For Inger Olsen, aged 43, who grew up on the Faroe Islands, the sea had always been an integral part of her life. At the age of 16, in quest of a job after school and on weekends, she signed onto a cargo ship as a steward. She became a cadet and joined the Cunard Line in 1997, patiently working her way up through the traditionally male ranks to become the first female captain on the steamship line.
Her original plan was to keep the job for a few years and then resume a normal life as a wife and mother. But as Shakespeare used to say, “the best laid plans of mice and men (and women) oft go astray.” One year blended into another until last December when something very special happened.
Captain Inger Olsen took the helm of the 90,000-ton luxury liner Queen Victoria in December of 2010, becoming the only female captain on the Cunard line, and one of very few a women in the world to assume such a position.
The Queen Victoria, which carries 2,000 passengers, is the youngest of the three Queen ships in the Cunard line, the other two being the Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2.
Captain Olsen has a crew of 1,000 whose only job is to fulfill the wishes of all the passengers. They keep the crystal chandeliers glittering, the mahogany banisters on all the decks highly polished and the dance floor in the grand ballroom in ship-shape.
Many celebrities crossed the ocean in the heydey of cruise travel in the first few decades of the last century, including the likes of Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich, whose ghosts still linger in the ether of the air above the pristine decks and behind the doors of first class staterooms.