With just one more cruise to go before she packs up her 42 pairs of shoes and flys back home to Houston,Texas, I thought now would be a good time to ask our Cruise Director, Jamie Dee, to share a few of her favourite stories and memories from working for Carnival Cruise Line at sea for the last 10 and a half years. Having worked on 16 of the 26 Ships that Carnival owns Jaime has worked on every class of ship and travelled to almost every destination that Carnival offers and I couldn’t wait to ask her a few questions I had before she leaves….
Firstly for the people who have never cruised before , tell us a little bit about what being a cruise director entails ?
The cruise director is the face and voice of the cruise ship! This position is responsible for keeping guests informed, hosting big events and creating a fun atmosphere on board the cruise ship! In addition, the cruise director also oversees the Fun Squad. They put together their daily schedule and continually assist in the development of future cruise directors and entertainment directors! It is the best job on board the ship because the cruise director sets the tone on board and helps guests get involved with all of the fun events!
How did you get to where you are now, take us through the career path?
Before working for Carnival I was involved in theater since age 8! Through college, I worked at an interactive comedy dinner theater. I was also the assistant director of a theater camp for several years. I joined the Carnival family as a “social host” in 2007. From there I was assistant cruise director (a position which no longer exists)! I was promoted to “acting cruise director” – filling in for other cruise directors vacations. Since June 15, 2012 I was a full time cruise director! At that time, we used to oversee the entire entertainment department (Cast, Technicians, Musicians, and Fun Squad). At that time, the cruise director also was responsible for hosting big events and editing the FunTImes; which is the daily schedule of the shipboard programming. In 2015, the former cruise director position was split into 3 jobs: Cruise Director, Entertainment Director, and Media Manager. Since then, the cruise director has more time to focus on guest experience and fun squad development. The entertainment director oversees the department, and the media manager edits the daily FunTimes and shipboard digital media.
Do you have a favourite ship ?
Whichever one I am currently working on! I love different ships for different reasons! In actuality, they are all big and white and float, but it is the people and experiences that make a ship truly special! I was promoted to assistant cruise director and cruise director on the Pride so that ship is special to me! I was part of the core management team on the Dream and Sunshine, and put lots of heart and soul into those vessels. I met my boyfriend on the Sunshine, I visited Australia on the Spirit. I was on the inaugural teams of Splendor, Breeze, Sunshine and Vista = so I guess I cannot pick one favorite!
What’s been your favourite event to host and why?
This is another tough question! I am most proud to host our Military Appreciation Event. I created this event in 2012 and it is now a fleet wide required event where we recognize and show our respect for our military personnel!
I love New Years Eve and the Fourth of July deck parties! You simply cannot beat the feeling of standing on stage in front for 2000+ excited guests!
What’s the most unusual passenger request you have fulfilled?
On the Carnival Sunshine, there was one voyage where we were to have four weddings on board. Three were schedule in Nassau, Bahamas, the fourth was scheduled for Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. After a beautiful day in Nassau, a big wind storm came over the Atlantic seas. Unfortunately, due to bad weather the ship was not able to make it Half Moon Cay. The guest services manager, Mirel, called me down to his office to meet the couple planning to have their wedding on the island of Half Moon Cay. Andrew and Catherin Letterman were the sweetest couple! They were so understanding about the situation with bad weather. Unfortunately, their official wedding needed to be postponed. A couple cannot get legally married while at sea because it is not registered in a specific state. Since Andrew and Catherin were so kind, we wanted to do something special for their non-legal ceremony. The next day at sea, the sun was shining, and we invited the entire ship up to the Lido deck to watch the ceremonial matrimony of Catherin and Andrew. Catherin got to wear her gorgeous wedding dress, the best man made his hilarious speech and they had over 2000 guests cheering them on and shedding a happy tear. Conducting their ceremony was one of my proudest and unusual moments as CD!
What’s the #1 question you get asked as cruise director ?
“How do you have so much energy?” …My response: it is contagious, and I rub their arm. Or I say “all legal drugs” 😀
What’s been your greatest achievement as cruise director ?
I am proud of so much since working for Carnival. I have helped so many fun squad members achieve their goals! Many of the people I have worked with are now Cruise Directors and Entertainment Directors. Knowing I had a small impact on their success makes me proud. I have been awarded “Fun Squad Development”, “New Hire Support”, “Youth Support” and “Cruise Director of the Year” recognitions!
Tell us one of your fondest memories you have working for CCL?
