Do you love to travel and socialize with people from all over the world? Consider a career on a cruise ship, says one veteran Cruise Director
Q&A with Julie Valeriote, Cruise Director, Norwegian Cruise Line
Julie Valeriote, Cruise Director for Norwegian Cruise Lines, has nearly 20 years experience in the cruise industry, and she explains daily life aboard the ship, the perks of traveling the world while you work, and the how she turned a summer job into a long, rewarding career.
HC: What is your sea work/life schedule like?
JV: Generally, our contracts last four months onboard a ship –working seven days each week, followed by eight weeks of vacation. I’ve been with Norwegian Cruise Line almost eighteen years.
HC: How did you get your start in the industry?
JV: I started working with Norwegian Cruise Line eighteen years ago for three weeks, as it related to my college studies in recreation leadership. My first job here was Seasonal Youth Counselor. I never dreamed that I’d become a Cruise Director when I first started on ships. I thought it was only going to be a really, interesting summer job! Over the years, I was given a lot of incredible opportunities, which always kept the job new and fresh and allowed me to build a really, rewarding career.
HC: What are your credentials and educational background?
JV: I studied Recreation Leadership at Fanshawe College and have worked in various areas within the Entertainment Department at Norwegian Cruise Line.
HC: How many people report to you?
JV: On our largest ship, 155 people reported to me. On our smallest ship, approximately 65 people reported to me.
HC: What is your day-to-day like on the ocean blue?
JV: Days are very full as you work throughout the day and night, 7 days a week. You’re up early each morning, mingling with the guests. Planning, scheduling and evaluating the onboard entertainment is a main component of the job. Guest service and working with onboard managers is also a key component. The most fun and exciting part of the job for me, is hosting the shows, events and entertaining our guests.
HC: Do you have to be high-energy to excel?
JV: Because the job is so social, a Cruise Director always needs to be outgoing, a people-person and needs to have a lot of energy. However, the job also requires a lot of flexibility when last minute changes occur, critical thinking when required to troubleshoot, organization to balance the administrative and front of house elements of the job and creativity to consistently deliver a fresh and current program.
HC: I’d imagine it’s hard to be away from loved ones for long periods of time, right? What other challenges are part and parcel for the job?
JV: It is hard to be away from family and friends. Onboard the ship, it is challenging to remember each of the names and faces of the guests, especially when working on ships carrying close to 5,000 guests per cruise.
HC: What are the unique rewards of your work?
JV: There are so many. Not only have I been able to work in the field that I’m most passionate about, but I have been able to meet and work with people from all around the world. I’ve had the chance to travel to so many amazing places and have had the chance to watch so many of my team members develop within their roles and achieve success within their careers.
HC: What are your favorite cruising hot-spots?
JV: I’m fascinated by Alaska, love the beauty of Hawaii and have enjoyed everywhere I’ve traveled in Europe. My favorite place on Earth is New York City!
HC: Any misconceptions of a Cruise Director’s role?
JV: The role has changed over the years. A misconception is that we host a few shows and mingle with guests and that’s where the job ends. In reality, you’re running a business behind the scenes, responsible for the entertainment department onboard and have to make the front of house look seamless.
HC: What is the salary range for Cruise Directors now? Other perks?
JV: A cruise director gets paid well for their responsibilities. Plus, you don’t have a lot of expenses during your time onboard, as you don’t have to pay rent or pay for most of the food you eat. Plus, you get a generous amount of time off to enjoy your friends and family when you’re on vacation.
HC: Can you describe your leadership style and why it works?
JV: As a leader, I have got to remain open-minded, flexible and supportive throughout each contract. Working well with the team is so important to success and I have always been extremely lucky to have worked with such hardworking, dedicated and creative teams. We all learn from each other and we all help each other to continuously get better.
HC: Any hard lessons learned along the rise to your current role?
JV: Learning hard lessons is what ultimately ended up making me more successful in the long run. The job requires taking risks in decision making from time to time. It’s just a matter of learning as much from failures as successes. Working on new builds has always been the most challenging, and at the same time, the most rewarding. It pushes your being to the limit and it is what has helped me to grow and has kept me challenged.
HC: Any advice for those interested in following in your footsteps?
JV: If you’re looking for a job that’s ever-changing, high energy, very rewarding and exciting, then being a Cruises Director is most definitely for you. Working through the ranks within the department is very helpful for you when you ultimately oversee it. Staying organized, determined and being a leader are the keys to success in this industry. I am so thankful that I have had so many amazing opportunities throughout my career.
Does working in the cruise industry sound like a great career fit for you? Find job opportunities here!