Seabourn has been making headlines with its ultra-luxury products, and we’re right there sharing them. Having had the opportunity to meet Seabourn president Natalya Leahy, though, we thought we’d go behind the headlines to share another kind of story.
When Leahy took over Seabourn, she marked another milestone in an industry that this year has seen an inspiring increase in female leadership, particularly in top executive positions. We caught up with her to chat about her role and the importance of strong female examples in the industry for future leaders.
Recommend: Can you talk to us about how your early experiences in the travel industry prepared you for this position?
Natalya Leahy: I spent the past seven years supporting Seabourn in various capacities, first as chief financial officer and then as chief operating officer for Holland America Group. I was a part of building the success of Seabourn. I am particularly excited because I was part of developing the expedition business from the beginning. So, Seabourn Pursuit and Seabourn Venture truly feel like babies to me, and I am so proud of the results of our collective work. These ships are truly game changers as they will allow our guests to experience destinations that once were only accessible to explorers without compromising on luxury, comfort or elegance.
I also supported the restart of cruise operations, which allowed all of us to learn a lot and structure our business, teams and processes to be more agile, responsive and resilient. I’m very excited to take the Seabourn brand to the next level.
Prior to working within the Carnival Corporation family, I was privileged to gain a diverse range of leadership experiences working in large global organizations and iconic consumer-centric brands in companies and organizations, such as Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola and United Nations.
Seabourn: Excelling at Empowering Women
R: Female leadership in the cruise industry is having a moment, which makes it seem there are more opportunities for women to achieve executive-level positions. Can you speak to this?
L: It’s terrific to see more women represented in leadership roles across the hospitality industry and specifically—the cruise industry. I am proud to see that because not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes total business sense. Not only are half of our guests female, and females represent a disproportionate decision influence in households in travel and vacation planning, but also, 80 percent of travel advisors identified as women, according to Host Agency Reviews.
Supporting and mentoring women has been a long-standing passion of mine in every organization I have worked in, Carnival Corporation included. It’s not really about gender; it’s about creating an environment in which each talented voice is heard, and each person sees the opportunity to make their talent and passion shine.
I started mentorship programs and sponsored our women’s networking events, Women Warriors speaking series and female officers networking connects. Many of these programs received huge and passionate support from many of our fellow female leaders, and I am so proud to see more and more women stepping up with their ideas and initiatives to uplift, support and mentor each other both on board and shoreside. I am very proud to say that I have a very diverse executive leadership team, with 5 out of 8 being female, and we have more than 200 female officers on Seabourn ships, which is close to 40 percent growth since pre-pandemic. It is a result of our collective efforts, and I hope it allows more and more younger women to see themselves in various leadership roles and strive toward that.
I am also proud of Carnival Corporation as I feel the company has consistently supported the rewarding of talented people for performance with new opportunities, myself included. In addition, they are passionate about mentoring and supporting. Leaders like Jan Swartz and Christine Duffy have been close mentors and role models for me in the past few years, and I’ll say that it does make a difference. I hope—and would be humbled—to be that mentor and model for others.
R: How do you feel your achievements can inspire young women who have just entered the hospitality industry and want to work their way up the ranks?
L: I am very passionate about empowering the next generation of female leaders. I think you met my two daughters on board Seabourn Pursuit; they happened to be accompanying me during their summer break and worked hard to help get the ship ready (I wish they cleaned their rooms as hard as they did our ship). They told me after the trip how they were so impressed by seeing so many women of all ages and nationalities in charge and leading in all kinds of ways: from the Guest Services Supervisor to Cruise Director to Environmental Officer. On our way home after the ship delivery, they talked about what they want to be when they grow up…and that is the trick. You have to see it yourself in order to be inspired and believe in it.
I hope many women who join our company and other companies look around and find role models and inspiration. I recommend that they actively work to secure mentors but also to support and network with each other. We have an incredible power to uplift each other. I can almost guarantee that when you have a challenge, someone else also has a similar challenge. So, it’s really helpful and beneficial to share lessons learned with each other and create networking events, support groups, and mentorship programs.
I would advise younger women to not be afraid to dream big and also not be afraid to fail, learn and move on. Do not dwell on failures. They are just part of growth. And please, please always let your aspirations be known. People can’t read your mind——the more we talk about what we would like to learn or achieve, the more people line up to support our growth, development and dreams.