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Meet the Experts: Seabourn President Natalya Leahy

Meet the Experts

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It is always exciting to meet the President of a cruise line, who juggles so many aspects of the business and answers to stakeholders ranging from the markets to the huge team both ashore and on board, and the guests who are so invested in the line that they behave as if they own it. So it was a great treat to get to meet Natalya Leahy face to face, grabbing a half hour from her busy day during an intense UK visit, not least because Seabourn presidents have not always been very visible.

We began our conversation discussing her path to this amazing job. She grew up in Uzbekistan, one of just two doublylandlocked countries in the world (your starter for 10 - which is the other?) and her childhood dream was to see the ocean (a dream she didn't achieve until she was 21). Aged 16, daughter of a single mother, she signed up for a college course in finance, but realised that she would also need an income to cover her fees.

She boldly walked in to the newlyopened Le Meridien Hotel in Tashkent to speak to the Head of Finance. Dismissing his suggestion that there were plenty of jobs available on the hospitality team, she persuaded him to recruit her, the first step on a blue-chip career that included a move to the US and jobs in high profile FMCG companies including Procter & Gamble and Coca Cola.

With such a strong background in brandcentric and consumer-centric companies, she was pleased to move to the Carnival group as CFO for Holland America and Seabourn, specialising particularly in analytics, systems and transformation.

Leading the tricky post-Covid restart as Chief Operating Officer, she was responsible for over 4,000 crew members on board Seabourn, including many new to Seabourn hires. In March of this year she took full responsibility at Seabourn as President and immediately took delivery of the lovely expedition vessel Seabourn Pursuit, a very emotional moment.

Natalya is a great listener, and based on guest and staff feedback immediately began to make changes on board, as evidenced by the 'Delight in the Details' programme including enhanced dining, the reintroduction of printed material on request, complimentary luxury soaps, an improved level of staff training in the Seabourn Academy, better connectivity on board and more, in order to add sparkle to what is already Carnival Corporation's jewel in the crown.

Changes to dining include Sushi in the Club, lots of new dishes in the main dining room, and the new Mediterranean cuisine, Solis inspired by ports of call in France, Spain, Italy and Greece, with beautifully presented fresh food bursting with colour and flavour.

Following a life-changing President's Cruise to Greenland in the summer, Natalya is bursting with excitement about the extensive expedition programmes on Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit, with in-depth polar explorations as well as intriguing South Pacific adventures and a newly introduced season in the ancient wilderness of Australia's Kimberley Coast.

On the question of why you might choose Seabourn over other products in the competitive set, Natalya introduced a new perspective by asking the crew that pertinent question. The response she got was that on Seabourn, the guests themselves are very special: extraordinary people with amazing stories, who are also empathetic, down to earth, and respectful, creating a family atmosphere in an environment where everyone feels valued.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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