Meet the Crew: William Bennett, Senior Director of Marine Operations

William Bennett, Senior Director of Marine Operations

Meet Captain William Bennett, Senior Director of Marine Operations for Mariposa Cruises. An extraordinary person to know, Will has an impressive career in Marine that spans across many shipping sectors, and has taken him on voyages around the globe.

Having worked with Mariposa Cruises in previous seasons, we were thrilled to have Will Bennett join us in January 2018.  Responsible for the maintenance and operation of a fleet of 6 vessels, and leading a crew of captains, officers, engineers, mates, and deck hands, Will’s role is no small feat.

2019 marks a brand-new chapter in Mariposa Cruises’ history, as the cruise line embarks upon its 32nd Season as an Entertainment Cruises company.

We talk to Will Bennett about his remarkable career and the great things ahead for both the Marine Department and Mariposa Cruises in the New Year.

 Destined to Sail


William Bennett was drawn to sailing and all things marine since he was young.  “I was always on sailboats or fishing boats or anything I could get my hands on since I was a kid. My first vessel was a 4’ x 8’ piece of non-marine plywood with 4 barrels bolted to it. Used mostly for capsizing in Bronte Harbour.”  After completing high school Will went to the Coast Guard College to study Navigation and then started a 17 -year career in the Canadian Coast Guard where he made his way up the ranks to Captain, working on search and rescue cutters, buoy tenders and icebreakers that took him all over Canada. Will later branched out and headed offshore to work on tankers on the East coast and in the Arctic, on cruise ships in the Mediterranean, Baltic and Caribbean, and on expedition ships across the Arctic Circle, South America, UK, Africa, and the Antarctic.

Travelling to some of the most remote areas of the world has had a profound effect on Will.  His voyage to the Antarctic, to name just one, had a lasting impression on him: “There are no communities, no nationalities, no countries that own it. It’s just a vast sheet of glaciers, full of wildlife, penguins, leopard seals and whales. It’s full of life and yet it’s very harsh and completely abandoned; nobody is there. It’s just an amazing, pristine place.”

“Ships have provided a lifestyle for me,” he reflects, “they’ve taken me around the world and there’s been amazing components to everywhere I’ve gone. The world’s an amazing place, from the Fjords in South America, the west coast of Africa, the Cape Verde and Azores Islands…”  Included among the impressive list of places and bodies of water Will has travelled, he even finds wonder in the city of Toronto, which he now calls home, including its harbour, islands and waterways where he both works and docks his boat. “If I’m not on a boat for work, I’m on it for play.”

northern spirit life raft

Joining Mariposa Cruises  

In January 2018 Will Bennet stepped into the role of of Senior Director of Marine Operations for Mariposa Cruises.   “It was a great opportunity that came up and it’s been quite an exciting ride. I thought I was ready for it after preparing for the season in the winter, but once the summer hit it was quite interesting and surprising to discover how much action this company sees and how everyone pulls off the complicated logistics that make these boats run. It has been eye-opening for me.”

“I am quite pleasantly shocked at the caliber of people we have working here.  As a Director of a fleet I’m used to being the external auditor and enforcer, making sure safety is up kept and pushing everyone along, and here I find it’s the opposite.” He encountered a crew that already had safety and regulatory compliance ingrained in their everyday practices. “There is almost very little requirement of me enforcing safety on my fleet. In fact, they go above and beyond and do it for me.”

Will holds great esteem for the core group of people Mariposa Cruises has been lucky to have stay with the company throughout the years. The Captains, Officers, Mates, Engineers and Deckhands return season after season, many of them with us for over 20 years, which is quite remarkable for a seasonal operation and speaks a lot about the company.  Asked what he thinks keeps them here, he says, “Sailing is a unique career and people who do it generally love it.”

will bennett 2018 spring orientation

On the Captain Matthew Flinders addressing a crowd of returning shipmates and new hires at 2018 Spring Orientation

Leading the Way

This season, under Will’s leadership and initiative, Mariposa Cruises introduced a program aimed at reducing single use disposable plastics by providing its staff with branded water bottles and unlimited fresh, quality drinking water onboard our vessels while they work. The water is replenished by the city, city water that is stored in tanks and flows through new, retrofitted chillers and filters. We also stopped using plastic straws on our cruises, and are looking at other steps we can take, by reducing packaging and waste in the consumer goods we purchase and use.

