Meet Captain William Bennett, 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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”