In 2012 I was cruise director on the Breeze in Europe. I met the nicest couple! Jim and Jana Roberts. Sailing from Barcelona, they missed the ship due to flight delays. They made their way to our first port, Monaco, and the Breeze was unable to dock because of high winds. After a night in a train station, a minor robbery, a rainy day and a bus ride, They finally caught up to us the next day in Livorno. They were STILL smiling. They wrote a long letter to me to read on the morning show telling me about their challenges getting to the ship, and how they were so grateful they finally made it and they were ready to enjoy their European vacation. I also learned Jana had cancer, she was easy to spot because of her bald head after going through chemotherapy. On day 9 of the 12 day cruise, there was a medical emergency in a cabin I recognized – it was Jim and Jana’s cabin. Jana was taken off the ship in a stretcher. I stood on the gangway, hugging Jim and holding his hands and praying. Days later, Jana devastatingly passed away due to her cancer. Over the past 6 years, Jim has sailed with me over 10 times. He faced his fear of going on a cruise without her, he faced his fear of traveling to Europe. Since then, I have introduced him to all of my Carnival Family and he always tells “our story”. Jim is one of the kindest people on the entire planet. Last year, he found a beautiful lady to share the rest of his life with. Jim and Martha were recently married, and not long after, they cruised with me on the Paradise. I can retire now because I know Jim will always be happy with his new travel buddy – the amazing Martha !
What’s been your most challenging moment as CD?
March 2012 on the amazing Carnival Dream, while sailing on a beautiful seven day eastern Caribbean cruise, the ship was on day 5 of a 7 day cruise and docked in the beautiful port of St. Maarten. During the port time, we were conducting a routine diesel generator test. This is a test of the elevators and other ships operating systems. During the test, a breaker blew and the ship did not have a spare part on board. The United States Coast Guard (USCGG) came to inspect the situation. They determined they could safely sail and gave their official clearance to sail back to the home port of Port Canaveral. Since the Carnival Triumph fire had recently orrcured, Carnival home office decided it was a better bet to disembark all 4,500 of the guests from St. Maarten. In order to do this, Carnival chartered 10 airplanes and booked all 4,500 guests on these planes to make their way back to Orlando, or their final destination. The situation occurred on a Wednesday, on Thursday we sent the guests out to enjoy another day in St. Maarten while the office could help us work out the logistics of getting 4,500 guests on these planes!
Friday, Saturday and Sunday myself and my team worked from 6am – 10pm helping guests get to their flights, while running a full entertainment schedule for the remaining guests. It felt like the longest days of our lives! All of the guests received 50% of their cruise (they visited all the promised ports), 50% off a future cruise, and most were VERY happy with that resolution. The media was on the beach asking guests for a negative story. The mood on board was quite positive, but the media did not spit in that way.
AFTER we were able to help all the guests make their flights, there were 22 guests that refused to fly! 12 of them took drugs and got on a plane and the other 10 sailed back to Miami on a Norwegian Cruise Ship that was visiting St. Maarten. When we had no more guests left on board, the crew sailed back to Canaveral with CREW ONLY…that was a REALLY fun cruise!
What’s the #1 Thing you’ll miss about working on ships ?
The people. I have made so many friends and family members out here, and I know I will keep in touch with the ones I truly love – but it will never be the same. I feel like I have grown so much over my 10+ years with Carnival. I feel confident on stage, I feel grateful that I have the platform to positively impact so many people and help them to have a good vacation. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind always” is a quote I love to live by. I have had many guests and team members share with me their challenges of life, and I am grateful I help them forget about their worries and simply smile. Also, I need to figure out how to cook!!!
What’s the #1 Thing you’ll definitely NOT miss about working on ships? 😆
Being on call 24/7. I never have a day off, a sleep in or a time when I don’t have to check my watch to be on time to my next event. I cant wait to go to dinner and just enjoy the company of the people I am surrounded by without worrying if I need to be at the next show. I am grateful that Carnival is so prepared in the event of an emergency, but the drills are starting to take away the little time off that we do have.
On the Paradise, we have an average of 6 cruises in a month, of that time there are 6 Home port days, all with debarkation/embarkation. 6 Cozumel ports, 4 of which I have a safety drill, 4 Grand Caymans, all of which I have tendering. Gone are the days when we could have a morning or a time to enjoy a port and relax.
If you could give some advice for brand new cruise directors what would it be ?
Enjoy every second. There are so many amazing people around you and you need to LISTEN to them, they have great advice. CARE!!!!! Don’t just go through the motions, you have the great opportunity to help so many people. IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU! IT IS A BIG TEAM EFFORT!
Lastly, and most importantly ….How many outfit changes do you have in a typical day?😆
On average 6!!! I just feel like every event has a different theme!!
First Sea day we have:
Morning Show outfit
Fun Ashore Fun Aboard Presentation outfit
Packing bags are a must!..Also, 42 pairs of shoes! (I have cut down since 56 on the Sunshine!)
Jaime is due to retire from Carnival Cruise Line on May 7th after one last cruise to Cuba with us here on The Carnival Paradise.
The genuine energy and excitement I see Jaime sprinkling around the ship like fairy dust every day is amazing! She literally lifts peoples moods and makes them smile, even by just spending 2 minutes talking to them in passing! Jaime will surely be missed when she leaves but we wish her all the luck and success in the future and with her exciting new life on land!
Good Luck Jaime Dee !!
Jaime’s Facebook page will stay open for anyone who wants to check out more of her adventures!