Travelling the world Will has witnessed the negative sides of pollution we’ve created, the islands of plastics floating in the middle of the ocean, debris washed up along the shores of pristine beaches, even in pockets along Toronto’s harbour, which opened his eyes to the seriousness and extent of damage single use plastics have on the environment.  Inspired to do something, he’s worked on projects to eliminate single use disposable plastics in previous roles, and Mariposa Cruises welcomed the initiative to do our part for the lake that is our livelihood. Always thinking about the next step and making better choices, plans are underway this season to install the Showboat with efficient, clean burning engines that will reduce our fuel emissions; and Mariposa Cruises plans to consider other new, clean technologies the company could implement in the future.

safety day toronto harbour

Safety Day on Toronto Harbour.


The Future Looks Bright

Will is optimistic about the future of the company and very proud of the Marine Department he heads. Following the recent acquisition of Mariposa Cruises by leading US Hospitality Cruise operator Entertainment Cruises in August 2018, Will already sees good things ahead. He’s excited to join forces with a company that knows and understands boats. Now operating a fleet of forty-eight vessels across 8 cities, Entertainment Cruises leads the way in safety and are proactive about fleet maintenance and planning ahead. “I now work with a great team of people out of Chicago and Washington. They know boats and are responsive and communicative, and we’ve already benefited from their network of support and expertise.”

Will sees proper training and certification as key to better marine operations and plans to make it a priority in 2019 by providing training paths for shipmates to develop professionally in their careers.

“I want Mariposa Cruises to be a place where employees feel rewarded and challenged. Ideally, every one of our Captains should be able to drive all our boats, and eventually the Mates shall be Captains and the Deckhands shall become Mates and those who have the aptitude and initiative can realize their potential.”

William Bennett, Senior Director of Marine Operations

William Bennett and VP & General Manager Cindi Vanden Heuvel appear on Breakfast Television last summer.


With Vice President and General Manager, Cindi Vanden Heuvel at the helm, the company is in a stronger position than ever: “I thoroughly enjoy working with Cindi, she’s the heart and soul of this company and under her outstanding leadership, with the support of an amazing and talented team of people at Entertainment Cruises, I know great things are in store for Mariposa Cruises.”

Intimate and Cozy Toronto Yacht Cruises

Nothing can compare to chartering a yacht! It allows for a sense of privacy with the freedom and flexibility to host your event as you please. Summer is in full swing and that means enjoying the warm weather and all that this great city has to offer– which includes Toronto Yacht Cruises! During the summer months, planning a private event and finding the perfect outdoor venue can be a challenge. No worries, the Mariposa team is here to help!  Within our fleet of six uniquely styled vessels,  we offer two yachts with the best patio views in the city! The Rosemary and the Klancy are perfect for small and intimate private events, ranging from 45 guests (on the Rosemary) to 80 guests (on the Klancy), depending on the style of your event. These yachts are the perfect for cruising in and around Toronto’s islands and lagoons.


The Northern Spirit is Getting a Major Makeover: A Rundown of what’s to come!

Many have enjoyed the Northern Spirit since it joined our fleet in 1993, as it is a popular choice for corporate groups and weddings. It is best known for its wide-open space, bright large picture windows, and having the largest moving rooftop patio in Toronto!

While we’re grateful for all the wonderful events held on board over the years, it was time to give some love back by upgrading the vessel this winter season! As a team we brainstormed, set our sights high, and began the renovation of a lifetime! While the work is quickly progressing, we thought we would share the exciting news of what is to come!


