Female cruise ship captain relishes life at sea

Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:26am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Inger Olsen, who rose through Cunard's tradition-steeped ranks to become the cruise line's first female captain, wasn't dreaming of a life at sea, or of breaking any glass ceilings.

When she signed on to a cargo ship at age 16 she wanted to earn some pocket money.

"I was looking for a job after school and on weekends," Olsen recalled from her home in Svendborg, Denmark. "I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do."

But Olsen, who grew up surrounded by water on the Faroe Islands, liked to travel and enjoyed the life at sea. What she didn't like was the cleaning duty her steward's job entailed. So she applied to become a cadet and joined the Cunard Line in 1997.

"I thought I'd do it for a few years and then go ashore and have a family," said Olsen, 43. "But one year led to another."

In December 2010, Captain Inger Olsen took the helm of the 90,000-ton luxury liner Queen Victoria to become one of only a few women cruise ship captains in the world.

"I think if you look at cruise lines there's only two or three," she said.

Her ship, which carries 2,000 passengers, is the youngest of Cunard's three Queens, joining the fleet alongside the Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 in 2007.   Continued...

<p>Captain Inger Olsen aboard the Queen Victoria in Los Angeles, 2011. REUTERS/Cunard Line</p>