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Seabourn President Natalya Leahy on travel's transformative power

'Travel has literally transformed my life and I am now at the helm of leading 4,000 people from over 90 countries and I truly, truly believe this is one common thing about all of us,' Natalya Leahy said
In her first interview as Seabourn president, Natalya Leahy exuded enthusiasm for the people who create 'Seabourn Moments.'

'Our guests say the reason they love Seabourn and take Seabourn time and time again is because of what our team members do. It's truly genuine. We call it Seabourn Moments. That's what makes me really humbled and proud to be at the helm of this brand. It really is a strong culture.'

Leahy shared a note from a guest about how interactions with the crew in the first seconds of embarking made such an impact. 'You’ve had us ever since,' the guest wrote. 'The important part ... is the small things that make a difference and capture customer loyalty. Seabourn has panache. It’s more than a bottle of wine in a bucket or a clean suite.'

Inspiring women

Among the flood of congratulatory emails to Leahy on her naming as president was one from a Filipina food and beverage manager she'd met on a ship.

The woman wrote: 'Tonight I promised myself I will indeed become a hotel director from the Philippines.'

That is why it's so important to have women in leadership roles; it's not about gender, Leahy said, but if people can see themselves reflected in the top ranks, it gives them the confidence to follow their dreams and know that they, too, can make a difference.

Leahy cited the saying 'You have to see it to believe it,' and women like Jan Swartz, Christine Duffy and others in the Carnival Corp. & plc group have inspired her. Along with Barbara Muckermann at Silversea Cruises and Andrea DeMarco at Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Leahy is the third woman promoted to lead a luxury cruise brand this year.

She and Muckermann appeared on the luxury leaders panel at Seatrade Cruise Global this week. Being in Florida gave the Seattle-based Leahy the opportunity to visit Seabourn Quest at PortMiami, where she greeted disembarking passengers and met with the captain and crew.


Natalya Leahy during her recent visit to Seabourn Quest

Seabourn now has 216 women officers across the fleet, and Leahy's dream is to have women captains. Women are in the engine room, too; she recently met a Filipina engineer onboard.

'Travel has literally transformed my life'

When Leahy was a little girl in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, she asked her mother for an English tutor because 'I wanted to meet people and see the world. Most people from my hometown and neighborhood spent most of their lives there.' She credits her mom for instilling curiosity and the awareness of something greater beyond. 

'Travel has literally transformed my life and I am now at the helm of leading 4,000 people from over 90 countries and I truly, truly believe this is one common thing about all of us. Travel has transformed each person and what they do at Seabourn is transporting that energy and passion to look at travel as an opportunity to expand their minds and create special moments.

Not a job but a life mission

'It's not going and seeing different places; it's really experiencing the world and feeling the connections and creating these lasting memories. I am most proud of being part of a team that takes this job not as a job but as a life mission.'

Leahy had more than seven years of experience with the brand in her former role at Holland America Group, where she was COO overseeing shared services and most recently involved in the restart of guest operations, hiring and supply chain issues. Before that, she was CFO for the group’s cruise brands.

She has a close working relationship with her new boss, Gus Antorcha, over his time leading Holland America Line as president.

'Gus is amazing, very pragmatic, very logical, an intellectually brilliant leader. He also became a great mentor for me and a trusted friend. He's done amazing things transforming the Holland America Line business.'

'I think she's great,' Antorcha said of Leahy. 'She's had great experience within the group ... This makes her transition to a more outward facing role much easier.'

Antorcha sees Leahy focusing on ensuring Seabourn continues delivering 'really, really well.' A new area for her, and for Seabourn, is the dedicated expedition product.

'I'm very excited we are entering the expedition space,' Leahy said. 'We will build a whole new way for our guests to see the world with signature Seabourn luxury and one-of-a-kind services.'

President's Cruise

She's going to be hosting a President's Cruise, the June 17 'Greenland & Iceland: Vikings & Volcanoes' adventure. Leahy's been reading up on the 24 expedition team members, 'each one a distinguished individual with a life journey and a mission,' and she looks forward to experiencing the ship and the people.

A few weeks after that, Seabourn Venture's sister, Seabourn Pursuit, is set for delivery in late July before its Aug. 12 inaugural cruise. The vessel will begin service with seven new Mediterranean, trans-Atlantic and Caribbean sailings before it embarks on expedition-focused voyages in South America, the Amazon and Antarctica later in the year.

Leahy said Seabourn Venture has been very well-received during its Arctic debut and the recently concluded Antarctica season. Its submersibles have completed more than 200 dives up to 200 meters but they're capable of going to 900 meters. Christmas Day was particularly memorable when Venture became the world's southernmost passenger vessel at latitude 68 degrees S in Marguerite Bay, Antarctica.

'How cool to be at places people only dream about!' Leahy said. 'We take quite extraordinary people, highly accomplished, who are looking for very out of the ordinary experiences to extraordinary places and create these one-of-a-kind, long-lasting, life-expanding moments and connections.'

Repairs to Seabourn Venture's stabilizers are to take place in April at Damen Shiprepair Brest with service to resume May 12 in the British Isles before Venture continues to the Arctic.

Seabourn Odyssey's exit

Shortly after Leahy's appointment, Carnival Corp. & plc announced the sale of Seabourn Odyssey to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.

'We were approached by a great Japanese company so I'm glad the ship will have a second life at another great company,' Leahy said. 'She served us very well for 14 years and she is our oldest vessel.'

Seabourn Odyssey was built in 2009. Its August 2024 exit will bring the fleet's age down to around 7 years, making it one of the youngest and most modern. Seabourn will have marginally higher capacity compared to 2019 with the addition of the two expedition newbuilds.

Extra resources in shore excursions/HR

With a Holland America Group restructuring, brands received an infusion of resources in the places where this would create more agiiity and support. In Seabourn's case, this included shore excursions and HR/recruiting, both key to delivering the brand's far-flung itineraries and its 'extraordinary experiences for extraordinary guests.'

Leahy works closely with Robin West on the expedition product and Gerald Mosslinger on the guest experience. With itinerary-planning guru Tim Littley's departure just before Leahy joined, she'll take some time to analyze and determine a successor.

'It's a very important position,' she said.