Read the full speech from our founder and CEO, Beth Santos, godmother of the Azamara Onward

On Monday, 2 May 2022, our founder and CEO Beth Santos had one of the most exciting honors to date: christening the Azamara Onward, the fourth ship to join the Azamara fleet.

In maritime tradition, a cruise ship godmother provides a moral compass to the ship and helps keep its passengers safe. Beth joined guests and press for a preview sailing, christened the ship with a 15 liter bottle of champagne, and delivered a speech pressing the industry to push forward.

Photo courtesy of Azamara

Here is the full text of that speech as Godmother of the Azamara Onward:

Thank you so much Carol for that amazing introduction, and to the entire Azamara team for their incredibly hard work and dedication, and of course for the immense honor of selecting me as Godmother of the Azamara Onward.

To everyone in attendance today, from press to guests and the greater Azamara community watching this video online (including our own Wanderful women), to every staff member who has worked swiftly behind the scenes to make sure this event runs ever so smoothly, hello.

I’m pleased to have a moment to tell you my story and to reflect on some of the lessons that I hope we can all take away from this to make ourselves not just better travel industry members, but better travelers.

Photo courtesy of Azamara

When Azamara approached me to be the Godmother, I was floored. I suspect many of you were a little surprised, too. You see, when we look at the long lineage of cruise ship godmothers in the world today, we see celebrities like Oprah and royalty like Kate Middleton. We don’t usually see entrepreneurs and when we do, it’s even rarer to see them outside of the cruise industry.

But as I’ve come to know Azamara, I’ve learned that they like to shake things up a little, and I deeply admire that spirit and Carol’s leadership. At the end of the day, it’s the ones who are willing to shake things up that will propel us all forward.

When I started Wanderful nearly 13 years ago, I was traveling solo in my early twenties and logging it all in a travel blog. It was one of my very first forays into the world on my own, and it was exciting, invigorating, and sometimes scary.

I traveled through a world where it wasn’t always common or even accepted to see a woman traveling on her own, and I learned quickly how much of the travel industry doesn’t always represent a deep diversity of travelers.

It became my mission to build a global community that not only provided meaningful support and sisterhood for women traveling the world, but an international brand that challenged and pushed the travel industry to do better by all the women affected by it.

Today, Wanderful connects thousands of women travelers together through an online community and 50 local chapters worldwide.

We run the WITS Creator Summit which brings together hundreds of travel content creators to explore the evolution of travel in a digital landscape.

We host a festival called Wanderfest that invites women to simply celebrate sisterhood and the magic that travel gives us.

And we honor women who are carving paths to a better future through the Bessie Awards.

We speak up about topics that are important not just to our industry, but to our world: cultural awareness, social justice, community-led tourism, and our responsibility as travelers to invest in businesses that share those core values.

It’s not lost on me how symbolic today is, not just because it’s a christening, but because it’s a christening after the two hardest years that the travel industry – and especially the cruise industry – has ever seen, possibly in the history of tourism.

For two years, we put our suitcases away and stopped moving. And while we were all learning to bake sourdough bread and grow carrots in our gardens, there were a couple of other things that really stood out, too.

The first is that we all realized that travel isn’t just a destination; it’s a mindset. It’s not always about how far we go or how many passport stamps we acquire, but how much we let ourselves learn and grow in the process.

In quarantine, we came to find moments of travel that we never would have considered before – cooking a homemade meal from an international cookbook and experimenting with flavors we’d never tasted.

Taking walks in patches of our own cities and backyards that we’d never explored. Picking up languages, and using the powers of the Internet to connect across borders and time zones with new friends.

Finding moments of learning and growth even in the smallest things, and taking the lessons that travel teaches us – getting uncomfortable, embracing the new, letting yourself be open to the world – right at home.

Photo courtesy of Azamara

So many of us in the travel industry also took the Great Pause as a moment to reflect on our direction forward. We talked about new initiatives in tourism that we hoped could be more a part of the future of travel.

An industry that celebrated and promoted women.

An industry that amplified Black and Brown voices.

An industry that worked to invest in and support local communities, that immersed itself in its destination, that understood that travel isn’t just about the traveler, but about everyone who is touched by travel’s impact.

An industry that celebrated traveling with intention.

It is that spirit of intention that brings us here today, because christenings are not just about introducing a new ship into the world, but giving it a spirit, a purpose, and a path forward – for the ship, certainly, but also for all of us.

We stand together after two years of pause. We take the lessons that we have learned – the hard ones, and the easier ones. The ones that have made us laugh, and the ones that had nearly broken us, but have all played their part in carving us into the people we are today.

We pack them into our suitcases, take those suitcases out of our closets. And we propel ourselves forward, onward, into a world that is better for all of us.

Photo courtesy of Azamara

Onward. It couldn’t be more fitting, could it?

So today, for all of you watching, whether you work in the industry, whether you’re an Azamara guest or a Wanderful woman, whether you’re a member of the media sharing this moment with your audience, I’d like to leave you all with a reflection, with a challenge.

What lessons will you take with you when you propel yourself onward?

What intentions will you bring on your next voyage, and how will you manifest them?

However it is that you’re part of the travel industry, from a senior leader making corporate decisions, to a traveler deciding on their next trip, we all have a responsibility to make travel better for all of us.

To invest in businesses that share these values.

To approach the world as learners, and as advocates.

To make travel impactful and equitable.

This responsibility lies in each one of us, and today is the day that we act on those intentions.

Today, we press onward.

Thank you.

Photo courtesy of Azamara