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Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Interview – Daily Duties, Salary, and Career Progression

If you have been on a cruise you have probably seen a member of staff called the Cruise Director on board.  You may be wondering who they are and what they do on board the ship.

To answer these questions I interviewed a cruise director who has worked on multiple Royal Caribbean ships and surveyed past cruisers about how the cruise director affects their cruise experience.

anthem of the seas in norway

Both ocean and river cruises have Cruise Directors onboard. They are sometimes referred to as ‘Cruise Hosts’.

The cruise director is usually one of the most recognizable members of the cruise ship crew.

What is a Cruise Director?

A cruise director is a high-ranking member of the cruise line staff who oversees the entertainment and activities happening on a cruise ship.

The cruise director’s role is front-facing and the cruise director spends a lot of their day interacting with guests. 

I asked past cruisers in my Facebook group if they remember seeing a cruise director on their last cruise. 57% said yes they remember seeing them onboard.

DO YOU REMEMBER CRUISE DIRECTOR

The most common way to become a cruise director is by working within the entertainment teams onboard and progressing up to the role of director.

I interviewed a friend of mine, Daniel, on my YouTube channel.

Daniel has worked on multiple Royal Caribbean cruise ships as a cruise director. He had the following to say about his route into the role:

Cruise Director Interview

How Did You Become a Cruise Director?

I started as Cruise Director staff and then moved on to Activities Manager (which on Royal Caribbean is the Assistant Cruise Director.) I then stepped up to the Cruise Director Role.

If you do want to be a cruise director they always hire somebody who has experience living and working on a cruise ship.

All cruise director quotes in this post are taken from the following live stream:

Being a Cruise Director is a very demanding but rewarding job. The activities undertaken by the cruise director will vary dramatically day by day and will often require long working hours.

Cruise Director Job
Cruise Director Adam Onboard The Marella Discovery

A Cruise Director’s Responsibilities Can Vary!

The photo above is of Cruise Director Adam onboard the Marella Discovery.

It was actually Adam who helped organise an event onboard where I shaved my head to raise money for charity

This isn’t something that’s a normal responsibility of a cruise director, but Adam put me at ease instantly and did a fabulous job!

I’m sure Adam would agree this was one of the stranger days he’s had at work….

emma cruises head shave
Me and Cruise Director Adam just before the head shave.

To see the head shave, watch the video below:

What do Cruise Directors Do?

Cruise Directors host events, present theatre shows and are in charge of onboard announcements.

They also hold port talks and have many safety responsibilities.

A big part of the Cruise Director’s job is to be the friendly face of the cruise line. They often act as go-betweens, bridging the gap between guests and the cruise line itself.

When passengers have questions or need help the Cruise Director is often the person that they will ask.

Cruise Director Interview:

Is The Cruise Director in Charge of The Entire Cruise?

Some people think the cruise director is in charge of everything but it’s a misleading title. The Cruise Director’s boss is the hotel director and they are the person who’s in charge of the overall cruise.

Cruise Directors Make Onboard Announcements

Cruise directors make announcements across the ship on a tannoy system.

I personally can’t think of anything worse than having to do this, I used to work in a supermarket where I lived in constant fear of having to make a tannoy announcement.

That said, Cruise Directors are well-practiced in this skill.

The announcements can vary but common themes include:

  • Information about the port of call being visited
    • The Cruise Director may let the guests know when the ship is expected to arrive and when they will be able to disembark.
    • On occasion, the Cruise Director may also let guests know about the weather and conditions in the port.
  • The daily schedule of events.
    • It is the job of the Cruise Director to read out the schedule of daily events.
    • A typical Cruise Director’s announcement may say something like ‘Tonight we have trivia in the lounge at 4 pm, live music by the pool at 5 pm, and a welcome drink with the captain at 7 pm.’
    • The Captain may also make announcements on the ship’s tannoy.

Cruise Directors Host Onboard Events

Events around the ship may be hosted by the Cruise Director or another member of the entertainment team.

On some larger ships, there may be an Assistant Cruise Director, who is the Cruise Director’s second in command.

Cruise Directors do spend a lot of their time socialising with passengers, it’s part of the job!

Cruise Director Interview:

Do You Spend a Lot of Time Talking to Guests?

A huge part of the job is talking to the passengers and it’s hard to find enough time for it because people usually want to see the Cruise Director and want to talk to them and chat.

You want to talk to as many people as possible, but you also need to get the rest of the work done and so sometimes you have to think really hard about when you do your other work.

Theatre Shows Are Hosted by The Cruise Director 

The Cruise Director will usually host the evening’s entertainment in the theatre. Pre-show they will come out onto the stage and introduce the show.

This is particularly impressive if you are cruising on a cruise line where multiple languages are spoken. On cruises with MSC and Costa, the Cruise Director will often do the introductory speech in 6 or 7 languages.

I am continually impressed by people who speak multiple languages, I only speak English – and I still struggle with that sometimes!

I took a cruise onboard the Costa Smeralda and only 4% of the guests spoke English. The Cruise Director spoke multiple different languages. Find out how I got on on that cruise here:

Cruise Directors Host Other Events

Other events that may be hosted by the Cruise Director include things like trivia, game shows, and parties.

The cruise director will usually host a Q&A with the captain if the ship has one, if there are any celebrities on board they’ll also host the Q&A with them.

There is a common misconception that the majority of a Cruise Director’s job is mostly interacting with the passengers.

Cruise Director Interview:

Is Your Role Mostly Interacting With Passengers?

The front-of-house side of the job is such a small part of the role. Take the theatre shows for example. You’re on the theatre stage for either 30 seconds or 10 minutes depending on how much you talk and then you go off stage. You do loads of other stuff whilst the show’s happening and you come back at the end of the show.

