Robert W. Bone
There are three souls
on board a modern cruise ship you should get to know since they have
more to do with everyone’s enjoyment than anyone else. They are
(1) the Captain, (2) the Cruise Director, and (3) the Hotel
Serenity sails into Venice
No surprise here. He is the head man of the crew, and father figure
to everyone on board, passengers and staff alike. Adept at jovial
social repartee, he not too incidentally also has the ultimate
responsibility for navigating the vessel.
There seems to be the spirit of an explorer just under the surface
of the captain’s public personality. Indeed, everyone quietly
knows than in an unlikely set of circumstances… well… he would
be called upon to go down with the ship.
The most visible figure on any cruise, he has a perpetual smile and
unflagging good humor no matter what the circumstances. If the
captain is the master of the ship, the cruise director is quite
literally the master of ceremonies.
A combination of professional entertainer and indefatigable
cheerleader. he also functions as a manager of virtually every
passenger activity on board, from the time the guest leaves the
cabin in the morning until heading for bed at night. He is also
usually the easiest of the three for a passenger to buttonhole as he
bounces his way around the ship.
In days of old, the hotel manager, or hotel director, was called the
purser, and he was known mostly as the boss of the front desk. Today
most passengers seem to think of the hotel director only when
something in their stateroom needs changing or fixing. He manages a
large staff ranging from room stewards and butlers to plumbers and
carpenters. If you don’t like something in your cabin, he’s the
chap who can make things right.
It is also the hotel director who has to see that the ship picks up
the groceries at every port. He orders the delicious lobsters and
juicy strawberries and then supervises the chefs who perform wonders
with these products. If you need something special done with your
accommodations or your meals, the hotel director can see that it is
done. Many come to the job after a career in the hotel field and/or
the food and beverage business.
In interviews on board Crystal Serenity, a ship which began
plowing the seas for the first time in the summer of 2003, these
three officers all said they consider themselves at the top of their
Reidulf Maalen, a well-known master at Crystal Cruises
a 56-year-old Norwegian, served as captain of the other two ships in
the company, the Crystal Harmony and the Crystal Symphony,
before taking on the same job on the new Serenity. He said he
especially enjoys mixing with the passengers and the crew. When not
at sea, he lives in Las Vegas with his wife, whom he met when she
worked on his ship.
“It takes a particular personality to enjoy being the captain of a
cruise ship,” he said in an interview. “I know there are cruise
ship captains who hate the social aspects of the job, and my advice
to them is to go and drive a tanker or a container ship.”
“It has also been important for me to break down the traditional
barriers between the officers and the crew, and I’ve been doing
that for over 40 years,” he said. “At the end of the day, a
happy crew makes a happy ship.”
Maalen indicated that in this age of automation, uniformity, and
strict scheduling, there is still an element of adventure in a
modern passage. He said his most memorable cruise was the one which
included Crystal’s initial port call to Myanmar last year.
“That port is not much visited,” he said. “It took some
tremendous preparation before we could go there. But the passengers
came back on board just raving about the experience. So the Serenity
is going there again on our World Cruise in 2004.”
Pressed for an example of a time that something didn’t go as
planned, the captain recalled that a call at the Pacific Island of
Ponape had to be cancelled one year because of some kind of blockage
in the harbor.
“We always laugh about being on a cruise to nowhere,” but then
suddenly that’s just what it seemed to be – a cruise to nowhere!
Anyway, we felt we had to give the passengers come kind of an
experience, and also in order to keep to our schedule later on, we
decided to make a port call at Chuuk, an island we had never visited
“As usual, we took a local pilot on board, came through the
barrier reef without incident, and then we asked him where we should
dock. But to our surprise he shrugged his shoulders and said he had
no idea. So we just chose someplace and it worked out okay. But
later we learned that the guy isn’t really a pilot; he’s a taxi
Hunter, Cruise director on Crystal Serenity, started out as
The cruise director of
the Crystal Serenity is Gary Hunter, a Floridian who
has been sailing with Crystal ships for 12 years, principally in his
role as ventriloquist.
"I felt really good that they would introduce me to the cruise
director job on the new ship,” he said. He had had some experience
in the field, having been a cruise director for the Carnival Lines
for a few years before he joined Crystal.
“A cruise director needs to have some type of stage experience.
But besides being able to stand up in front of an audience, he also
must be an office manager, and one who can stroke the egos of
performers and lecturers. Really, you have to be some sort of a
natural psychologist,” he said.
“Generally it’s a fairly easy task,” he said. “After all,
the ship is set up to please people.”
Hunter is occasionally challenged by passengers who feel the
ship’s activities schedules should be changed in some way.
“But I find that when you explain why the golf lessons simply
can’t start at 9 o’clock, they usually understand,” he said.
“You have to give people reasons. You can’t just say,
‘That’s the way it is.’ ”
director of Crystal Serenity is Austrian, Herbert Jaeger
Serenity's hotel director, Herbert Jaeger, is an
Austrian. Like many who now work for Crystal, he is a veteran of the
defunct Royal Viking Line, considered the top of the cruise ship
lines in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He eventually becoming executive
chef for the Royal Viking Sun. In contrast to the captain and the
cruise director, most of his work is behind the scenes.
Occasionally, passengers manage to seek him out to ask to arrange
something different in their cabin or at their tables in the dining
room. He said in these cases he is almost always able to make
“They pay a lot of money for their cruise,” he said. “So they
expect whatever it is to be taken care of. And so we do
it—whatever it is.”
& Photographs Copyright © Robert W. Bone
Travel writer Robert W. Bone has been traveling on
passenger ships, off and on, since 1957. He lives in Honolulu and
maintains a website at TravelPieces.com.
Before you ship out on your cruise, learn some Nautical