Meet Celebrity's Top Cruise Director

When a cruise line introduces a new ship, it usually tries to staff the vessel with the best people in the company. So when Celebrity Cruises introduced the Infinity in Los Angeles last month, the ship's staff included the line's veteran cruise director Jim Cannon.

CruiseMates sat down with Jim Cannon during the recent inaugural ceremonies for Celebrity Infinity.

CruiseMates: Thanks for talking with us, Jim.

Jim Cannon: I want to say one thing right away, and I mean this sincerely: We love CruiseMates. Not only is it a great Web site with a lot of good information, but we also like that you are positive about cruising. And even though you aren't afraid to express the downside of our industry at times, which we deserve, that love and respect you have for cruising always comes through.

CruiseMates: Thanks Jim. We try our best.

Jim Cannon: I also really love meeting CruiseMates' readers when they come aboard, and I'm not just saying that. They're real cruise enthusiasts and they make us feel really great about what we are doing. Being at sea can feel very isolating, and it is gratifying to know that people are thinking about us while we are away at sea.

CruiseMates: Thank you for the compliments. How long have you been in the cruise industry?

Jim Cannon: 19 years.

CruiseMates: Here we are celebrating the inaugural celebration for the Infinity. How would you characterize this experience in your career?

Jim Cannon: In a word, fantastic. I'm proud to be a part of what Celebrity is doing today because I believe they present a unique product in an industry that many people believe is growing too fast for its own good.

CruiseMates: What has kept you cruising all these years?

Jim Cannon: My first motivation was to see the world. Like a lot of young people, I had the spirit of adventure and I was fortunate enough to find the means to satisfy my wanderlust and make a living at the same time. The fact that I did it all in the lap of luxury was an added bonus.

CruiseMates: Give us the brief history.

Jim Cannon: It started modestly--some might say embarrassingly--on a small ship doing day cruises out of Miami called the Sea Escape. I was working as an entertainer, singing and dancing with my wife. Our specialty was a show featuring sentimental jazz tunes. As we perfected our talents and started getting cruise line jobs on longer cruises for better cruise lines, we started picking our assignments based on where we wanted to travel next.

CruiseMates: Where have you been?

Jim Cannon: I've been to 650 different ports in 85 countries.

CruiseMates: Which major cruise lines have you have worked for?

Jim Cannon: We worked for Seabourn and Crystal for quite a few years. Eventually we moved over to Radisson, where I worked as an entertainer and lecturer. Soon they were offering me those more responsible "corporate jobs" beyond mere entertainer. I worked as the original cruise director aboard the Song of Flower, and also sailed the debut season of the Paul Gaugin in Tahiti. Soon I was the entertainment director and shore excursion manager for the entire Radisson Seven Seas Cruises company. I did this for three years, and while I felt gratified in my career there wasn't a place in it for my wife, and I was getting lonely.

CruiseMates: And where was your wife?

Jim Cannon: She was working aboard other ships for Park West, the onboard art auctioneering company, which she still does today.

CruiseMates: And what happened?

Jim Cannon: Coincidentally, I was working aboard a ship where CruiseMates' editor, Anne Campbell, was sailing as a guest, and she was waxing enthusiastically about a Celebrity Cruises ship she had just visited. I was relating my marital situation, and she suggested that if I contacted Celebrity they might agree to make arrangements with Park West to have my wife work aboard the same ship I would be working on. We contacted Celebrity and they agreed to work with us, and I have been here ever since. I was sorry to leave Radisson, but I also love my wife (smiles).

CruiseMates: And how does your arrangement with Celebrity work?

Jim Cannon: The Park West company conducts the art auctions on most of the cruise ships in the industry. They are gracious enough to assure that wherever I go, my wife can sail too.

CruiseMates: Celebrity Cruises is growing swiftly, and Infinity is the second in a class of new, larger ships. How would you characterize these new Celebrity ships?

Jim Cannon: These are larger ships, but I think Celebrity has done a good job of carrying through the Celebrity standards of quality. The larger ships have advantages over the older ships. There is a larger budget for entertainment, so you get bigger and better shows. The spas are more comprehensive, and you get the fabulous alternative dining venues, the Olympic on Millennium and the SS United States Restaurant here on Infinity. Also what will be the Normandie Restaurant on the new Summit. I describe these ships as having a dynamic combination of youthful verve and refined elegance. What I really like is that I see a much more "interactive" crowd.

CruiseMates: Interactive?

Jim Cannon: Yes, there is a wider variety of people on these ships, and the atmosphere is conducive to people mingling and having fun together. I see young people coming out for swing dancing and I see older folks in the disco. There's an air of friendliness and refined fun here, partially I think as a result of the feel of the ship -- the "casual elegance."

CruiseMates: Thanks Jim. By the way, you have been on ships for 19 years now. How old are you?

Jim Cannon: I'm the grand old age of 40!

CruiseMates: How much time do you spend on ships every year?

Jim Cannon: Anywhere from eight to nine months. Generally I stay on four months and take two months off.

CruiseMates: And how long do you plan to keep this up?

Jim Cannon: As long as I can make it up a gangway.

CruiseMates: Thanks, Jim.

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