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The Working Vacation & The Gentlemen Host Program

Cruise Ship Hosts

by Sue Bryant

Cruise Traveller Magazine'The Working Vacation' sounds like a kind of student exchange scheme. But if you're a sociable, charming, single gentleman and you like dancing, it could be the link between you and a lifetime of blissful, discounted cruising. The Chicago-based company, owned by Lauretta Blake, is the leading recruitment agency for gentleman hosts on cruise ships worldwide.

Gentleman hosts exist for the simple reason that there are more single ladies than men on cruise ships and cruise lines like to provide dance partners and companions for their lady passengers.

Hosts sign up for individual cruises through The Working Vacation, although many will spend several months a year at sea. The trip isn't free - you pay around $28 (£18) a day, or $38 (£24) on premium cruise lines like Radisson or Silversea. But when you think that the brochure price on some of these cruises is $400 (£258) a day, it represents a huge discount. And although the criteria for gentlemen hosts are very strict, there are plenty of vacancies, "We have a great need for volunteer gentleman hosts," says Lauretta Blake. "There are never enough gentlemen and only a very small percentage are British."

Cruise lines offering gentleman host programmes include Cunard Line, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Orient Lines, Silversea Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, World Explorer Cruises.

If you think you've got what it takes, contact The Working Vacation on tel. 001 708 301 7535, www.theworkingvacation.com.

Lauretta Blake will be conducting interviews in London in May this year.

But as the name suggests, this is a working holiday, not a freebie. "You must really like people," says Blake. "You have to be absolutely sincere and you must be able to dance socially."

Gentlemen hosts are single gentlemen aged 45 to 72, gay or straight. Familiarity with dances like the waltz, quickstep, rumba is essential and you have to be comfortable walking up to complete strangers and making conversation. In addition to dancing in the evenings, joining in with shipboard activities and going on the shore excursions is essential.

Benefits vary from cruise line to cruise line but for the $28 daily fee, you'll receive accommodation (sharing with another host, except on world cruises), meals on board the ship, a drinks and laundry allowance, air fares (in some cases) and shore excursions.

"Many of our hosts have backgrounds in the areas of business, law, finance, travel, medicine, education and military," says Blake. "Most of them are retired or semi-retired. We ensure that our hosts meet the highest standards through referral interviews, personal meetings and dance reviews with professional dance instructors.

"This level of quality and integrity allows us to provide the cruise lines with hosts who are caring, outgoing, and excellent social dancers."

Only the obvious things are frowned upon. Gambling is forbidden, as is bringing a partner or forming a relationship with someone on board. Smoking is not encouraged and nor is heavy drinking. You also have to stock up on your wardrobe. There's a shopping list on The Working Vacation's website but a black tuxedo, white dinner jacket, navy blazer, suits, sports jackets and casual clothes are just the basics.

Most gentleman hosts find the job extremely rewarding. Harris Reiche is a host on board Radisson Seven Seas Voyager. "I have worked on 31 cruises and various different ships," he says. "I usually spend about two to three months a year at sea. I do it for the travel. I have been on two world cruises now and have fulfilled some of my lifelong dreams.

"You need to be outgoing and be able to converse at almost any level. Extensive travel helps too, as you are travelling with people who like to share their stories. You have to congenial and well mannered. Most of the gentleman hosts I know are professional men who are now retired. You have to be single. I have dated women that I met on board after I get back home, but in 31 cruises I have only been invited back to two women's cabins."

Peter Maciejewski, another Radisson host, agrees. " Initially, I got into it for purely selfish reasons, like the travel, but since I have been doing it, I really like how much we give back," he says. "Hosts make the cruise for a lot of women, especially those who are trying to get back into socialising after losing their husbands. I definitely get more Christmas cards since I started doing this job.

"My friends joke and say that I am a gigolo, but my reply to them is that I have just signed a contract of celibacy for two months."

© Copyright Marlin Publishing, 2003

This feature appears in the Summer 2003 issue of Cruise Traveller, the UK's only independent cruise magazine. To subscribe, tel. +44 (0) 20 8987 2741 or visit www.cruisetraveller.co.uk.

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