Singles Cruise Hosting Harder than it Looks

| Friday, 22 Sept. 2006

What it's really like to be a host on a singles cruise

It sounds like the dream job -- cruising for free while hosting a group of happy, carefree, fun-loving singles for get-acquainted cocktail parties, games, and shore excursions. It seems like it would be more of a vacation than work, right?

Well, not exactly.

In fact, the position of singles cruise coordinator is not for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to handle the long hours and the stress.

Duties Depending on the number of single passengers, travel agencies that organize these cruises may send more than one coordinator. Their duties include setting up registration tables on embarkation day, which means early boarding. Then it takes several hours to check everyone in and give out identification tags and a schedule of events. After that, it's time to host the get-acquainted cocktail party, which means making sure someone is at the door to check IDs, then directing games for the next hour or more to get people introduced.

At dinner, coordinators usually don't have time to eat the first night, because they are busy helping singles find their assigned seats, answering questions about every subject imaginable. They must also listen to those who have already found something to complain about, and attempt to solve their problems. And their day does not end with dessert; usually there is a late night gathering to host, and morning comes early, since they often have to staff an information desk before breakfast, where cruisers can ask questions and check on the day's schedule.

Throughout the cruise, the singles coordinator's ongoing duties include hosting gatherings and games at poolside, organizing and attending before-dinner cocktail parties, table-hopping during dinner to encourage conversation, and generally doing as much as possible to ensure that everyone enjoys the cruise. The coordinator also pulls together group seating for shows, hosts night-owl parties, and sometimes leads private shore excursions. Some singles agencies offer daily information desks, which means early rising every morning. Even if the desk doesn't operate each day, coordinators can forget about sleeping late, as the group usually gets together for breakfast.

Drawbacks A coordinator needs to be all things to all people. And that includes "all kinds of people," according to one long-time coordinator who asked (for obvious reasons) that his name not be used. "I sometimes feel like Dr. Phil," he explained. "Guys will come to me asking me to set them up with a woman, any woman, and I have to explain I don't arrange one-night stands. And women will cry on my shoulder if the guy they had their eye on hooks up with someone else."

A female coordinator, who also preferred to comment anonymously, said her biggest problem was with cabin-mates who had been matched by the agency and could not get along. "The ship is usually full, and if I can't find someone willing to switch, then I act as mediator and try to help them work out their problems. If they can't, then I feel like an ongoing referee," she said.

But despite the long hours and the many responsibilities, most coordinators say they enjoy their positions. Many even aspire to eventually become ship cruise directors and use their experience with singles cruises to make important contacts.

What qualities do singles cruise agencies look for in a coordinator? Tammy Weiler, of Singles Travel International, requires more than just three to five years of experience as a cruise escort. "The applicant must be excited about life, love dealing with people, be enthusiastic, creative, intelligent, good with basic math/accounting, a problem solver, never takes no for an answer, and be a quick thinker and selfless," she said.

All Christian Cruises interviews coordinators extensively and looks for individuals who exhibit leadership skills and a desire to serve. They call it the "gift of hospitality." Cruising For Love says it is important that its coordinators are caring and interested in the welfare of all the singles, making sure they have a good time.

As for financial compensation (beyond a free cruise), SinglesCruise.com says it also offer a salary, as does All Christian Cruises, after a lengthy training period; but coordinators-in-training must pay their own travel expenses. Other agencies contacted preferred not to comment on offering anything beyond a free cruise. Most, however, do reimburse group coordinators for expenses incurred, such as transportation to and from the port, parking, onboard tips, and hotel expenses if arrival the night before sailing is required.

The following agencies indicated they are currently seeking experienced coordinators or people who would like to be considered for training:

Cruising For Love - Ann Rotman - agrotman@bellsouth.net

Singles Travel International - Tammy Weiler - tweiler@singlestravelintl.com

All Christian Cruises - Lisa@allchristiancruises.com

SinglesCruise.com - Vickie Meeuwsen - vmeeuwsen@carlson.com

Vacations To Go requires that coordinators be employed with them as a cruise agent for at least three months with a good record. Currently, they are hiring agents, but residence in Houston, Texas is required. Contact Kari Klee, klee@vacationstogo.com

Solocruiser.com is not hiring at this point but welcome resumes, which will be kept on file with eventual contact made as needed. rwhite@whitetravel.com

While being a singles cruise coordinator is obviously not a way to get rich, it could be a great career for someone who likes to travel, meet people, and maybe once in a while feel they really are on vacation.

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