International Women’s Day: Meet Leaders Making Waves in the Cruise Industry

Group of Holland America Line employees wearing orange shirts gather on deck of cruise ship.

Photo Above: Members of the Travel Advisor Book Club, created by Michelle Sutter, vice president of North America sales & chief of staff, gather aboard the Koningsdam for the first M.S. Masterminds Summit at Sea in summer 2022. 

In honor of International Women’s Day, we want to spotlight some of the Holland America Line leaders who are making waves, inspiring peers from sea to sea and shaping the future of the cruise industry.

Holland America Line machinist standing near cruise ship engineering equipment.

Milagros Talip, Machinist

Milagros made history at Holland America Line after joining as our first female machinist in 2022. Originally inspired and taught by her father, she developed a deep passion for welding and even contributed to the tallest bamboo sculpture that made the Guinness Book of World Records. Once she set eyes on the water, she didn’t look back.

Working in the cruise line industry has captivated her heart, learning about different countries and their cultures.

“As a woman who works in the cruise line industry, I noticed that a woman could do a man’s job,” she said. “For many years it was believed that women should be housewives and have only soft skills, but I am so grateful that because of gender diversity and equality, women can be themselves, have confidence, shine and not be afraid to speak out, and show their hidden skills and potential to do the best they can. As women we can work within a team, bring our creativity to the table, and use our skills to improve a wide range of perspectives for the development of the company and the industry. I can confirm after working in this industry for a few years that I am a woman with a purpose, here to make a difference in the world.”

Not only is Milagros inspiring others with her talent and fearless determination. She continues to be inspired by other incredible women as well, including her daughter, Llana Mae.

“Even though my daughter is far away, she gives me the motivation each day to be and do better.”

Michelle Sutter, Vice President of North America Sales & Chief of Staff

If you’re ever looking for a motivational speaker that can empower and help you realize you are enough, look no further than Michelle. She’s a mom, wife, culture champion and leadership coach who has contributed to the travel industry for than 25 years.

View of Holland America Line cruise ship in background of photo featuring executive.

Inspired by Oprah Winfrey and the educational opportunities she has created for women around the globe, Michelle is passionate about opening doors for others through mentoring, coaching and sponsoring learning activities. The Women Warriors at Holland America Group is one example. In support of this grassroots employee resource group, Michelle spearheaded a book club known as the Learning Circle.

“I started the Learning Circle in 2022 as a spin-off to the M.S. Masterminds Travel Advisor Book Club, which I started in July 2020,” she said. “The M.S. Masterminds Travel Advisor Book Club has grown to 800+ members.”

Initially established to build and maintain connection during the pandemic, Michelle has helped create a unique space for women to share their insights, discuss challenges and learn from each other through courageous conversations.

“By fostering an environment where our members feel safe to share their experiences, it creates a strong sense of community. We feel a sense of belonging by learning that we have many shared experiences, and we possess a genuine desire to support one another.”

Passion for learning has been foundational to Michelle’s career journey, who began as a purser at the front desk of a cruise ship, and is now leading the sales organization at Holland America Line as vice president. “I am living proof that women’s growth and development are supported in this industry,” she noted.

If you or someone you know has felt inspired to take their career to the seas, here are some words of wisdom from Michelle to help you get started: “Grow your network, talk to people in the industry, and connect and learn about what life on board or shoreside is all about to see if it’s a good fit for you. And if it is, chase your dreams and don’t stop until you achieve them.”

Black and white photo of Holland America Line employee in front of brick wall.

Jessica Schumann, Hotel General Manager

Passionate about cultivating an environment of belonging and inclusion, Jessica is well-known by her peers for inspiring those around her to learn more and do what they can to make a difference. Education is near and dear to her heart. Working for Holland America Line has given her the opportunity to discover new cultures around the globe and share what she’s learned with others.

When asked who has inspired her the most, she said: “There are too many to mention. I don’t have to look far to find inspiration. I look to those directly around me who have grit, resilience, a growth mindset, and openly embrace equity. Those are strong qualities to strive towards having.”

Recognized as a leader who deeply cares about celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion, Jessica hosts annual activities to commemorate nationally recognized days of observance, including Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, helping to create a space that’s supportive and embracing of all her peers and what makes them uniquely them.

What advice would Jessica offer to women throughout the world?

“Know your worth. Leverage your strengths. Never stop learning. Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Ionela Musat, Third Officer

Currently sailing the seas on the Oosterdam, Ionela is an officer who loves caring for guests and crew throughout their journey. She’s passionate about embracing life, making unforgettable memories and never giving up on dreams.

Get a glimpse of what it’s like to travel the world aboard Holland America Line, and learn what brings Ionela joy through her work, by checking out our Instagram story in honor of International Women’s Day.

Holland America Line crew officer on deck with glacier in background.

Cheers to International Women’s Day and all those who share their hearts and talents, lifting others and making the world brighter and better than it was before.


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