“I have always had this sense of adventure, craving to explore places that were so different from my own,” says Brenda Lynne Yeomans, strategic sales and market manager at Celebrity Cruises Canada.
For as long as she can remember, Yeomans has had a special relationship with the ocean and the cruising industry.
Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, Yeomans wanted to sail the world’s oceans immediately after finishing high school.
“I decided to go on a six-month adventure to the South Pacific. My dream was to get a job as a crew member on a yacht and sail through all of the islands,” she tells PAX.
It was a dream she worked hard at, saving whatever she could while working as a lifeguard and swim instructor as a teenager.
Whether it was swimming, diving, water skiing or playing water polo, Yeomans was “always in the water” growing up, she says.
“Of course, in Regina, there were no oceans, but lots of lakes and pools,” she says.
That first gig at sea
Her ambitions eventually landed her in Sydney, Australia, where Yeomans accepted a job as a stewardess with Sitmar Cruises.
“Our jobs were to basically run everything!” Yeomans recalls of that first gig at sea. “Embarkation, serving drinks, guest relations, youth programs, and performing in the crew show. I lived in a large room with four bunkbeds and ten girls! The crew were mostly all Italian. I quickly learned how to speak Italian and dance the tarantella!”
The beaches, marine life and lagoons of the South Pacific – from New Caledonia to Papa New Guinea to Tonga to Vanuatu to the Cook islands – were fixtures in Yeomans' day-to-day life.
She jumped at every opportunity to immerse herself into unique cultures from around the world.
“Cruising was in my blood forever,” Yeomans says of those early days.
She also surrounded herself with interesting people whenever she could. At one point in her travels, Yeomans found herself in St. Tropez, living next door to legendary actress and fashion model Brigitte Bardot.
Yeomans also lived in Florence where she attended La Scuola di Michelangelo to study Italian.
It was then, while in Florence, when the ocean came calling again – this time, in the form of a job with Royal Caribbean.
“They needed someone with a singing, dancing and fitness background who could help them create the shipshape program and teach classes,” Yeomans recalls. “I was hired over the phone.”
And with that, Yeomans was off to Miami to join the Song of America as its first shipshape director, an important role that helped her achieve noteworthy goals down the road, such as becoming one of the first female cruise directors with Royal Caribbean International (RCI).
35 years later...
All this, of course, is just “the Coles Notes version” of her story, Yeomans says.
Thirty-five years later, Yeomans still works for RCI – an impressive career that has afforded her unique opportunities across the company’s various cruise brands, including a 17-year-long stint working as a district sales manager in Calgary, AB.
Now based in Oakville, ON, Yeomans’ duties at Celebrity Cruises Canada revolve around developing marketing and promotional strategies, building partnerships, sales consulting with retail travel agencies, consortia and tour operators, and mentoring her Celebrity team.
“I have practically spent my whole life in the cruise industry,” Yeomans says. “Honestly, I must have been a mermaid in my previous life.”
Here, PAX checks in with Yeomans to chat about running marathons in Bermuda, spearfishing on the island of Vanuatu and a dramatic train ride that may or may not have involved her losing a shoe.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Brenda Lynne Yeomans (BLY): Runners, wireless beat ear buds, iPhone.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
BLY: Bermuda. For an island only 22 miles long and about a mile across, there is always somewhere new to explore. I have been coming to this island since 1986! I have ran a few full marathons around the island (yes, you have to do the circuit twice!), became a certified advanced scuba diver, and golfed on every course. Cliff diving, sailing, opening my eyes underwater in the most crystal clear turquoise waters...walking on pink sand...night diving on a wreck when the blue bioluminescent algae is present! Did I mentioned Goslings Black Rum? Just on the rocks! So yummy. The magic of the whistling tree frogs in the evening as the sun sets. I have had many favourite moments on this island but one of the most recent was watching the America’s Cup final races in the Great Sound. Spectacular! And rewarding when my team, Emirates Team New Zealand, won!
