Captain Sarah Breton and Ann Sherry.
Captain Sarah Breton and Ann Sherry. Contributed

P&O welcomes its first female captain

P&O Cruises has made Australian history, with the cruise line’s first female captain sailing into Sydney Harbour at the helm of Pacific Pearl.

Captain Sarah Breton joins four other female senior officers on P&O Cruises’ latest superliner – the biggest group of female senior officers on any cruise ship in the region. The other officers include Hotel Director Jane Herron, Cruise Director Zoltina-J Medwick Daley and Administration, Revenue Director Martina Damonte and Executive Housekeeper Mari Schoon - signaling changing times for women in shipping.

Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the cruise line was proud to welcome Captain Breton to Australia at the helm of Pacific Pearl. 

“We are thrilled to finally have a female Captain in charge of one of our great Australian ships and believe that Captain Breton is a fantastic role model for girls who dream of a career on the high seas,” Ms Sherry said.

“P&O Cruises is really proud to be leading the way by bring the first female captain to the region at the head of a team which boasts four other female senior officers.

“She is an outstanding officer and one of only three female captains on major ships anywhere in the world,” Ms Sherry added.

Sarah, now 45, has served on board the former Royal Princess, Sky Princess, Canberra, Pacific Princess, Grand Princess and Star Princess as third officer, second officer, navigator, first officer and safety officer. She was first promoted to staff captain in 2001 on the original Pacific Princess and then went on to serve onboard Coral Princess, Tahitian Princess, the new Pacific Princess, Artemis and most recently Ocean Village.

“Growing up near the water I always loved boats and the ocean, so it really does fulfill a lifelong ambition of mine to be a captain with P&O Cruises,” said Captain Breton.

“I’ve sailed into Sydney Harbour many times, but to sail into one of the world’s most beautiful harbours as Captain of Pacific Pearl is really something,” she said.

Captain Breton said many women set out on shipping careers but the long periods at sea also led to a high rate of attrition as they grew older and wanted to spend time with family onshore.

“It takes time to build up the necessary experiences so rising to this position takes many years - there are no shortcuts.

“The responsibility as captain is huge, but it’s the same responsibility whether you are a man or women and the reaction to my captain’s appointment has been terrific,’ Captain Breton said.

Captain Breton lives on the Essex Coast and when on leave spends her time in the garden, sailing - whenever the weather permits, and watching Six Nations rugby and Formula One motor racing. 

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