Interview with Cruise Director Alastair Crawford on the Jewel of the Seas
When sailing on the Jewel of the Seas this summer I had the change to sit down and talk with who I think is the most cheery Hotel Director ever. Alastair Crawford! Read below to find out more of his interesting background that includes working for a Duke and what his favorite port is.
Where are you from?The U.K. from England, originally from Teesside which is the Northeast of England and now I live down in a place called Milton Keynes 50 miles north of London just straight up going north. I get the best of both worlds now. The city’s on the doorstep but I live in the countryside.
What made you go into this line of work? Did you see yourself doing that when you were a kid?
I moved into the catering hospitality side when I went to university. I did a Hospitality degree. Hotel and Catering Institutional Management it was called back then. I did that and I went to work for a Scottish hotel chain called Statons Hotels. And I went into a training management program with them and then from there I was made into the Assistant Manager and was working in several hotels around Glasgow, Edinburgh…those places in Scotland. Purely by chance I came across an advertisement to join cruises, so I applied for it I went down on a sleeper train for London for an interview and I was lucky enough to get the job. I was quite young in those days that was back in the early 80s and I went to work for P&O and Princess cruises until 1989. Met my wife on board, my wife’s from Mexico we got married, I left at that time.
So I started as a Junior assistant person which is like the front desk on here on the guest services desk when I left I was a deputy person with them which is like the assistant hotel manager,…and then I went onto ferries a few years in the Irish sea, running the hotel services on the ferries. Then my wife said to me it’s time you came home. We’ve got some small children it’s time to come home and back on land. And I went to work for the Duke of Bedford…which is why I live in the South of England now and I worked for him for 15 years doing various roles. Woburn Abbey is the ancestral home of the Duke of Bedford, the park around it and obviously the house is open to the public and everything. He has three championship golf courses, he has a hotel, he has a safari park with everything from Lions and Tigers to Elephants and what have you. In England? In England yes, which is all open to the public, so it’s a big leisure operation that we have there and obviously property and farms and all sorts of other things.
So I spent 15 years there, and then why come back to sea after all of that. I personally was turning 50 and it was at that time that I thought, do I stay and continue to do what I was doing working for the Duke, retire at 65 or whatever or do I do something different. To be honest I was a bit bored in a bit of a rut and I was again just surfing on the internet and came across a job opportunity here. My wife said “go on give it a try, it might give you a new lease on life.” I think she wanted rid of me really (laughs) so I applied for it and over a few months I went through the interview process came back to Miami for interviews, went on the ship a few days for familiarization and they offered me the job role.
That was just over two years ago now. So I joined the organization and as a new hire coming into it it’s quite a big adjustment after all those years away. I’ve been on the Adventure of the Seas those last two years, learnt a lot, really really enjoy it, and now I’m lucky enough to spend my time…2 months on a contract with the Jewel and I relieve the permanent hotel director here when she goes on vacation and then I go back to the Adventure and then I relieve the Hotel Director on there for his vacation. So I have the best of two ships, two different classes. The Adventure is voyage class which is bigger another thousand, 1100 guests in there and that’s the one with the ice rinks and lots of different facilities on the Royal Promenade in the center and then this one’s a little bit smaller a bit more intimate, smaller guests numbers. Both of them are really nice…I love it, I really do enjoy it.
How much time do you spend at Sea?
I do a four month contract on board and then I have 2 months vacation. So it’s not bad at all, and then of course you bring family on…as well. I go to the adventure again in the middle of August. I leave here fly over to the Adventure again in Europe. The week I join my wife and my youngest daughter (are) coming on board for two weeks and then…in September my parents are coming on for a few weeks so it’s nice and it’s not the long flight to pay for them to come out to the Caribbean. That’s lucky.
I get real quality time when I’m at home. That’s the bonus. Because I’m not working, I can go and do what I want so i my daughter wants me to go to school and see her rowing or something I can go along and do it. Nothing stops me doing those types of things which is really nice.
So if young person says to you this is what I want to be when I grow up. What would you tell them? What would you suggest?
I would recommend it to anybody I think. Get some experience first, work in a hotel, work in a restaurant, bar, whatever your interest is gain a little bit of experience first before you come. Because on board you’re expected to know, how to give service, how to wait at a table and so on. If you arrive brand new and you have to learn that as well you’re going to struggle. So get some experience first, then come, be prepared.
What’s the biggest difference? You’re working every single day. And unlike let’s say in a restaurant on shore where you have maybe one seating that you do you turn the tables over one, one and a half time in a restaurant, here we’ve got two complete seatings virtually every single meal that you’re doing so volumes are really excessive if that makes sense. Maybe that’s not the right word but massive volumes all the time in what were doing. There really isn’t anything comparable on land. Even a hotel in Vegas or somewhere, they don’t turn everybody over at the same time, they’re not feeding everybody at the same time, people have other choices about where they go for there meal or there drink or whatever. So that’s the difference .
Be prepared for all the things that come on the back of it. Obviously safety’s really important. So all of the people on board have a safety role to do so a lot of the training when people first come on board is all about learning the safety aspects of the ship. Because out staff are expected to act as guides, give instruction out to guests and so on. What to do in an emergency. So they have to be very confident and very adept at knowing what goes on and what is required of them. So there’s a lot of extra training.
What’s Your Favorite Port to Sail out of and your favorite port stop?
My favorite area to sail is probably Alaska. Just because of the natural beauty up there. The inside passage going up from Vancouver up to Alaska itself. Those unspoiled towns like Sitka and everything, it’s just beautiful. My favorite port has to be Sydney in Australia. You know with the Opera house and the Sydney Harbor bridge..it’s awesome going in the views as you sail in are just fantastic.
What ship goes over there?
Rhapsody goes out to Australia and we have some other ships out there as well.
Are there any Trans-pacifics?
Yes, they do because Rhapsody does half of the year out in Australia and the other half in Alaska, that’s probably one of the best ships to go on!
We have other ships out there as well.
What would you say to a passenger who’s on their first cruise? What would you tell them guarantees a great cruise?
Well I think that they should come on board prepared to try things that they don’t normally do. There’s a lot of activities, entertainment and so on, come on immerse yourself in it and enjoy it. A lot of activities they call for guest involvement, passenger involvement. If they’re not involved they don’t get the same experience at the end of the day. There are so many things that maybe as you’re older you wouldn’t try, on the Adventure for example you’ve got the ice rink on board. You know you might not expect in your 50’s to sail the Caribbean and go ice skating but why not give it a try.
It’s taking those memories away with you. What you’ve done. The other thing is always take shore excursions because you come to these places you’re a few hours in port you can just go to the beach, but if you did that at every single port that you’re at what’s the experience you’re getting? You’re not getting any new memories go off and do a tour get into the islands, see what’s behind that port you’re at. And I think you’ve got to immerse yourself in these experiences places as well even if it’s only for a couple of hours. The other thing is relax. If you don’t come on board to relax on your holiday you can wear yourself out. Because everything is done for you, you can really chill have a good time, and take things at your own pace.
Thank you Alistair for taking the time to do this interview. I hope to meet you again on another sailing. 🙂
All Material Copyright TravelXena.com 2013