Cruise Director Marella Discovery Theatre

It May Be The Cruise Director Who Hosts Port Talks

On some cruise lines, the Cruise Director will be responsible for providing information about the ports of call.

On a river cruise line, this is almost always the job of the Cruise Director.

Ocean cruises work slightly differently as they may have a member of the excursions team or a local guide speaking about the destinations you will visit. On occasion, you will find the Cruise Director doing this.

Port Talk Saga River Cruise
On our Saga river cruise, the Cruise Director gave talks about the ports of call

Cruise Directors are Responsible For Safety and Security

The Cruise Director has a big role to play when it comes to safety and security.

They need to be constantly kept up to date with regulations and rules so the job includes quite a few meetings!

The priority of all cruise lines is to keep the guests safe. All crew members are responsible for playing different roles in any emergency, and the Cruise Director is no different.

Cruise Directors Spend a Lot of Time Planning Pre-cruise

Cruise Directors are in charge of a large team and are therefore responsible for organising and planning upcoming events.

Cruise Director Interview:

What Behind The Scenes Preparation Do You Make For a Cruise?

We plan the cruises about a month before. There’s still flexibility to change things but we have a nice structure so we know roughly what is happening and what people need to prepare for. For example, big events in America – like the Super Bowl require a lot of pre-planning.

Are There Cruise Directors on River Cruise Ships?

On most river cruise lines you will find a person who has a role similar to that of a Cruise Director. They’re not always called a ‘Cruise Director’ but will usually perform similar tasks.

On a river cruise, the Cruise Director may be supported by a small entertainment team or 1 or 2 other staff members.

Cruise Directors on river cruises will oversee the entire cruise operation and will be available to answer passengers’ questions at almost any time.

Unlike ocean ships, there aren’t really any staff areas on river cruise ships, which means that the Cruise Director is almost always available to passengers.

How do You Become a Cruise Director?

To become a Cruise Director most crew members start working at sea as a member of the entertainment team then work their way up to Assistant Cruise Director, then Cruise Director.

A person must have experience working at sea before becoming a Cruise Director. 

Working in industries such as hospitality, tourism, business, and management is also useful.

Some Cruise Directors will come from land-based jobs in hotels/restaurants before transferring into the cruise industry.

Cruise Directors work long hours and are away from home for months at a time so any potential Cruise Directors must be used to this way of life.

This is the reason why most Cruise Directors are recruited from within the cruise line.

Cruise Director Costa Cruises

What Skills do you Need to Become a Cruise Director?

Cruise directors have to be outgoing, fun-loving and have great organisational skills. They must have great communication skills and be happy to talk to guests all day, every day.

Organisation is a big part of being a cruise director, great time management skills are a must.

Cruise Directors must also be adaptable to the situation at sea can change with very little notice.

Unexpected sea days are one thing that cruise directors have to be prepared for.

The Cruise Director May Also Be An Entertainer

On smaller cruise lines, like Azamara, the Cruise Director may be part of the entertainment team too.

When I recently sailed the cruise director had her own singing show. She was very good!

When I sailed on Azamara Onward, during one show the cruise director Eric SKATED around the dance floor in a sparkly dress – Yes, you read that right!

Find out more about that in the video below:

Cruise Director Interview:

How do You Deal with Unexpected Sea Days?

I always made sure I had an emergency day planned out because we wouldn’t find out about an emergency sea day until maybe three hours before the guests did.

Problem-solving skills are also important as the cruise director is often responsible for implementing a ‘plan B’ when things don’t go to plan.

As a result, staying calm in stressful situations is important.

Getting a job as a cruise director is hard and competitive.

Once a person has a job as a Cruise Director they’ll usually work on different ships within the cruise line.

They may complete a contract on the Marella Discovery, then move to the Marella Explorer for example.

Some Cruise Directors may also change the company once they have been in the role for a while.

A cruise director must be able to function and thrive on a small amount of sleep (I wouldn’t be much good at this one!)

Cruise Director Interview:

How Much Sleep Do You Get Per Night as a Cruise Director?

Sometimes you’re up really early in the morning, sometimes you’re up really late at night. Most of the officers actually have a nap in the afternoon, we call it “International Nap Time.

If you call a senior officer in International Nap Time it better be an emergency because they really want their sleep. I never really went in for International Nap Time, because if I nap in the afternoon I don’t wake up again. So I would say about five to six hours sleep on average.

How Much Do Cruise Directors Make on Average?

The average cruise director earns between $56K and $70K per year.

The amount depends on experience. The cruise line they work for also affects how much a Cruise Director will earn.

Cruise Directors don’t have to pay for accommodation or meals onboard so they get to keep the majority of the money they make.

What Other Perks Do Cruise Directors Receive?

In addition to salary, Cruise Directors receive a number of other perks:

  • Accommodation on the ship free of charge
  • Meals onboard
  • (Usually) transport home and to the ship
  • Laundry
  • Discounts, often on cruises and/or shops onboard

Cruise Directors live onboard during their contract so are usually able to save quite a high percentage of their salary.

I have met a couple of crew members who work onboard while saving money for a house deposit or other expenses. Many crew members also send home their salaries to support their families

Before You Go

Find out more about the cruise ship’s very important Housekeeping team in the article below:

Cruise Ship Housekeeping: Responsibilities, Salaries and Benefits

Get an insider crew tour of the ship’s lifeboats in the article below:

Inside a Cruise Ship Lifeboat (Crew Tour) – Emergency Food, Engine, Seating Plan and More

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide