Meet Captain Nathaly

Captain Nathaly Alban joined Celebrity Cruises in 2006 as Third Officer onboard Celebrity Xpedition, and is now the first woman to serve as a Captain in the Galapagos Islands. As the new Captain of Celebrity Xploration, our small 16-guest ship, she will take our guests deeper into the mythical archipelago of the Galapagos Islands than ever before. Meet Captain Nathaly.

Did you always dream of being a Captain?

As a young girl I loved sailing on small boats. We would take small trips to Guayaquil. It was on those instances that I knew I wanted to be part of La Armada del Ecuador the Ecuadorian Navy. After participating in the Armada at a later age, they invited me to the Marina Mercante and explained to me all they did and I fell in love with commercial and tourism sailings. I loved the idea of being in constant motion. I didn’t want to be in one place, I wanted to be travelling. 

Tell us about your studies/preparation to work in the maritime industry?

I studied at La Escuela de la Marina Mercante Nacional in Ecuador. I was in the 26th graduating class. Before graduating I had an experience sailing cargo ships in Flopec. I liked the job but I decided to pursue commercial sailing and cruising. 

Did other women study at the time with you?

Yes, there were other women in my class. In total it was six of us, but unfortunately most of them did not continue to pursue the path.

How does it feel to be named Capitan of Celebrity Xploration?

It is a great honor and privilege. I’m overwhelmed with positive emotion and at the same time nervous. This is a dream come true. I told my family and my parents many times that I would be wearing white one day and be the first woman to serve as a Captain on a ship in the Galapagos. Now it’s happened! 

Was your family supportive in your decision to work in the maritime industry?

Yes, they have always been. At first it was challenging because they missed me and were not accustomed to having me so far away. We went from seeing each other daily to more spread out time together. However, they’ve always encouraged me and pushed me to continue growing and pursue my passions. They always said, learn, experience and assume the responsibility. Assess if you like the opportunity and always remain humble and operate with integrity.

How long have you been working in the maritime industry?

I started on Celebrity Xpedition in 2006 as the third officer. I really enjoyed it! Then over the course of eight years I worked on several ships throughout the Galapagos including La Pinta, Santa Cruz, Endeavor, Galapagos Explorer and then Oceans. I’ve been sailing the Galapagos for 12 years.

When you’re not sailing what do you miss most?

I miss the crew and the people. They become a family. I miss my day to day routine. While the job can be stressful you become accustomed to this rhythm of life and you need the sea and the adrenaline of sailing to feel the rush of life. Life on land is simple in contrast.

What is your favorite area on the ship?

I love the bow on the catamaran, you are connected to nature and in touch with the animals. I love the dolphins, whales and wild life. 

What do you enjoy most on each sailing?

I like meeting new people and seeing them experience the beauty of the Galapagos. I enjoy seeing their faces and delighting in their discovery as they see how beautiful Ecuador is and really appreciate it. 

During your conversations with guests, what is the most memorable part?

The most frequently asked question when guests don’t see me on the bridge, they ask “Who is driving the ship?” Other questions include, how does my family feel about my career? Do I have a family? Where did I study? They ask if it’s difficult to work in the maritime industry surrounded by men, and ask how I am treated. 

How many women work onboard Celebrity Xploration?

At the present time I’m the only woman on the ship in terms of the crew. The crew is excellent, they know their job, they are very professional, friendly and very respectful. They know about everything, and they are always eager to continue learning. They are excellent!

Is that challenging?

I believe it is a matter of perception. In my opinion, it’s all about interacting with one another with respect regardless of gender. When you act with respect and integrity the response is reciprocated. Of course, there are different mindsets and people with a view of what traditional roles are, but we can encourage a paradigm shift. We (women) have been breaking paradigms, we have shown that we are capable of successfully contributing across industries, we have shown that yes we can, even if it is challenging. 

Is there ever a time that you wanted to walk away from this career?

At the start, on a tanker boat it was hard the first year. It was a full year onboard. At that point I considered it because it was such a long time away from home and family. But I later saw that there were other options and that’s when I decided to pursue cruising. I am still away from home but for far less time. I’m the oldest of my siblings and I don’t want to leave them alone. 

What do you define as your strongest characteristics?

The temperance of my character, is strong character and perhaps this is what has helped me to continue sailing these 12 years. To be on a ship you have to have enough temperament and awareness, to auto correct yourself, to try to overcome yourself and try to break certain paradigms and take things always as a challenge. Having the character to say I will achieve.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like travelling, during my three weeks off, I explore Ecuador or new areas with my parents and family.

What advice would you give others wanting to advance in their field?

Always give your best, be willing and face challenges. Look at opportunities as personal and professional development and this will yield results. Give 200%. 

You’ve achieved your goal of Captain, what’s next?

Making Xploration the very best ship in the Galapagos that all want to sail on! I value growth so I want to do a successful job here and as I look ahead I want to continue to advance as a Captain and someday work on larger ship.

Find out more about Celebrity Xploration and our Galapagos Islands cruises.