When she set off on her journey in cruising, Regent Seven Seas’ Captain Serena Melani was one of only a few females with major responsibilities in the industry.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and Captain Serena Melani says the scene has dramatically changed for women, so-much-so that the doors have finally opened for her to be the first female to captain a brand new ship.

Come February 2020, and Captain Serena Melani will take the wheel of Seven Seas Splendor, which will not only be the most luxurious ship in the Regent Seven Seas fleet but one of the most elegant industry-wide.

But before she steps into the ground-breaking role, we caught up with the Captain to chat about her journey and the rough seas she’s conquered to get to where she is today:


At what age did you know you wanted to captain a ship?


I have always loved to travel ever since I was a little girl. I started my career at sea because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days than getting to travel the world. I am definitely a gypsy at heart.

I strongly believe that any kind of job requires having a passion for it on a daily basis, otherwise, you won’t be able to do the best job you can, and you also won’t be satisfied. That’s why I think I was destined for this job.


How did you work your way to the top?


Baby steps.

When I was 16 in my hometown in Italy, I spent two of my summer vacations on board as Nautical Cadet on cargo ships, just to gain some experience – with no pay. Then, after getting my degree from Nautical High School, it took five years to find my first job.

However, thanks to an initiative by the European Community and my Nautical School, I was finally able to find a position as a Deck Cadet on oil tankers and an LNG carrier. At that time, it was still difficult to enter in this kind of industry.

It wasn’t until 2002 that I started working on cruise ships as a third Officer. I then joined Regent Seven Seas Cruises in 2010 as a Bridge Officer, then served as Navigation Officer, Safety Officer and Staff Captain on Seven Seas Voyager.

In 2016 I became the company’s first female Master Captain and have now led Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Mariner.


How have you seen the industry change for women over the last few years?


In 1993, I was one of only a few females to hold a role with major responsibilities on board oil tankers, cargo ships and container vessels. But things have changed dramatically since then, and definitely for the better.

I believe in equal opportunity regardless of gender. There is now a growing number of very talented female captains emerging in our industry, and we’re proud to be pioneers for those women who aspire to lead a ship.


What do you think is the driving force behind this positive change?

There is definitely a different attitude towards women entering the industry nowadays. This new generation is a lot more tolerant and accepting of women working in typically ‘male’ roles. In the past, employers on cargo ships did not want female employees as they did not think women could not handle the lifestyle that came with the role. How we’ve proved them wrong!


You’ll be the first female to captain a brand-new ship in 2020, however, women have been piloting new planes for a while now – why do you think it’s taking cruising a little longer to catch up?

You do not only work on board the ships, but you also live on board the ships. It is a completely different lifestyle, one that not many women would prefer as you do have to put many parts of your private life on hold – starting a family, getting married, being around friends and family etc.

In my career, I have met some incredible female Officers that have realised they want to have children and have had to leave the industry for several years, which then makes it difficult to come back.


Which destination are you most excited to cruise into on the brand new Seven Seas Splendor & why?

I am looking forward to going back to Africa and the Amazonia. My favourite cruise to sail is from Lisbon to Cape Town, it is truly magical! The ancient cities, stunning wildlife and friendly communities are like no other on the planet. I would highly recommend this one in a lifetime cruise on board Seven Seas Voyager to everyone.


Which destination would you say is the most challenging to cruise into & why?


Several ports may become challenging if the weather does not cooperate, but for different reasons, Montreal is not one of the easiest. It is a very narrow passage along the San Lawrence River in between Quebec City and Montreal. It has very strong currents and the weather can also be very challenging, even in summer or fall.


What aspects of Seven Seas Splendor do you think cruisers will love most?

We want to make our guests feel like our ships are their home away from home. I may be biased, but I genuinely believe our crew provides the best service in the industry. They go above and beyond for our guests, ensuring they remember your personal preferences and will become more of a friend than just someone providing you with a service at the end of your trip.


What advice would you give other females hoping to captain a ship one day?


I am not a religious person, but there is an ancient Indian story that always comes to mind when I think about choosing the right career path. It’s about a man who never went in the temple to pray, but he was still chosen by God as he prayed the best while working at his job as a weaver. I believe it means to always love what you are doing, regardless of the position, as you never know what it might bring you in the future.

And there will always be some ups and downs that come with the job, but do not give up on your dreams. If you have of sense of humour, you will be able to get through it.

Lastly, I believe that education is crucial – you can never be over-educated.


Are you keen to cruise with Captain Serena on Seven Seas Splendor?