Meet The World’s First Black Woman Cruise Ship Captain

(Photo credit: Wind Star Cruises Blog)

Beautiful destinations, lavish ships and incredible vacations usually make up the day-to-day cruise industry. But in that industry, women make up 18 to 20% of the workforce. That may seem like a high number, but it’s still a long way to go. Of the more than 300 passenger cruise ships worldwide, fewer than a dozen have woman captains and it’s still pretty rare to find women in the upper levels of the cruise industry, since they only account for 5.4% of officers.

But those statistics are changing thanks to Belinda Bennett, the world’s first black woman cruise ship captain. Bennett has worked for the small ship line Windstar Cruises for 14 years and sails the MSY Wind Star through the Caribbean in winter and Europe in summer. She recently won the U.K.’s prestigious Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service. With International Women’s Day and Women’s History month just around the corner, we caught up with this trailblazing woman who is making history and helping create a sea change in her industry.

“I originally came from a small island called St. Helena, which is in the South Atlantic Ocean between South America and South Africa,” explains Bennett to “[It’s] smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic, miles from anywhere. Growing up on a small island, from the age that I could walk I was in the water. I loved the ocean. It used to be that the only way off the island was by ship. So when I was 17, I took a job on the RMS St. Helena, the ship that supported the island. That’s when my adventures started.”

(Photo credit: Shoppe Black)

“Unfortunately, I had a rough start,” continues Bennett. “When I was training as a cadet, I sailed with…