Dondra Ritzenthaler to return, this time as a cruise line CEO

When Dondra Ritzenthaler retired as Celebrity Cruises’ senior vice president of sales for the Americas in April, she left the door open for a return engagement with the travel industry. She would “retire, re-energize and reassess,” she said at the time.

And when her noncompete expires in late May, Azamara has announced that her reassessment will bring her into its CEO chair.

“I can’t tell you how happy and motivated I am to become part of Azamara,” Ritzenthaler said in an interview. “This is a very trade-driven brand, and I so value my relationships with travel advisors. I can’t wait to work with them again and, with the leadership team of Azamara, bring this brand to new heights.”

That leadership team includes Azamara chairman Dan Hanrahan, who had worked with Ritzenthaler when he was CEO of Celebrity Cruises. “I missed working with Dan,” Ritzenthaler said. “It’s great to have an opportunity to work with him again.”

The feeling is mutual. “We just feel really lucky to get Dondra,” Hanrahan said. “She is so highly respected in the industry. She is going to take a really good brand and make it a really great brand.”

Ritzenthaler said her first goal is to “listen, learn and create a winning culture. I can impact change on the front end of the business and continue to deliver a great experience for our guests.”

Azamara’s current president, Carol Cabezas, will be leaving the company.

“Carol has been a great steward of the brand, getting us through Covid and then getting us up and running again,” Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan will provide day-to-day leadership until Ritzenthaler joins the team, Azamara said.

Azamara also is bringing on Alain Ferzil as CFO, effective immediately. Ferzil was most recently the acting CFO for Virgin Voyages and held financial leadership roles at Royal Caribbean Group.

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