Introduction: Welcome to Crew life at Sea podcast, here we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out and the sea a success, hear. Inspiring stories from experienced crew, from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be Part of the crew life at sea. And let’s welcome your host, Raymond Crystal.
Raymond: Hello and welcome to crew life at sea. The only place where you can find useful information, advice, insights, and resources to help inspire you to take that next step in working on a cruise ship today. We’re very, very lucky to have with us a guy who’s been in the business for quite a while. His name is Rico and he’s a cruise director. I don’t know why they call him Rica, but uh, we’re gonna find out about that Rico How are you?
Rico: I’m great Raymond. How are you?
Raymond: Um, very good. So what do they call you, Rico?
Rico: It’s a funny story. I started his career at 20 years ago and even though my name is Enrique, having so many nationalities coming to cruise, it was a little more challenging and people will never remember so it comes down to Rico we just shorten down the name and has worked.
Raymond: Have you used that for many years?
Rico: Many years to go. So, um, how many years you’ve been at sea? I’ve been at sea for 20 years while another peer veteran of the ocean born to do this.
Raymond: Can you tell me how did you get to a where you are today?
Rico: Well, it was 1998. I was working for Club Med, uh, on land and um, those days I just got married and my wife and I decided to come and try six months, come and do a contract, travel a little bit, saved some money and go home and in the processw we both fell in love with, uh, with his life and the rest is history. Here’s still 20 years later, I’m here.
Raymond: What does your wife do onboard?
Rico: She’s retired now. We have a baby and uh, you know, she’s at home with a kid.
Raymond: That’s where they’re supposed to be right? What does a cruise director actually do onboard?
Rico: So, different things, but mainly the Cruise Director is responsible for the entertainment. Um, in addition to that, the Cruise Director is the voice and the face of the ship as he will be the one hosting most of the cocktail parties where there is with a Captain or a Hotel Director making the announcements and basically he’s available or she’s available for the guests. Twenty four seven.
Raymond: OK. What made you decide to be a cruise Director or did you start from something else?
Rico: Well, coming from my background in club man in sports, you, um, I was hired to do activities when I first came in, 1998 and one thing led to another and this is, this is my field, you know, the Entertainment, a dancing, singing, doing shows and one thing led to another one. I became an Assistant Cruise Director shortly thereafter I became Cruise Director and I just love it.
Raymond: So got to start from like assistant and then move up?
Rico: Absolutely. I mean, if you come from a background that, you know, entertainment, whether he’s a DJ or a dancer or a singer or a pianist or any type of music from the music side, whether you played trumpet and soul, we have Cruise Directors that come from either being a piano player or a dancer to a people who knows about entertainment.
Raymond: Interesting. What would the process be if somebody wanted to work onboard as a Cruise Director, how would they go about it?
Rico: Well, depending on which country you’re from, so you’re going to contact your agent and you will have an interview and from there they will probably gauge whether you’re already set up for Cruise Director directly. If not, sometimes they might hire you as an Assistant Cruise Director and for the youngsters, that usually will get started as an activities staff but then there’s the opportunity always to move up the ranks quickly.
Raymond: OK. Start from the bottom guys
Rico: Is the best way to do it because then you learn the ropes learn absolutely everything there is to know about the position.
Raymond: Yes, of course. Uh, that’s uh, how even I started, I started as an Assistant and then I moved up to Managerial. So what happens if you become sick one day?
Rico: That’s a very good question. In all my years, I remember only once in 20 years I was sick for two days and I was very lucky to have an assistant who was capable and he was able to actually cover me for those two days but usually it’s like a Captain, you know, when you get sick there’s no one else really to cover you, but you will find someone who can come in and make the announcements and perhaps keep the program going because as you know, we set up everything in advance. So when, when we are in a current cruise, we have already planned all the way through until the next one. So it’s basically to have a team that can just step up and then cover the position.
Raymond: Excellent. Yeah. And when it comes to your scheduling for the Entertainment how do you go about doing your scheduling?
