A cruise director’s life can be a dream job, but it’s also a lot more work than most people realise.
Russ Thomas Grieve joined Azamara Club Cruises after a seven year run in Mamma Mia in Las Vegas, where he could also be heard as the voice of “Hal the Computer” in Cher’s one woman show at Caesars Palace.
He’s a quick witted ball of energy and put a smile on my face every time I saw him on an Azamara Quest cruise around the Mediterranean, but I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to maintain that sort of pace cruise after cruise. So I decided it was time to ask Russ ten questions…..
I would have to say meeting all the great people that come up the gangway. When we do longer cruises like 14-17 day cruises, I really have time to enjoy their company and get a chance to have more one on one time with the guests. I have met so many wonderful people doing this job and have made life long friends along the way.
If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
There is not too much I would change about this job but maybe just a bit more anonymity when I am in port.
What is something about your role that you wish people understood?
Since we are a small ship and I see everyone quite a bit during their stay most guests understand that the CD is a very demanding role and I one of the officers that sets the tone for the cruise.
I think the thing that people don’t understand is that while they are in port I am at my desk planning out Movies under the Stars, jazz sets with the orchestra, guest entertainers, rehearsal times, etc. I don’t have an administrative assistant to do all of that, so I can literally work a 12 hour day 7 days a week, which is the norm for me.
What is your favorite thing to do on your day off?
While I am on the ship (I work 4 months on 2 months off) I do not have a day off. When I do get some time off the pillow is usually calling my name as I need to keep my energy up throughout the cruise. I am fortunate to have traveled for most of my life so I have been to most of the ports of call.
Last cruise we called at Batumi, Georgia in the Black Sea for the first time, so I went out and enjoyed myself for a couple of hours, just wandering the streets and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. That stop marked the 170th country that I have visited in my lifetime… not too many left!
What is a cheap and cheerful food secret you (usually) only tell your friends?
I don’t eat off the ship too often but when I do I will usually find the most out of the way place (away from the tourist area) that looks clean and enjoy a local dish. The prices are always much better and the service is always with as smile. My favourite is a fresh Greek salad overlooking the sea on any of the beautiful Islands of Greece…YUM!
If money was no object, where would you go for lunch or dinner?
Having been to so many places in this world this is a tough question but if money were no object, I would go to Bloody Mary’s on the Island of Bora, Bora. It has been 20 years since I have been there but it probably one of my most memorable experiences in all my travels.
Where do you take a friend when they come to visit?
If they are visiting me on the ship, it will depend upon the itinerary that we are on. I usually don’t have much time to spend with them ashore so the one thing I do when I have family and friends onboard is take them to one of our specialty restaurants for dinner on their first night. We have a Seafood and Steak house onboard and both serve up some of the best food I have eaten at sea.
What is the best shopping experience in town?
I have done well shopping in Turkey as well as Vietnam. Both of these countries offer great bargains. I have had several suits made by a tailor in Vietnam and they fit me like a glove. I have had some jewelry made in Kusadsi, Turkey and all at reasonable and very affordable prices. I think when buying jewelry in particular you have to feel comfortable with whom you are dealing with. For the most part I stay away form any of the large shopping malls, except in Dubai. WOW what a shoppers paradise.
Is there a local tourist cliche that’s actually worth doing.
You mean like when in Rome do as the Romans do? Hmmm…Well one thing I think that is really worth giving a try is going to a Turkish bath on a visit to Turkey and you can sometimes find them in Greece as well. It is an interesting experience and one you will not soon forget. Most people like it but others have said it can be a bit rough but that they were glad they did it.
Is there a tourist attraction nearby that you can’t believe you still haven’t visited yourself?
I am going to put a little twist on this one, As I have been to so many countries and places in this world I still process a bucket list. The one big place on my bucket list that I have not been able to visit is Machu Picchu in Peru. I have been to Lima but have never been able to make the journey onward. It is a place I have always been fascinated with and will continue to be until I am able to make the trek to the top.
Amanda met Russ Thomas Grieve on a Mediterranean cruise on the Azamara Quest where she travelled as a guest of Azamara Club Cruises.
You can also find out what life is like for a river cruise director with Uniworld’s Anthony Banks here.