Also, the Galapagos Islands. Celebrity Cruises started sailing there when I was pregnant with my twins in 2004. I promised myself that this would be one adventure I would experience with my kids for the first time. So when they turned the magical age of 13, we flew to Quito to start our adventure. What is not to love about Quito? It has the best chocolate, coffee, fruits, rose and soft Alpacha scarves, sweaters and the kind, beautiful people of Ecuador. After two days of fun, off to Baltra to catch our Celebrity 40-pax yacht called the Xperience. Snorkelling with penguins, sea lions, sharks and mating green turtles in the water. Hiking on these remote islands, bird watching, spotting/seeing tortoises and iguanas in the wild. Where can you go where the animals never run away? The birds walk towards you! My kids were in awe at every moment of the trip, and so was I. We celebrated my birthday in the Galapagos Islands. This was a trip worth waiting for.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
BLY: Kahului Airport. I love that it is an open air airport. The smell of the Gardenia leis and chocolate Macadamia nuts! Most importantly, if I am at this airport, it is for vacation!
PAX: What do you love about your job?
BLY: It’s all about the people I work with and get to meet along the way, including our cruise guests. It is all of the travel professionals I get to work with from Victoria to Newfoundland. Everyone has this same passion, purpose, love for adventure, creating memorable experiences and really making people happy! I get to smile every day, and continue to travel the world and fulfill my dreams too!
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
BLY: I was 11 when our family took a charter flight from Regina to Honolulu on Wardair. We spent one week in Honolulu and then one week in Maui. I fell in love with the Aloha Spirit, Polynesian culture, music and the people immediately. You could not peel me away from the ocean. I was first on the beach as the sun was rising and the last one to leave at dusk. I would have dinner then make my way back to the beach to sit in the dark under the stars. The smell and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The spell was cast – I had to be on or by the ocean for the rest of my life. Luckily for me, my parents loved this tropical paradise as well. Maui became our winter getaway, “our cottage,” every year.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
BLY: I usually am spending my money on experiences or extending my time in a place I love! But, on one occasion, I did buy a blue diamond ring on the inaugural cruise of the Celebrity Solstice. Every time I look at it, it takes me to my favourite oceans in the world.
PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you ever eaten while travelling?
BLY: Maybe it was because I was 19 and on the other side of the world, but it was very simple. I was working on a ship called the Fairstar, sailing from Sydney to the islands in the South Pacific. On a day off, my co-worker, Caroline, and I took a cab from Port Vila to a remote beach on the island of Vanuatu.
There was no one on the beach except for us and a couple of local boys. They scaled the coconut trees and collected a couple of coconuts and we were soon drinking fresh coconut water and eating coconut. Then they took us out on their outrigger canoe to fish – spearfishing. We were soon treated to fresh fish, roasted on an open fire on the beach. Nothing fancy, but so delicious. Then they took us on a hike to waterfalls and we were soon sliding down the rocks on a natural slide in the waterfall. Did I mention they did not speak English? We had the best day ever without a care in the world.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
BLY: I love immersing myself in the culture, food and language of the countries I am visiting. So when I hear other travellers complaining about not finding food from home, or wanting everyone to speak their language, I think they’ve missed the purpose of their trip.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
BLY: I play piano – classical. I also used to sing with the orchestra on board our RCI ships when I was a cruise director and dance in our crew shows.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
Travelling on a train from Rome to Venice to meet my grandparents who were travelling on a bus tour. I was in Rome, visiting friends, on vacation from my cruise staff job on board RCI. I was at a dinner party with friends at this Italian castle. After many hours of eating, drinking and dancing, they dropped me off at the train station for a night trip to Venice. When I arrived at my platform, my train moving. I could not miss this train to Venice! I started running to jump on the train. I threw my bag in the door and a couple of Italian guys grabbed me and pulled me up on board while yelling at me “Pazza, Pazza Ragazza!” One of my shoes fell off under the train during my leap!
But I didn’t care, I was so relieved not to have missed this train.
Then the train stopped! As it turned out, my train was just arriving at the station in Rome, not leaving! I turned a bright shade of red! Embarrassed, oh yes!
But, most importantly, I did get to Venice to see meet up with Grandparents!
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to Celebrity Cruises?
BLY: Your best resource and one-stop shop to help you grow and support your Celebrity sales and marketing activities is www.thecelebritycommitment.com. Also, Flora, our all-suite, 100 pax yacht, will begin sailing in the Galapagos Islands this June!