain with Celebrity Cruises, says she knew she wanted to be a captain at the age of 12, when her parents took her and her brother on their very first cruise.

"When we were packing the car to drive home, I said to my dad, 'I know what I want to be when I grow up.' And he said, 'What's that?' I said, 'You know the person that plans all the fun events on board a ship?' He said, 'The cruise director?' I said, 'Yes, that's what I want to be.' And that's where the seed was planted because he said, 'You can do that or you can even drive the thing.' Basically, the world was my oyster because of supportive folks like my parents."

Now, she's hoping she can not only serve as inspiration for other women to join the ranks, but to also help change the narrative around "female captains" in general.

"What I realized was I was given this incredible platform, being one of the few female captains in the world, to really make this hopefully a thing where in the future, you're not a female captain, you're a captain," she said. "And the women that were coming up through the ranks below me would not have to answer the same questions, it would just be normal that they were in these positions."

Ready to hear more advice from McCue? Listen as she shares it all on Let's Go Together, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Player.FM, and everywhere podcasts are available.

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