Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes
Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?
Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.
Welcome to the second in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story.
Did your family ever say to you — “before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye” …..
Well, that’s how this story begins.
Part 2: Cantaloupes & Dropped Cameras, the Journey to Small Ships
By Elise Lentz.
Long before we ever thought about working on ships, we took our first cruise in 1991 on a Holland America ship out of Tampa, FL. We had no idea whether we would like cruising and never really considered big vs small ship. We just relocated with my corporate job from Hershey, PA to Tampa and this was an easy and convenient way to take a quick trip and decompress.
The cruise was a Western Caribbean itinerary and one night we experienced very rough seas. The Main Dining Room staff performed like a Cirque du Soleil act. They were catching wine glasses falling off the tables in one hand while the other hand was balancing a tray of food. That night I learned something about myself: I get sea sick! I am talking toilet hugging — I-just-want-to-die-now — sea sick! (And after 15 years of working at sea, I still get sea sick….)
The Big ship world
Following this first cruise, we had taken a few other cruises on big ships with family. I truly enjoyed spending time with my family, but there was one disturbing event that has been burned into my memory. This particular ship was equipped with a “jumbotron” projection screen above the pool area. The ship organized a pool party game involving teams and fruit. The fruit was thrown into the pool, and the team that could exit the pool with the most fruit shoved into their bathing suits, won. One of the female participants became very famous onboard. After shoving what amounted to an entire fruit bowl down the top of her bathing suit, the weight was too much for the Lycra to handle. As she climbed out of the pool, not only did a cantaloupe escape from the top of her suit, but so did “the girls.” Famously, she had just made her revealing debut on the jumbotron TV for all to witness. I’m sorry to report that her team did not win…. While the experience was fun, Tim and I were searching for something a little different. Maybe “180◦ from Ordinary” as Windstar Cruises advertises.
One day in my office, a co-worker was talking about taking his wife on a romantic cruise. Hmmm, romantic cruise sounded like a nice idea so I asked him which cruise line he selected. He handed me a Windstar Cruises brochure and said I could borrow it. Who would have known that this enticing 20-page, glossy piece of advertising would potentially change my life. We decided to book a 7-day Caribbean Lesser Antilles cruise onboard the 148-passsenger sailing vessel Wind Spirit. After arranging the trip, it was painful to wait for the departure date to arrive. I remember having a picture of the ship hanging on the wall in my office. I was like the high school girl who hangs heartthrob posters of Andy Gibb and David Cassidy in her bedroom. I romanticized about the idea of actually sailing on the clear Caribbean waters with only 148 passengers.
The Small ship world
Was it what I expected? You bet…and more. I was enthralled with the extreme level of customer service we received onboard. Something happened on that cruise that I will never forget. There was one particular couple celebrating their honeymoon, and after the first few days, everyone knew who they were. It never failed, each time before we could sail away, the ship had to make an announcement to check if Mr. and Mrs. “Newlywed” were back on board. Passengers would roll their eyeballs and chuckle because this became a daily occurrence. One day, while disembarking the tender and walking up the gangway, Mrs. Newlywed dropped her camera overboard. She was in total hysterics and at that point we all knew the honeymoon was over. The crew witnessed the event and immediately notified their onboard SCUBA dive team. The divers took to the water in a very valiant attempt to recover Mrs. Newlywed’s camera. Unfortunately for the husband, the sea claimed the camera and all of their precious honeymoon photos. I often wonder if they are still married.
That particular cruise made a lasting impression on me and I always wanted to return for another Windstar cruise. Unfortunately, small ship did not equate to small price. Hence, when I found the advertisement for the Windstar Trans-Atlantic journey (from my prior article, Part 1), the price was hard to turn down.
Since then, Tim and I have had the pleasure to cruise on numerous small ships:
- Windstar fleet — Wind Spirit, Wind Star, Wind Surf, Star Breeze, and Star Pride
- Ponant fleet — Le Ponant, Le Boreal, Le Austral, Le Soleal, Le Lyrial, and Le Levant (later known as the Tere Moana and sold to Grand Circle)
- Skylla River Cruise fleet — ms Sapphire, ms Emerald, ms Diamond, ms Jewel, and ms Treasures
I get asked all the time, “Why did we decide to pursue this profession on small ships rather than land-based programs?”
I guess I fantasized that my office could be the open sea and each day my office would move from destination to destination. Cruise itineraries are designed around some of the most amazing places in the world, and my job could take me there. I never tire of the color of the water and seeing the landscape gently pass as the ship sails by. For me, the smaller ships still offer a sense of romantic travel. Why not turn this passion into a job? Even with the lure of romance and the fantasy of life at sea, I learned ultimately that my passion is still spelled J.O.B.
So, what is it like to live and work on a cruise ship?
Well, I think that sounds like a great topic for another post…
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