An interview with a cruise ship youth coordinator on ship life and responsibilities
Three very positive things come to mind when I think back to our cruise on the Carnival Fascination: the balcony off of our cabin (and the cabin itself), the itinerary and Camp Carnival. Although I was too old to attend Camp Carnival, on behalf of our two sons, I can report back that it's a terrific place for youngsters to spend some time during the course of a Carnival cruise.
Louise Salter, the ship's youth coordinator was kind enough to take time out of one of her incredibly full days to chat with us about Camp Carnival and her approach to childcare at sea.
CruiseMates: How long have you been in the childcare field?
Salter: Around 5 years, the last 2 and a half years with Carnival and before that, another 5 years in the travel industry, primarily in hotels.
CruiseMates:What brought you to Carnival?
Salter: I've always wanted to work on cruise ships. I saw an ad in a newspaper in Spain and contacted them. I was very lucky getting the job.
CruiseMates:How long have you been the youth director?
Salter: Just over a year and a half.
CruiseMates:What does Carnival look for when hiring someone for its youth staff?
Salter: The person's personality is key. We have to be able to cope with a lot of children. It's hard work. CruiseMates:Every 7 days you've got a new crop of kids, you've got to bond with them quickly, make them feel comfortable in a new and foreign environment, it must be very challenging? Salter: Very! Everyone's from all walks of life, so many backgrounds.
CruiseMates:Isn't your job pretty tiring? When you go to bed at night, aren't you exhausted, ready to pass out?
Salter: It varies. When it's really busy, you're on such a high, you're always on the go. With this itinerary, we're in port a lot. It's quite a nice work environment.
CruiseMates:How long is a typical stint for someone on Carnival's youth staff?
Salter: The contracts can be anywhere from six months to eight months.
CruiseMates:During those six to eight months, do you get any time off?
Salter: Depending on how busy we are, I do try to limit everyone's hours enough so that they have a little bit of a break each day.
CruiseMates:Have you worked on any of Carnival's non Fantasy-Class ships?
Salter: I was on the CELEBRATION which is a smaller ship than this one.
CruiseMates:How would compare her to the Fantasy-class ships?
Salter: It's very different, a lot smaller. I found the atmosphere to be very different. With a smaller ship you get to meet people more quickly. I really enjoyed that class of ship.
CruiseMates:Any tips for parents in terms of preparing their kids to participate in a cruise ship's youth program?
Salter: I think the biggest mistake parents make is in leaving their children too long at first.
CruiseMates:What would be " too long" on the first day?
Salter: Anything over six hours. It makes them feel they're going to be left for hours on end every day.
CruiseMates:What's the magic cutoff when it comes to an unhappy child, at what point do you give up and recommend that a parent coming back to reclaim their "unhappy camper?"
Salter: We always ask the parents of children under the age of 4 or 5 to give us a call around 20 to 30 minutes after they've dropped the child off, just to make sure everything is going all right. An unhappy child can, in effect, take a counselor away from the other children's activities.
CruiseMates:Speaking of activities, do you rotate them so that if by chance, children returning to Carnival will experience different programs and activities?
Salter: Yes, although every Carnival ship has a very similar program, whenever new staff members join us or are rotated from another ship, I sit down with them to get their input and ideas. I'm always trying to introduce new activities. This is nice not just for returning children but it also helps us as staff members, to keep from getting stale.
CruiseMates:What do you think sets the Carnival children's program apart from your competitors?
Salter: Our hours. We have extensive hours. Plus, we work with a wide range of ages, with main activities beginning at age 2.
CruiseMates: Do any events or a does a particular child stand out in your time here in Carnival's youth program?
Salter: That's a difficult one. I've had children come back from a previous cruise. They've come back, remembered my name, where I'm from and even some of the events we did on an earlier cruise. To me that's what makes it all worthwhile, when they remember you out of a staff of nine or ten.
CruiseMates: Final Question: What do you say to the family or parent that thinks cruises are only for adults?
Salter: I would definitely recommend it as the best vacation for families. Having worked in the travel industry for such a long time, I know from personal experience that a cruise offers the most extensive offerings for children of all ages. A cruise's children's program is also very flexible, you can use as much or as little of it as you want all at no extra cost. Today, the biggest endorsements for Carnival actually come from families.