the Little Girl Dance
by Linda Coffman
prepared for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception on Silversea's
Silver Whisper, song lyrics from my teenage years ran through my
mind... "little wallflower on the shelf, standing by
was sailing solo. An "unaccompanied female," like many
others who love to travel but are widowed, divorced, or just don't
happen to have a traveling companion. We usually far outnumber
it really worth all the trouble to go through the formal night
ritual of makeup and hair and a gown and heels? Sailing solo, would
I find myself sipping champagne and discussing recipes and
grandchildren with other unaccompanied ladies?
had worried needlessly. While I watched couples on the dance floor
and tapped my foot in time to the music of the Silver Whisper
Quintet, a gentleman who greeted me at the gangway the previous day
appeared. "Would you care to dance?" Would I? I
love to dance! My dance partner was Ken King, one of two Gentlemen
board for the entire cruise.
accompanied me to the floor of the Viennese Lounge as the music
changed from a slow number to one a bit livelier. I do love to
dance, but it's been many years since my last "social
dance" class. Recognizing my hesitation, Ken adjusted his lead
to a tempo I could easily follow. Such consideration!
King and a dance partner
such a wonderful idea. Knights in formal attire to rescue ladies
without partners from the ivory tower isolation of wallflowerdom.
How lovely for us to be a part of the ship's social scene. I
wondered how this idea came about.
Ken explained hosting began
when a cruise line's top executive noticed female passengers seated
alone on one of his ships. His wife encouraged him to invite one of
them to dance. He was chagrined when she cried as they danced,
thinking he had stepped on her toes. Later, he learned her husband
had died and she was deeply touched by the experience of dancing
again. He thought to himself that there should be more gentlemen to
mingle the ladies and, more importantly, to ask them to dance. Thus,
a hosting program was inaugurated to fill that void.
1987, Lauretta Blake's organization, The Working Vacation®
Inc, became involved with hosting and the rest is, as they say,
history. Since its inception, the Gentleman Host®
program has been wildly popular.
By now, if you saw the movie Out
to Sea, with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, you might be
snickering. Ms. Blake actually assisted writer, Bob Jacobs, and
Twentieth Century Fox with background information for the movie, but
the film's main characters couldn't be more different than Ken King
and his Gentleman Host®
candidates are carefully screened by Ms. Blake's agency, which also
requires background checks, and their dancing skills must pass the
muster of a professional Dance Review evaluation. In addition, hosts
agree to abide by a lengthy set of rules. For instance, they cannot
ask the same woman to dance twice in a row or focus on asking an
escorted woman to dance, even if her male companion is glued to the
blackjack table in the casino. And they cannot pick favorites and,
well, you know... become too familiar.
If being a host sounds easy, rest
assured—it's not all fun and games. Although it can be that too,
hosts are kept busy on board with a myriad of activities. In
addition to dancing until the wee hours of the morning, hosts are
often called upon to greet embarking passengers, give dance lessons,
host singles parties and a table in the dining room, and participate
in social games, such as Bridge, trivia, shuffleboard, and even
chess. Ken's eyes sparkle when he describes teaching children how to
sail kites off the fantail of a riverboat.
Depending on the cruise line, a
host's duties might also include escorting tours. Ken accompanied
several Silver Whisper shore excursions to look out for the comfort
and safety of passengers. With a backpack full of necessities, he
was prepared to administer first aid, accompany a sick passenger to
the hospital if necessary, and report any emergency situations to
What do these gracious gentlemen
receive in return? It varies by cruise line; however, some benefits
can include passenger cabin accommodations, modest allowances for
beverages, gratuities, and laundry services, airfare, shore
excursions, and the opportunity to travel around the world.
are not employed by the cruise lines—they are volunteers who pay a
modest agency fee to participate in the program. And, of course, as
Ken explained, there is the personal satisfaction they derive from
doing nice things for nice people.
According to Ms. Blake, "Women
have told us and, over the years, many other people traveling
remark on the cordial ways the
Hosts interact every day and, of course, women love the
music and dancing with the Gentlemen Hosts®
each evening. They repeatedly tell us that the Hosts are a
major reason that keeps them returning to cruises. Many of
the gentlemen tell us that they are truly invigorated from the
experiences they share and by their new friendships with cruise
- Hosts are single men who range
in age from 40 to 70
- They are generally retired or
- Their backgrounds include
careers in business, finance, law, travel, medicine, education,
and the military
- They are sociable gentlemen who
mingle well and have excellent manners
- Hosts enjoy dining, dancing,
games, shipboard activities, and touring ashore
For more information on the
Gentleman Host® Program, visit The
Working Vacation web site, call 708-301-7535, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, Crystal Cruises
offers their own host program that includes carefully screened
gentlemen with interests and backgrounds similar to those of their
guests on every sailing. Each Crystal Cruises' Ambassador Host is
cultured, well traveled, and an accomplished ballroom dancer.
Gentlemen interested in the Ambassador Host Program may send their
resumes containing information about their dancing abilities to:
Sheila Hoffman, Ambassador Host
2049 Century Park East, Suite
letter, resume, headshot photograph, and VHS/DVD of dance work
being performed within a professional dance studio. It can be important that those interested
in Ambassador Host positions possess extensive experience on other
cruise lines in the same capacity.
Finally, I just had to ask Ken, do
unaccompanied female passengers ever, um... hit on the Gentlemen
I guess I'll never know. Ken smiled, but was too much of a gentleman
courtesy of The
wallflower on the shelf, standing by herself" is from the
1960 R&B hit Let the Little Girl Dance (peak Billboard
position #7 in 1960; performed by by Billy Bland, words and music by
Henry Glover and Carl Spencer).
Solo - On embarkation day it's evident that cruise
ships are modern incarnations of Noah’s Ark. What's it like to be
a female on your own?