Rico: Well, as you know, the Cruise Director is responsible for different areas from international ambassadors to activities, host , broadcast musicians and shows and basically everything starts with the planning and there are a couple of factors that were always taking place, the length of the itinerary the demographics, the parts of the world where there might be some times where may be in an Asia or Brazil and when we tried to do is to manage you know the local entertainment if we can bring onboard, but most importantly is the arrival and departure times, what time did dinner seating are and so on and we carry all these things together and they will come up with a plan that can, there’s should be a flow so people can enjoy everything without being interrupted by one activity
Raymond: Not so easy hey?
Rico: Every now and then you come into situations that as difficult perhaps if the weather is bad if we miss a Port. When we have a sea day on end, like coming up soon, we have 10 days. We need to plan everything by the minute to make sure that it is
Raymond: One hour forward for the next seven days in a row.
Rico: The crew will feel it, that for sure.
Raymond: They ganna hate it. I’m sure you’ve had quite a few unhappy guesses because you’re always in front of the house. How do you handle this Rico?
Rico: Well, I got to say that most of the guests are usually happy 99 percent, but you always have that one percent that you can never ever please and you can identify these guys very early on in the Cruise. However we are trained to deal with these passengers and you know, we’re our diplomatic as we can be in and we try our best to make sure that one way or one way or another of these people leave the ship happy.
There always some person, you can’t get through to them that are in their mind-set. They just not interested doesn’t matter hell over water they don’t care
Rico: We continue to try until the end of the cruise, you know, so the guests leave with a smile.
Raymond: That’s one person can you imagine, a full theatre guests are waiting for a show, you know, they were waiting, the pressures on, all of a sudden something happens. How do you get to make them all at ease because the show can’t go on maybe for some reason, or maybe someone fell and not damaged leg? How do you stop a show?
Rico: That’s a very good question and I have been in those situations, several times in my years as a Cruiser Director. The one thing that you learn, you need to face the music. The moment you realize that there’s something wrong, whether he’s related to sound, lights, the rigging that the curtain doesn’t come up.
One of the staff has fallen and so on, what I’ve done always, I go out on stage and these are what a good Cruise Director comes to it. You need to have material, you need to be able to keep the people entertained and that’s one of the things I’m not a Comedian, but I can, I can do a comedy show easily for 30, 40 minute
Raymond: Every night before you go to sleep you reading these joke books right? .Reading these joke books
Rico: Well I have in my younger years. I did, you know and you learn to work in the industry from Comedians and other Cruise Directors and so on and this I would say it’s one of my abilities to be able to communicate with a Guest and keep them entertained and always be honest than try to cover the situation. You’ve got to come out on stage and ladies and gentlemen we have a situation and in there you gotta use transitioning into a joke or is talking about the day and tomorrow, you need to have always enough material, handy mind, fresh that you can share with the guests.
Raymond: That’s something that I knew, but I didn’t know in that type of a way
Rico: You cannot freeze because then everything will really go to shambles
Raymond: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Rico: The most challenging job I think goes to the crew and also the guest. I explained myself basically the crew because I want to make sure that my crew was happy. I always believe that if the crew is not happy, we cannot make the guests happy. Is as simple as that. So having you know, sometimes many, much different staff coming from different countries, they will have different expectations and they want different things, which as different food, different schedules, they expect to go out and search some ports as you know.
we love for people to go out and enjoy the day, but we’re here to work so sometimes as a challenge to, to instil in people’s mind that, you know, we need to have the responsibility to be on time to have the appropriate uniform and to provide him with everything that they need when it comes to the guests also, the guests have different expectations that come from different countries, different backgrounds and some companies more than other people pay a lot of money to be here on their expectations is really, really high.
So I find challenging at times to please everybody to find exactly what they want and give it to them.
Raymond:Can you imagine because sometimes when we go to a port and then the Captain goes on and says, ah, we can’t go that due to weather and like for example, I wanted to go to St Bart’s once again to do my Jui Jitsu and I plan everything and at eleven o’clock they going to fetch me and they’re waiting for me. Boom, my luck we’re not going there today and I’m like argg. I can imagine how they feel really must piss them off.
Rico: Imagine when you have a ship with 3, 4, 5,000 passengers.
Raymond: Yeah and you the Cruise Director.
Rico: And you’re the one again on what I said at the beginning, the Cruise Director is the one that faces the music. They come up to you not the Captain or the Hotel Director. They don’t see those guys.
Raymond: That’s why you get the big bucks. So tell me a little bit about your hours and how you schedule your day?
Rico: Well, I started bright and early. I usually wake up at 6, 6:30 in the morning, depending on the arrival time. Sometimes as you know, we arrive at 7:00 in the morning and I need to be up probably 45 minutes to an hour before the arrival. I get ready and I go to the office, I do usually the clearance of the ship once the authorities have given us the OK.
I checked the weather conditions for the day and basically I tell the guests how the day is going to be going when it comes to the weather arrival, departure time, specially what time they need to be back onboard. And then the day consists of several meetings and then planning we discuss what happened the previous day and then we’ll get ready
Raymond: So when do you fit in time to go to the gym because just to let people know you’re a little masculine guy, very fit, a black belt in some kind of martial arts
Rico: Well that’s a good question because a lot of people think that when you come to work on a ship, you work all days. It’s not the case. We will have some free time. So, you know, so everybody has different hobbies onboard. Some people like to go out to the beach, maybe because I’ve been to all these ports. I like to take half an hour, an hour and going to stretch myself at the gym.
Raymond: Knowing what you know now if you could change one thing, what would it be and why?
Rico: I wish I would’ve started earlier in this industry is a great life but the time I started, I was 25 years of age, but I wish I would’ve started before because honestly, once the sea touches you, life on land is never the same. You Fall in love with this life and you just can’t get enough
Raymond: Getting paid to see the world from free Want to give it a try I guarantee 99 percent will love it. They will come in and they were loving the to be able to meet people. I have friends from all over the world, you know, we are in 40, 50 nationalities onboard. We all get along with respect to each other we’re family really. So I really love it man and this is the kind of place where you do your work and the rest is just fun.
Raymond: Especially when you work on the biggest ship and a small ship. The big ship is more exciting. We have more to do more crew. So obviously you’ve worked on the big ships.
Rico: Absolutely. I’ve done 4,500 passengers and I’ve done 200.
Raymond: So what is the difference for you? It doesn’t actually make a difference for your position
Rico: It does not a lot of differences, for example, on a bigger ship with more guests, you need to move around more to be able to touch as many passengers as you can talk to them and you’re constantly walking around talking to people. I know obviously, uh, everything runs later on the bigger ships because you have two shows instead of one, you have activities to the show so the days are long, somewhere between, you know, 6, 7:00 in the morning and midnight or 1:00 in the morning.
So those of you who would like to give it a try and remember it, you will not sleep too much. If you’re asleep for life at sea might not be for you. As you know, the crew members all will look forward to by the end of our contract is to go home and sleep. Wouldn’t want anyone else. First, we want to go home and sleep and then we just take care of everything.
Raymond: I had a guy I interviewed, I said to him, what was the biggest negative of your job? What do you hate, he said to me, man, I can’t handle waking up for six months, 6:00 every morning when I get home, I just want to sleep.
Rico: We all feel the same whether you’re working in the galley or you are in the Spa or a Cruise Director or whatever their position is we all have the same feeling is like we want to sleep more.
Raymond: It’s just crazy. So tell me the negatives and the positives.
Rico: Well, the negatives, if you can put it that way, would be that we’re away from our families and friends or loved ones for months at a time and that is always hard. But then the positives, as I mentioned before, you find a new family, you make a family when you come on board a new ship, it may take a couple of days, a couple of weeks, but eventually, we’re all here alone and we come here alone. And um, we just try and we’re trying to make or time here the best we can have fun and they’re always, a family-like atmosphere that I enjoy very much on ships.
Raymond: So I have friends from all over, Lithuania in Brazil, all over the world, my contacts. OK. So here is the big one. I ask everybody the same question and I have some crazy stories. If I tell you the last one I had, I was like sitting there mouth open eyes like what the… you know, so they see what you’ve got. You’ve got like 22 years behind you so tell me the most shocking thing you’ve ever encountered or seen in your career at sea.
Rico: Wow. This is a tough one after so many years, man,
Raymond: I’ve had fires, I’ve had ghost’s ships
Rico: Well I can tell you one experience that I will never forget. It was a December 15th, 1998
Raymond: and knows the exact date.