Corporate Entertaining: Make it a Nautical Affair!

corporate events toronto

Corporate mixing and mingling aboard the Captain Matthew Flinders

Corporate entertaining blurs the lines between 9-5 client relationships, and provides companies with a competitive advantage among competitors. When thinking about your providers – whether they be your accountant, friendly neighborhood delivery service or financial advisor, who stands out the most? Is it the one who sends you a card at Christmas, calls on your birthday and asks about your weekend? Many will answer yes to all of the above! Relationship building not only strengthens ties with family and friends, it allows you to create a trusting bond with your service providers as well! While small touches go a long way, they’re easily replicated, and quickly become the status quo. Are you looking to maintain your client relationships, or make new ones? Why not try a unique idea to really blow them out of the water? Why not bring them on board a Mariposa Cruise! (more…)

Top 5 Best Things About Toronto Wedding Cruises

A big city like Toronto has no shortage of choices for wedding venues. Couples on the hunt for a city wedding with a beautiful outdoor setting find that wide-open spaces start to become scarce in the downtown core and come at a premium. Consider a Toronto Wedding Cruise. Mariposa Cruises has hosted thousands of nautical nuptials and if the idea of having your day on the water appeals to you, we’ve got five great reasons why you should:

City or Country Wedding: The Best of Both Worlds


Back from Heddle Marine: The Captain Matthew Flinders is in ship-shape!

Every five years, commercial vessels in Canada must undergo a series of Transport Canada inspections that require vessels to come out of the water. On October 17 at 3:00 am, the Captain Matthew Flinders set sail from Toronto for the Heddle Marine facility in Hamilton .   As an ocean going ship, the Flinders is quite sturdy but at a maximum speed of 8 to 10 knots—the fastest she can sail–the journey took 3- 4 hours.  Among the thousands of Flinders’ notable voyages, it boasts a colorful stint as a casino boat off of West Palm Beach Florida and cruises to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Named after the Australian explorer who was the first to circumnavigate and identify the Australian continent, the Captain Matthew Flinders was built in 1986 in Port Adelaide. The ship joined Mariposa Cruises’ fleet in 1989, making its way from Australia to Toronto, a journey that took four months! (more…)

Get ready for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day!

Christmas, Cocktails and Cruises!

In the past few years, the Ugly Christmas Sweater trend has gone from non-existent to common place. Not only are retired, tattered and worn sweaters found in thrift stores, but they’re now widely available online and in stores, with extravagant additions including light up Christmas trees, wine bottle holders and modern-day slogans.

The industry has soared with the use of social media, having friends battle it out for the most likes, shares and comments. This has led to the ultimate competition of who will find the most sharable, ugly and memorable knit. Will it be you? Mariposa Cruises has made it easy this year by sharing some of our most notable finds

1.Tipsy Elves Women’s Christmas Stocking Tacky Sweater 

Price: $49.95. Can be purchased here

2.Blizzard Bay Men’s Shirtless Santa Ride Ugly Christmas Sweater


Live on the Lake rocks the Toronto Harbour

Toronto’s music scene hit the harbour in July when Mariposa Cruises introduced Live on the Lake to our public cruise program. Featuring performances by great local musicians on select Tuesdays aboard the Oriole, the music nights are similar to our Sip & Sail Cocktail Cruises where guests can take in the sights of Toronto’s skyline and harbour, except that these cruise nights are charged with the energy of live music. (more…)

2017 Miss World Canada Harbour Cruise

One of the most important things we do at Mariposa Cruises is share the Toronto harbour cruise experience with young people.  We traffic in shareable moments and set the stage for new friends to make foundational memories. Our staff aboard each of our unique ‘floating’ networking platforms strives to create the perfect place for young adults to start lifelong friendships.  Cruising the busy harbour opposite the biggest city in Canada is thrilling at any age, and watching the shoreline grow more distant while being ensconced in the excitement aboard ship impacts young minds and empowers them to visualize infinite possibilities on their own horizons. (more…)