Katie McAlister, President of Cunard pictured at The Wigmore in London where Cunard announced a partnership with Michelin Star chef Michel Roux.
Client: Cunard.
Picture date: Tuesday August 8, 2023.
Photograph by Christopher Ison ©

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Hi Katie, and a belated welcome to the team! Tell us a bit about yourself.


I grew up in Northumberland (UK) and love the North East. I live in St Albans, I’ve two kids, 14 and 10, a husband and a dog. Family life keeps me busy but I also do wild swimming – in 2020 I swam the English Channel as part of a relay. There were five of us. It was Covid year and I felt I had to swim my way through it! We did it for a charity called SwimTayka, which teaches underprivileged children all over the world to swim.


What do you love about working in travel?


The reason I come to work every day – and have done for over 20 years in the travel industry – is that it’s an enormous responsibility and a privilege to take people on holiday. I began working overseas for TUI 20 years ago and fell in love with taking people on holiday and making sure they had the best time – the time that they’d dreamt about and that lived up to their expectations.


How did your journey begin?


I started as a graduate at TUI, and over the course of 20 years, I made my way to the board. I did French and Spanish at university and thought that by going to TUI, I would become fluent in those languages. But what actually happened was that I worked in lots of countries apart from France and Spain! And I fell in love with the joy of taking people on holiday. Working across all the different areas of that business gave me fantastic experience, which I can bring to Cunard.

What does the Cunard brand mean to you?


The brand to me is steeped in heritage but also absolutely timeless. I think that’s the key. It is heritage delivered in a way that is relevant in 2023. The thing that has really impressed me joining the team is that they all take great care to evolve everything across our ships in a way that preserves the things guests really love. When you look at Queen Anne, how we’ve designed her interiors, all the things people love are delivered in a newer, fresher, more modern way, but preserving that heritage. That respect for the heritage, along with the ability to listen to guests and adapt, is what makes Cunard fantastic.

We will have four ships, and not one the same. Yet they are all Cunard, so they give guests a choice to try something different that still feels like Cunard. You will still get White Star Service, and will still have fantastic dining and itineraries.


How would you describe your management style?


It is very much about serving my team and my guests. It’s about understanding what guests need from their trips and working out how best we can deliver that, and understanding what my team need from me to be successful at doing that, but also to flourish with their own personal ambitions. As you take on bigger roles, you realise that you can’t do everything yourself, so the best way you can do things is by supporting your team to be the best versions of themselves.

Left to Right: Katie McAlister, Cunard President, Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge and Marco Lunardi, Fincantieri shipyard Director under the bow of Cunard’s newest ship, Queen Anne, during the final phase of her construction at the Fincantieri ship yard near Venice, Italy. 
The fourth ship in the fleet will enter service in six month’s time on May 3rd; 2024.
Client: Cunard. 
For further information, please contact Sam Cole, Global PR & Events Director on Sam.Cole@cunard.co.uk, also Hannah Reay on Hannah.Reay@cunard.co.uk and Sam Balls on sam.balls@cunard.co.uk

Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2023.
Photograph by Christopher Ison ©

Where do you want to take the business?


Thanks to Queen Anne, we’re going to be sailing as four rather than three, so my primary objective is to grow our Cunard ‘fanbase’ to maximise that fourth ship and grow the business. We need to do that by communicating what those people who have been on a Cunard ship already know, which is that we offer this very special experience. We need to tell more people about that and deliver that amazing adventure with Cunard, so that they will tell their friends and will keep coming back to us.


With that in mind, how do you plan to grow the Cunard following?


The advantage that Cunard has is it’s a very famous brand, and because it's timeless, it is always modern, so the opportunity is to package that up and describe it to new guests who haven’t travelled with us before. We have a fourth ship with even more choice on board, such as 15 dining options and fabulous partnerships, such as with Michel Roux, who resonates with a whole other audience of foodies. We’re also going to be really focusing on wellness, which is quite new for us. And obviously, we’re offering 25 per cent more itineraries, with 91 destinations across 24 countries.

Chef Michel Roux and Cunard President Katie McAlister in The Wigmore restaurant in London

What’s at the top of your in-tray?


Job number one for me is to launch Queen Anne. But for me personally, it’s to get to know the organisation, get to know our guests, to experience what they experience on board and really build that empathy with our colleagues and with our guests.


What are you most looking forward to?


Working with something that is so important to so many people, it really feels like I’m a custodian of something special. I feel excited by the responsibility.


What will success look like, in your eyes?


Growing the business and having happy guests – plus Cunard remaining this timeless, yet very relevant brand throughout my custodianship.

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