Tourism Royalty at Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji

Jackie Charlton of Fiji’s Captain Cook Cruises was born into the tourism industry.

September 5, 2019
Tiffany Carroll

Tiffany Carroll

September 5, 2019

Jackie Charlton is tourism royalty in Australia. The daughter of Trevor and Geraldine Haworth the founders of Captain Cook Cruises on Sydney Harbour, Jackie knew from a very young age her life would be in tourism and hospitality.

“Mum and Dad really were among the founders and pioneers of tourism in Australia, I couldn’t see any other career.”

At the height of their business, Captain Cook was the leading cruise line in Australia and the Southeast Pacific, the company operated more than 25 ships. Its passenger manifest exceeded one million customers on their day/dinner cruises, plus an additional 40,000 visitors on overnight cruises.

“I remember clearly working on my parents coffee cruises as an eight year old – washing cups and saucers. I was paid 50 cents a day,” Jackie laughed.

“Then as a 12 year old I was promoted to handing out flyers to tourists at Circular Quay and to answering the phones every weekend a couple of years later.”

Jackie crew up in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, she attended Loreto in Kirribilli along with her sister Alison who later would windsurf to school each day.

Jackie loved all parts of the business, but it was a family holiday to Fiji as a 12 year old that would really set the course for Jackie’s life.

“Dad was the epitome of a workaholic. He never took time off – I don’t remember socialising with him as a kid at all, just working with him. One day he booked a holiday including cruise to Fiji, saying he needed a break.

“Mum was very much involved in the business, running the sales and marketing. She attended some of the very first sales trips and was one of the first Australians to go to ITB in Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse). They really did wave the flag for Australian tourism.”

The long overdue family holiday included time at Fiji’s first resort, The Fijian (now Shangri-La).

“The whole family fell in love with Fiji, the people and the country. We all just loved it.”

It would be many more years of expanding the business in Australia before Captain Cook Cruises would eventually establish a presence in Fiji.

In 1990 a joint venture was formed between Qantas and Captain Cook Cruises to build and operate an accommodated cruise vessel on the Great Barrier Reef. Construction of the ‘Reef Endeavour’ (above in Fiji) took place at the Suva dockyard in Fiji and took 18 months before starting operations in Queensland.

It was during this time Jackie’s father met the man who would become his partner in the Fiji arm of the business, Semi Koroilavesau.

“Dad ended up moving what is now the Reef Endeavour from Cairns to Fiji and partnered with Semi’s family to start Captain Cook Cruises Fiji. That partnership continues today.”

Jackie is now the managing director of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji and leads a team of dedicated, long serving Fijian and expat staff.

“We have a terrific general manager in Fiji and a couple of ex Captain Cook Cruises Australia staff in Fiji too. Together with our fabulous local staff – some of which have been with us for over 15 years – they are responsible for the success of the business.”

Jackie, while still based in Sydney, visits Fiji regularly and tries to go on at least one Captain Cook Cruises trip a year. She can’t pick a favourite island in Fiji but says the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands visited by her ships are simply stunning.

The company has won a string of awards in Fiji for its day, sunset, three day to 11 day cruises and she puts it down to ensuring each and every guest has a memorable experience.

“It’s so easy with our Fijian crew – they make the business and genuinely want to ensure each of our guests has the absolute best time possible.

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