Ask the cruise director: How can a cruise director improve my voyage?

Dec 12, 2020

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One of the most popular cruise directors of the past decade, Matt Mitcham, is offering his insights to cruise fans in a series of pieces for The Points Guy. Presented in a question-and-answer-type format, the pieces originally appeared in The Points Guy’s cruise newsletter (sign up here). Mitcham retired from Carnival Cruise Line in August. 

Today’s question for Matt: How can a cruise director improve my voyage?

The cruise director is the face and voice of any ship. Not only are they there to keep you entertained, but they also are there to keep you up to date during your cruise. From port arrivals to captain’s introductions, the cruise director will be the voice from above that keeps you informed.

As the face of the ship, guests will seek out the cruise director for pretty much anything! Trust me. During my career, I was asked some extremely interesting questions that even I don’t know how to answer. Do the crew live on board the ship? How do I know which photos are mine? I’ve even had someone ask me what time the midnight buffet begins.

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Matt Mitcham
As a Carnival Cruise Line cruise director, Matt Mitcham was the face and voice of such ships as Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista. (Photo courtesy of Matt Mitcham)

As you can imagine, being the comical characters that cruise directors normally are, it can be very difficult for them to remain professional when answering such questions. So, responding that crew members arrive on jet skis every morning for their shift seems only fair. If they seem to accept that answer, we suggest they refrain from having alcoholic beverages for the rest of the cruise.

Here are a couple of ways to get the most out of your cruise director:

Show up to their events

One of the best parts of being a cruise director is the opportunity to make a difference in a guest’s vacation. Being able to make someone smile and forget about the stresses of life is a huge gift. The cruise director is your hype person onboard and will host everything from sail-away parties to onboard shows and military appreciation events. And let us not forget the hairy chest competition (a staple of Carnival ships), for which some men train an entire year.

One of the hardest parts of my job was trying to eat lunch after watching six very hairy Chewbacca parade the Lido deck. It amazes me that some of these men don’t overheat in the sun wearing their homegrown winter sweaters.

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Cruise directors on Carnival ship lead activities such as hairy chest contests. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Jokes aside, the cruise director will work tirelessly throughout your cruise to ensure you have a great time. You’ll see them late at night hosting the Motown parties in the atrium and then bright and early the next morning assisting guests off the ship. When do they sleep? During vacation.

Listen for tips and tricks

There will be a lot of tips and tricks that your cruise director will share with you throughout your cruise. Pay attention. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Eat early on elegant night. This is the night that the ladies get all dressed up in their finest clothes, and the men sulk around the ship with them from one photo backdrop to another, while longing to be back in their shorts, socks and flip flops. Most people will attend the dining room that evening, making it busier than normal, so getting there early should help you avoid long waits for dinner.

Follow the 10-minute rule. I’ve never understood why people stand and wait in a busy stairwell for 45 minutes to be the first off the ship. While the ship is arriving into port, kick back and relax. Enjoy the sail in. Once the cruise director announces that the gangway is open, wait 10 minutes, then go down, and you will have a nice, clear, stress-free gangway on which to disembark the ship. (This rule also applies when using the toilet after your partner in the cabin).

Look out for free stuff. Check out the cruise director’s informational talks, which are normally hosted in the main lounge. Often, there will be lots of fantastic giveaways just for attending, like free shore excursions and vouchers for specialty restaurants. Not a bad return for just showing up.

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Mitcham has served as cruise director on several Carnival ships including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze. Known for his six-pack abs, shirtless selfies and effervescent personality, he was recently profiled in People magazine as the “hunky cruise director.” He was named the cruise world’s best cruise director in 2019 by the cruise industry’s leading magazine, Porthole. You can find him on Instagram at @mattcruisedirector. 

Featured image by Lorraine Boogich/Getty Images

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