Cruise Quirks: Gentleman Hosts

It has to be said that dance is an integral part of cruising.  From deck parties to Zumba for fitness, salsa lessons, demonstrations by professionals, and the night clubs on board or formal tea dances, there’s an opportunity each day to get your groove on.  After all, it’s a way of compensating for all that delicious food…

What you may not realise is that there are gentlemen (and a lady or two) out there working their passage through a role as a dance host.  We found out about this early in our cruising career, when a lovely table mate on the Queen Mary 2 enlightened us.  I had been watching what I considered to be some rather forward men during afternoon tea the day before.  Afternoon tea includes a session or two from the dance orchestra, and an opportunity to take to the floor.  The gentlemen involved were circling the tables and inviting many different women to join them.  I was torn between thinking them very cheeky and offering them a high five, until I found out about the role of the dance host.

On some cruise lines, including Cunard and Fred Olsen, dance hosts are available to provide opportunities to dance for those ladies who are single or have partners with more than one left foot.  On Fred Olsen’s Black Watch, I believe there is also a lady host for those gentlemen in a similar situation wishing to dance.  We learned lots about their role from our table companion on the Queen Mary 2.  Dance hosts must be good conversationalists, happy to chat away to passengers.  They should not monopolise a single guest, nor should they dance too close (!), and they must be prepared to dance for a significant number of hours each day – perhaps up to 6, which must keep you very fit indeed.  I gained a lot of respect for them; that’s quite some time on your swirling and cha-cha-ing feet.  With the popularity of StrictlCome Dancing and Dancing With The Stars, they must be kept very busy.

And it’s not just the more mature audiences who are loving the dancing on board.  We have seen lots of younger couples hitting the floor and impressing us with what might be dance school knowledge.  You can also learn to dance on the ship, with lessons covering everything from the samba to the foxtrot.  Celebrity Eclipse uses the big spaces on Deck 14 for its dance classes, giving you one of the best views ever while you’re learning.

So if you want to be a dance host, where do you start?  The all-encompassing Job Monkey states that:

Most hosts are retired single men who work for the chance to sail around the world for free, or sometimes for a small salary. Gentlemen hosts must know a variety of different dances, but ballroom, swing, waltz, fox trot, and other more formal dances are preferred. Hosts must be able to dance for several hours almost every night so it makes sense that gentleman hosts are social people with a lot of energy. They must also be good conversationalists and enjoy social engagements as well as some hosts are asked to attend parties and onboard events that do not involve dancing.

Read more:

Ann Brenoff at the Huffington Post interviewed one of the gentleman hosts, finding that his role was not short on romantic overtures from female guests.  She writes:

“According to Alan Benedict, 58 and a Gentlemen Host™ for 20 years, the rules of conduct are clear. The men dress “in uniform” — either a tuxedo or a blue blazer at all times (replete with name tags/badges) and no jeans are ever worn, even on shore excursions. They never dance with a woman who is traveling with a male companion/husband without express permission from him. And, says Benedict, they don’t focus on the younger women on board. “We are here for the 50+ women,” he said. Hosts also make sure that all the women understand that their role is to circulate and not pair off with just one.”

Read more:

So if you are a dancing gentleman, why not consider seeing the world, keeping fit, and gathering a rich selection of experiences?


Travelogue: Teignmouth Beach

Welcome to my youth!  Or almost, as I wasn’t yet hatched in 1960.

Teignmouth was our nearest beach when growing up, and for a time I went to school there.  I last returned on my honeymoon (yes, I am a sentimental fool), and found that the pier has the same fortune-telling machine we used as kids.  And I can still thrash everyone at table hockey.

The YouTube clip is brilliant.  It was made by the council as a promotional piece for the area, and has the classic received pronounciation narration of the time.  Aside from there being no cream teas in sight, it is everything I remember and more.  It’s a fascinating insight as to how we Brits holidayed at the time, including my London cousins who came to visit each summer.

Curious Places: Steampunk Museum aka the MAD Museum – Stratford-upon-Avon

The Steampunk Museum, or to be more accurate, the Museum of Mechanical Art and Design, is situated in a quiet little corner of Stratford-upon-Avon.  You’ll know when you’ve found it by the little mechanical clanks and bangs from its outdoor exhibits.  Don’t forget to clap your hands at the front door.

It’s a real Bill Bryson of museums.  That’s to say it’s filled with a strange miscellany of confections that defy description and need a mind of weird and wonderful scope to pull them together.

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There are two stories of interactive exhibits ranging from the simply structured automaton you could imagine having put together with your dad on a rainy afternoon at his shed, to things so wildly complex they are works of art in their own right.

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Everything chatters, calls, clinks and hums, making this an audio as well as a visual feast.  Sadly we didn’t have godchildren in tow, but they would have loved it as much as we did.

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There is complexity even in the simple ideas here.   Allow at least a couple of hours to spend at the museum – the building may be of modest size, but the exhibits are fascinating.  You might even get hooked (as I did) on watching a group of men (plus ladder) creating a digital clock time face.  And you might have to go and find your husband, who has become addicted to the mini cinema on the top floor.

As a teaser, don’t forget to let me know if Justin Bieber’s light has fused again…

The MAD Museum is situated at: Sheep Street, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 6EF

Cruise Quirks: Crossing the Equator Ceremony

From YouTube, here’s the crossing the equator ceremony on the Celebrity Millennium.  I didn’t realise that there were other clubs at sea to join.  The navy has a number of classifications:

  • Top Secret Shellbacks – for submariners having crossed the equator at a classified degree of longitude
  • The Order of the Blue Nose for crossing the Arctic Circle
  • The Order of the Red Nose for crossing the Antarctic Circle
  • The Order of the Golden Dragon for crossing the International Date Line
  • The Order of the Ditch for passing through the Panama Canal
  • The Order of the Rock for transiting the Strait of Gibraltar
  • The Safari to Suez for passing through the Suez Canal
  • The Golden Shellback for crossing the meeting point of the Equator and the International Date Line
  • The Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback for sailors who cross at 0 degrees off the coast of West Africa, where the equator crosses the prime meridian
  • The Realm of the Czars for sailors who cross into the Black Sea
  • The Order of Magellan for circumnavigators
  • The Order of the Lakes for those who have sailed on all five Great Lakes

Cruise News: Passenger numbers up 10%

The Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) has been crunching its numbers, and came up with the news that more than 1.7 million Brits took a holiday at sea last year, and more than half of those went on two cruises.  Nearly 400,000 of you booked three or more voyages (ahem…yes, guilty, but then it’s my job).  Cruising accounts for one in eight overseas holidays.

After a record breaking 2012, a million cruise holidays are expected to sail from British ports in 2013.  Passenger numbers increased by 10% last year, despite the continuing recession.  The highest growth was from the port of Southampton, but Dover and most recently Portsmouth have also seen growth.  The ultra-luxury holiday sector also grew by 10%.

The most popular destination is the Med, with 698,000 British visitors.  There was a 29 per cent growth in numbers to Northern Europe to 443,000, with nearly half of those sailing to the Norwegian fjords.

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Celebrity Eclipse ex Southampton to the Baltics

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Marco Polo ex Tilbury to Antwerp

Cruise Quirks: How to make your towel penguin

One strange little quirk of cruise travel is the appearance of small beasts in your cabin.  Made from towels, sometimes supplemented by props from your stateroom, these animals appear randomly throughout the voyage.  If you’re feeling lonely without one, or want to entertain the kids on a dull Sunday afternoon, here’s how to add a travelling penguin to your household.