Rico: Absolutely. I was pretty new than 20 years ago and we were going to Martinique we left San Juan at 10:00 at night and someone had a heart attack a passenger, so the Captain decided to deviate and we were going to drop the passenger in Saint Martin, which we did, but on the way out we hit a riff and the ship was sinking so we had to evacuate 2,500 passengers between 3 and 5 in the morning. We use a tender service, they will half of the town and we use their tender to come in and get everybody out and that I would say is the most shocking thing I’ve ever experienced. I mean, the funny thing is the guy I met the same person two years later, he survived the heart attack and everything he took a cruise. I told the guy, you know you caused the company is $17,000,000 and there were a lot of headaches, he laughed. I have pictures and videos,
Raymond: What was your position at that time?
Rico: I was cruise Staff /Youth activities. I was running the company. I was running the company
Raymond: Crazy and just having a good time.
Rico: It was my third week at sea and I love it. Even then I came back. I’m living proof. Twenty years later, I mean, I been through hurricanes. I’ve been through crew members jumping, guest jumping
Raymond: You get to save them all
Rico: I remember this time, we had a crew party and they made an announcement. All crew members go back to your rooms and you know, we didn’t know what happened so we will go back to the room and some more announcements were made. Look for your roommates, my roommate is here and reports to the bridge until we figured it out. There was someone missing. The guy jumped from the back of the ship on the opposite side where the party was never found a crew member, very sad.
Raymond: When they jumped from the back they go straight under because of the suction. It happens with me on one of my companies, we had a missing crew member and we never found him. So we presumed that jump also from deck 5
Rico: If you’re planning to come work at sea, please don’t have in mind to jump that will never find you. Yeah, I stay onboard, man.
Raymond: So has to work at sea changed your Life and why?
Rico: Yes, absolutely. It has changed my life in a positive way you become someone, in one word more open to everything to changes to people with, different ideas and different backgrounds you learn to appreciate the different things from all over the world. You know every time you going to go from the Caribbean to Africa and then you go to Asia, you go to Europe and you appreciate everything, the culture, the people, and the food. Absolutely. Beautiful.
Raymond: So you’ve been at sea for 22 years. Why do you keep coming back?
Rico: Great question again, Ray. I took a little break when my son was born and a few years ago and many of my friends asked me, you know, you’re still young, man, you’re going to retire now. And like, I don’t know, I don’t know really. And uh, after a while they see call’s you back man, the smell in the air, the fresh wind in your face or something about it that keeps calling you back.
Raymond: How old is your son?
Rico: He is four years old.
Raymond: Has he been on a ship yet?
Rico: He’s been already on three Cruise Ships, Oh my friend. He loves it.
Raymond: I’m going to be bringing my daughter on eventually in the near future she will be joining me. She hasn’t been on any.
Rico: I’m sure she will try that.
Raymond: I love these things. So let me ask you, um, do you have any advice for the viewers out there just to, before we ended off something? Just tell them.
Rico: I would recommend to anyone, to do the research, you know, do your homework because a lot of people ask me over the years I have hired a lot of people too that I have met at airports on, on taxis, at parties. People want to know, you know, what can I do? So that’s the first thing, just trying to narrow it down to a position, for example, your webpage that you put in right now I think is really helpful because people can see the different jobs that exist on ships through as many different positions. Yeah, that’s a lot of people don’t know what can I do as well?
Go on and do your homework and then you can apply for it. And there are always opportunities. We’re always looking for people. There are cruise lines out there that keep building new ships. The opportunities are endless. Great money, you can save money, you can see the world, make new friends and then whenever you go home, you know, you can have quality time with your family. You’re going to have money in your pocket and time to sleep.
Raymond: Rico thank you so much for being on my show. It was an honour to have such a long veteran on my show. Thank you so much. I appreciate everything
Rico: My pleasure. Much success with this new project
Raymond: Really appreciate this. Thank you so much, man.
Rico: My pleasure.
Outro: Thanks for listening to crew life@Sea podcast want any of your questions answered, send us an email at [email protected] Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea.