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The Working Vacation & The Gentlemen Host Program


Tempo Section Front

The Brainerd Dispatch's Weekly Arts,
Entertainment and Travel Section


Web posted Thursday, October 14, 1999




  Russ Schultz, a state government employee who serves as a "gentleman dancer" on cruise ships during his vacation time, discusses his avocation from his newly built home along the Mississippi River on Baxter's southwest side.

By day he's a hydrologist with the DNR
While on vacation he puts on his dancing shoes
 

By TERRY MIKELSON
Tempo Correspondent

BAXTER -- During the workday, Russ Schultz goes about his business as a Department of Natural Resources hydrologist with the quiet but assured demeanor of a civil engineer.

But in his off-time, the middle-aged single turns his passion for dance into a second career that would tickle the envy of any decent, self-respecting bachelor: He works as a "gentleman dance host" on some of the world's biggest and best cruise lines.

Over the past two years, the Baxter resident -- known to his friends as the founder of the Lakes Area Singles Club -- has cruised to Hawaii, through the Orient and even up the Mississippi River at little expense to himself.

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Russ Schultz's job as a gentleman host aboard a cruise ship is to offer his dancing skills to unescorted women, as part of his no-cost working vacation.

In return he has donned a tuxedo -- black or white depending on the event -- and has offered his dancing services to hundreds of single and unaccompanied women as the official gentleman host aboard ship.

"My job is to be available as a dancing partner for unescorted women," he said. "But I get to do what I love to do, which is dance."

His interest in dance and travel was triggered in 1994 when his 25-year marriage ended in divorce. He is the father of two grown children.

 



  Russ Schultz of Baxter poses with Jo Henry, a traveler from San Diego, during a recent Pacific cruise where Schultz worked as a gentleman dance host.

"I decided I really wanted to treat myself to something new, so I booked myself on a Caribbean cruise and enrolled in a community education ballroom dance course in preparation for the trip," he said. "During the cruise, I hung around the dance floors and met the hosts who advised me to get into it."

Developed by Lauretta Blake, The Working Vacation ® Inc. of San Jose, the gentleman host program has been embraced by about a dozen major cruise lines, Schultz said.

"A lot of vacationers won't even book a cruise unless the line offers the program," he said.

 

 

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Russ Schultz (right) typically works with other gentleman hosts, most of whom are retirees, such as these men who shared the dancing duties on a recent trip to the Hawaiian Islands.

Hesitant at first -- "my mind-set thought 'gigolo'" -- Schultz eventually pursued the idea with the Blake agency, filling out numerous forms, completing a dance-certification requirement and passing a face-to-face test before his acceptance into the program.

Now he gets calls routinely from the agency, requesting his participation as a host on some of the most exotic cruises available, he said, in part because of his acknowledged skills as a dancer.

 

Schultz said he can waltz, fox trot, rumba, cha-cha, tango, samba and polka with the best of the female partners he has met aboard ship.

"Some of the women are very good dancers," he said, "and you have to step up to their level. It doesn't matter if you know all the steps but the key is to concentrate on doing a few steps really well.

"Focus on frame, rhythm and lead in any dance and you've got it made," he chuckled.

A DNR employee for 27 years -- he's in charge of the state's shoreline management program among other things -- Schultz uses his vacation time to travel as a gentleman host.

The cruise is free, although he pays the agency a $12-per-day commission*** and had to purchase several tuxedos, blue blazers and other clothing required by the cruise lines.

"It's kind of expensive to get started in the program," he said, "but one long cruise will more than pay for it."

A 30-day cruise to South Pacific and the South China Sea last spring would have cost the traveler about $9,000 plus a $1,000 airline ticket to Singapore where he picked up the ship, he said. He paid the agency about $400.

He also cruised from Los Angeles to the Hawaiian Islands and back again during a 16-day period in November 1998 and took a paddle wheeler up the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Paul in the spring of 1997.

"For me, it's been a character-building thing since my divorce," he said. "I challenged myself to overcome an inherent shyness, to become more outgoing, to have more fun in life.

"It has made me feel sort of like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon," he added. "I have been able to spread my wings and have found out that there aren't as many boundaries as I thought."

©Copyright The Brainerd Daily Dispatch 506 James Street, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, Minnesota, U.S.A. 56401

 

***Please note the actual fee is $28/day.

We would like to thank Denton Newman and The Brainerd Daily Dispatch for allowing us to reprint this article from their Website. You can visit their site to find other interesting information.


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