Cruise industry mourns veteran executive Helen Panagos

Helen Panagos with her husband Rico Flloyd Helen Panagos with her husband Rico Flloyd

Updated with information on services.

Helen Panagos, who held key roles in areas like passenger services and land programs at Crystal, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Cunard/Seabourn and Celebrity Cruises—and whose personality was as sunny as her Greek heritage—died Thursday night after a long illness. She was 55.

Panagos died peacefully at home in Aventura, Florida, surrounded by family.

'Helen was one of the most wonderful people you could ever to hope to meet,' said close friend Edie Rodriguez, Americas chair, Ponant Cruises. 'While she was an outstanding executive, she was also an amazing mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend to those she loved. She was loved by all and will be greatly missed.'

Crystal family

'We lost a wonderful colleague and a treasured friend last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, her Crystal family, her friends and everyone she touched,' Crystal president and CEO Tom Wolber said.

'I will miss her smile, her endless energy, her unwavering optimism and her strength,' he continued. 'Helen made an impact on all of us and we were blessed to have had her in our lives. She will be truly missed.'

At Crystal for the past three years, Panagos most recently served as VP destination experiences, Crystal River Cruises and Crystal Air Cruises, where she created highly curated programs for Crystal's discerning guests.

Thirty years in cruising

Panagos was a cruise industry executive for more than 30 years. She grew up in the business. Her uncle, Vasilios Kapetanakos, was one of the founders of Celebrity Cruises.

A New York native, she moved to South Florida when Celebrity relocated there more than 25 years ago.

Mentor

Back then, Dino Schibuola had been appointed SVP passenger services in Miami and was working on the consolidation of the company's offices. He went to New York where Panagos, then a junior supervisor in reservations, made such an impression in a short meeting that 'immediately I knew I wanted her to be on my team. I told her: If you come to Miami, you can be director of reservations.'

Panagos often credited Schibuola as her mentor. But from his view, "As much as I might have mentored her professionally, I learned quite a few things from her by how she dealt with people. Wherever she was, she made a tremendous impact just by her sheer energy, enthusiam and can-do yet caring attitude.'

Panagos went on to work as VP shoreside operations at the combined Cunard/Seabourn operation in Miami during a period that included the planning and launch of Queen Mary 2. Her colleague at the time, Rodriguez, said that business trips with Panagos always injected fun into the hard work.

Royal Caribbean tour development

Later, at Royal Caribbean, she directed guest relations and shared services for Celebrity, then worked in global product development for the Global Tour Operations group, where she enhanced and differentiated the tours operated by Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises. In this job, she traveled the globe to create distinctive land experiences.

'She was considered the best in the business for delivering these land experiences She was loved by colleagues, vendors and guests,' Rodriguez said.

Panagos is survived by her husband Rico Floyd, son Apostoli, step daughter Julia; her mother, sister and brother, all of New York; and a large extended family.

Services

A viewing is scheuled for 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 31 at Stanfill Funeral Homes, 10545 S. Dixie Highway, Miami. The funeral is to take place at 10 a.m. April 1 at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, 7901 N. Kendall Dr., Miami. At the viewing there will be a collection for ovarian cancer research.

Posted 29 March 2019

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review