Showing posts with label Cruise director Sue Denning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cruise director Sue Denning. Show all posts

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Celebrity’s Cruise Director: Our Cheerleader at Sea

Mix together talents as a cheerleader, entertainer, and mother. Add a large dash of caring and organizing then wrap it in a blanket of energy.

DSCF2246What do you have? 

Our Celebrity Constellation Cruise Director, Sue Denning.

I introduced you to Sue just after I met her on our transatlantic cruise.. Remember? She’d zipped past me en route to clean toilets in a public restroom on our ship. Along with the ship’s near-thousand other employees, she was working to eradicate the gastrointestinal virus that struck the sailing before ours. That toilet-cleaning made an impression on many of you and I promised a sequel; here it is:

DSCF2192It didn’t take long for life to get back to normal on board and then we started seeing Sue in her more traditional duties: interacting with passengers (like making the rounds on Sea Days with Hotel Director Jamie Petts) and  introducing a variety of on- board entertainment and enrichment activities; always perfectly coiffed and always smiling, I might add. (I couldn’t have done it – way too much energy and enthusiasm required).

DSCF2220This English wife, mother and entertainer has been working in  the cruise industry since 2004, both as a performer and Cruise Director. Yet, having a work schedule that requires four months on board, followed by two months off, hasn’t had a negative impact on her marriage (35 years!) or on her family (a son and daughter).

“I have a magnificent husband, two great kids and a wonderful home,” she says, flashing her trademark smile. “My husband performs on both land and sea. My daughter is performing in Vienna and my son in London’s West End.  You might call us a modern-day Von Trappe family.”

“I genuinely care about what I do,” she says of her 24/7 job, “I have a passion for it.” But the job’s not for everyone, she cautions. “It is essential to be a people person.  You must like what you do. It requires tolerance, not temper.”

DSCF2255Among cruise directors’ responsibilities are:
*directing passenger services, from activity programs and public announcements to "welcome onboard" and disembarking information.
*developing schedules for a staff of lecturers, speakers, special guest performers and on-staff entertainers for regular onboard programs.
* attending VIP functions, private parties, and ship-organized events, such as past passenger and welcome aboard receptions, like the one pictured above.

The real key to job success for a cruise director, she says, “Just to be yourself. Wake up the same way, every day.”

Do I need to tell you we are already hoping to have Sue aboard our Celebrity cruise next November?

Note:  I wrote this post about Sue last week and our travel schedule prevented me from getting it posted until Sunday, Jan. 15 - two days after the tragic accident in Italy involving a Costa Cruise Line's ship - not Celebrity.. We love cruising and know how seriously all cruise lines take the safety of their passengers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families whose lives were impacted by this incident.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beyond the Podium–Speakers at Sea

DSCF2338We basked in those unstructured, don’t-need-to-be-anywhere-or-do-anything days at sea on our recent transatlantic repositioning cruise, spending much of our time as the photo reflects.

We didn’t carry the daily program with us, as did many, to assure that no  activity or event would be missed.

We were so laid back  that sometimes we didn’t make it to the few we planned to attend. We had one exception to our lackadaisical lifestyle . . .


Niki Sepsas,  a Smithsonian Journeys lecturer and one of the three speakers on board the Constellation.

In 2011 Smithsonian Journeys expanded its presence on Celebrity ships with speakers presenting enrichment lectures on 99 cruises traveling in Bermuda, the Holy Land,  the Mediterranean, the Panama Canal, the Antarctica and crossing the Atlantic.

Cruise ship lecturers generally fall into two categories. Those like Niki; destination speakers whose topics are travel focused on regions the ship is visiting, its history, politics, culture and arts or those related to cruising, and maritime history, including pirates, Vikings, Phoenicians, or Christopher Columbus and other early day mariners.
Our other two speakers focused on aviation and cloth; those Enrichment or special interest speakers who talk about topics passengers may find interesting.  Needless to say, our interest was in travel.

Entertainment and Enrichment

In introducing Niki Sepsas, a 31-year-veteran tour guide and freelance writer, who hails from Birmingham, Alabama, our Cruise Director Sue Denning told the hundreds of us gathered in the ship’s theatre, “It is very important not only to feed and entertain you, but to enrich you as well.”
DSCF2320And enriched we were!   Each day Niki offered an enormous amount of information using PowerPoint presentations filled with facts and photos.

