Cruise Director  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotCruise directors program entertainment and recreation activities for cruise ship passengers. It's the cruise director's responsibility to make sure all passengers enjoy themselves.

Cruise directors are often compared to the ringmaster of a circus because they're in charge of so many events and people. They supervise hundreds of people and coordinate events ranging from Vegas-style entertainment to shore tours.

dot"If you look at the staff of a cruise ship as one big family, the cruise director is definitely the head of the household," says cruise director Tom Dentino.

dotBe prepared to work hard. Cruise directors work almost 16 hours a day. They may also be away from home for more than six months at a time.

dotWhile on the ship, cruise directors socialize with the passengers and enjoy many of the pleasures passengers do, including excellent food, entertainment and their own stateroom.

dotCruise directors should love working with people and possess a positive demeanor. In stressful situations or even when they're sick, a cruise director must be friendly to all passengers -- even the annoying ones.

dotThe cruise industry can take a toll on family life. Experts recommend this as a good career for a free-spirited single person.

"It's almost impossible to get in touch with anyone -- or for anyone to get in touch with you -- for months at a time," says cruise director David Van depas.

dotDon't expect to become a cruise director overnight. It takes a long time to work your way up to this senior position.

dotA lot of cruise directors have public relations or entertainment backgrounds. Some may have been actors or singers, while others may have been tour guides or directors at resorts.

dotMany cruise lines do not recruit through agencies or advertise vacant positions, so finding out about positions available now can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. The cruise lines employ workers on a contract basis. You must be a minimum of 19 years of age.

dotThe vast majority of positions available do not require previous experience on a cruise ship, unless you are applying for a position directly related to the operation of the ship. However, you will need some experience in the given field you choose or at least a willingness to apply other expertise in the chosen field.

dotOnce on the ship, many of the cruise line companies will allow you to train for other suitable positions on your days off.

dotWorking on a cruise ship will allow you to meet interesting people from all walks of life, visit exotic destinations most people can only dream about, and experience different cultures and climates.

dotMost of the cruise lines provide accommodation and food. The type of accommodation depends on the status of your position aboard ship. Uniforms may be supplied. The rate of pay varies from cruise line to cruise line and depends on the type of position you fill. Tips and commissions are also usually very good.

dotMost cruise lines work out of the U.S. or Europe, but sailing routes are also expanding into Asia and South Africa. All that is required of you to work aboard, no matter what your nationality, is a valid passport and seaman's visa, which is easily obtained once you have a job within the industry.

dot"There are two worlds on a cruise ship -- the crew world and the passenger world. Only about 30 percent of the crew are allowed in the passenger world," says Dentino. If you want to be a cruise director, aim for positions on the ship where you'll be dealing with people -- positions like youth counselor, disc jockey, entertainer or sports instructor, or positions on the cruise staff or purser's staff.

dot"In my experience, it's not easy to change positions once you've established yourself," says Van depas. In other words, if you're aiming to become cruise director, it's best not to start out your cruise ship career as part of the housekeeping staff.

dotTry talking to people at the various cruise line offices to find out what they look for in their cruise directors. Every company is different.

dotMany cruise directors get their start as entertainers on the ships. If you have a particular talent, this might be a good approach. You can start by calling individual cruise lines to find out how they hire their entertainers. Some cruise lines hire their own; others have companies do it for them.

At a Glance

Ensure people get the most out of a vacation

  • More and more cruise directors are university or college educated
  • Cruise directors may be away from home for six months at a time
  • Most cruise directors work their way up from other positions