Absorbing so much information about topics like  “Gods from the East – The Sword and The Cross”  and “Indigenous People of the New World”   almost overloaded our laid-back  brains.

Okay, so true confession: 

I’ve always wanted to be one of those speakers. . .well, at least until they start talking and then I think, “How can they possibly know so much about so many places?!”  It was a question, I decided to ask Niki over coffee one day . . .

“It takes about a month to put together a show with the research and then putting together the images,” he explained, adding that he’s got some 200 in his portfolio.

HAL 2009 cruise photos 058And as the world changes, so do the presentations. Take Madeira, for example.  His talk about that island was scrapped when Portuguese strikers prevented our stop there. Instead, he switched topics as quickly as the ship switched ports.  And I might add, his “Gibraltar: Rock at the End of the World”  was one of our favorite presentations.

His enthusiasm for travel was contagious. Our fellow cruisers gathered around him after presentations to continue the conversation. Doesn’t surprise us at all that he’s been booked by several high-end cruise lines well into 2012. (He’s already done 23 cruises in nine months. ) Did I mention that in his non-cruise life he’s still leading tours in the U.S. and far distant destinations? And that in his 'free' time he still writes?

I've decided I'll quit fantasizing about being a speaker, I think I make a much better audience member.

Note:  Niki has also written a novel, “Song of the Gypsy” (2003) set in his parent’s homeland, Greece’s Peloponnese. Take a look at it – it’s on the  Amazon carousel on our home page (subscribers need to click the link to get back to the homepage). And as with all books there, if you buy any of them we earn a few cents -- we have earned to date, $1.24! 

If want Niki  to speak to your group or organization, his contact information is on his web site:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebrity’s Sue Denning: She’s Got Talent(s)!

Our Cruise Director has toured the world in musical theatre and since 2004 she’s been a part of the cruising world as both an entertainer and a Cruise Director.

Cruise Directors  (for those not familiar with this form of travel) are the folks in charge of entertainment and activities; the things that keep passengers busy on long days at sea such as those we are now enjoying as we cross the Atlantic Ocean on our Celebrity Constellation (“Connie”).

barcellonaandconnie 019 Cruise Directors are the ones who appear in elegant dress to announce the evening’s theatre entertainment. (as is Sue in this photo). They appear on the ship’s television channel to tell you about special events and activities.

They are, you might say, the cheerleaders; the persons that  passengers are sure to  remember.

Although we’ve now sailed on a number of cruises, I’ve never met a cruise director until this sailing.  Sue is one of the folks on board that Celebrity had arranged for me to interview while on the cruise.

And I’ll tell you about that chat in the next post, but now  I want to tell you about my first meeting with Sue – last week, long before the ‘official’ interview took place.

We met in one of the women’s bathrooms on the day after we’d sailed from Barcelona.

I had been outside the bathroom as she whipped past me, high heels clicking, with heavy rubber gloves on her hands carrying a bottle of cleaner and sponges. There was no one else around – I’d been waiting for Joel to return from the men’s room.

Not quite believing what I’d seen, I followed her inside and there found her scrubbing a toilet.
“Aren’t you are Cruise Director?” I asked (as any good reporter would do).

barcellonaandconnie 034 “Yes, luv, I am,” she replied in her heavy English accent, without missing a swipe.

“And, uh, you are cleaning toilets,” I somewhat stupidly added.

“Yes, luv, I am,” she replied. And then she added that our staff had been working so hard to eradicate the gastrointestinal virus that had struck during the last cruise (see my earlier post) that I could rest assured I was on the cleanest ship on the ocean.

*****              ******
barcellonaandconnie 033 I reminded her of that meeting when we sat down for the formal interview yesterday. She was quick to clarify she hadn’t been doing it for notoriety. (I knew that as there had been no one else had been around other than another staff member who was also cleaning the restroom.)

“If I don’t do it, I can’t expect my team to do it,” she explained, noting that the Herculean task of sanitizing the ship on that Sunday had required that musicians, entertainers and revenue partners all join in on the cleaning that continued for the first couple of days of the cruise.

“This is a family and this is our house,” she said of the ship and its crew, “We want to keep it safe and clean for all of us.”

So I’ll tell you more about Sue in the next post, but I can tell you that I knew after our first chance meeting, she’s a cruise director I won’t soon forget.


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