By Robert W. Bone
three souls on board a modern cruise ship you should get to
know since they have more to do with everyone’s enjoyment
than anyone else. They are (1) the Captain, (2) the Cruise
Director, and (3) the Hotel Director.
Crystal Serenity sails into Venice
No surprise here. He is the head man of the crew, and father
figure to everyone on board, passengers and staff alike.
Adept at jovial social repartee, he not too incidentally
also has the ultimate responsibility for navigating the
There seems to be the spirit of an explorer just under the
surface of the captain’s public personality. Indeed,
everyone quietly knows than in an unlikely set of
circumstances… well… he would be called upon to go down with
The Cruise Director
The most visible figure on any cruise, he has a perpetual
smile and unflagging good humor no matter what the
circumstances. If the captain is the master of the ship, the
cruise director is quite literally the master of
A combination of professional entertainer and indefatigable
cheerleader. he also functions as a manager of virtually
every passenger activity on board, from the time the guest
leaves the cabin in the morning until heading for bed at
night. He is also usually the easiest of the three for a
passenger to buttonhole as he bounces his way around the
The Hotel Manager
In days of old, the hotel manager, or hotel director, was
called the purser, and he was known mostly as the boss of
the front desk. Today most passengers seem to think of the
hotel director only when something in their stateroom needs
changing or fixing. He manages a large staff ranging from
room stewards and butlers to plumbers and carpenters. If you
don’t like something in your cabin, he’s the chap who can
make things right.
It is also the hotel director who has to see that the ship
picks up the groceries at every port. He orders the
delicious lobsters and juicy strawberries and then
supervises the chefs who perform wonders with these
products. If you need something special done with your
accommodations or your meals, the hotel director can see
that it is done. Many come to the job after a career in the
hotel field and/or the food and beverage business.
In interviews on board the new Crystal Serenity, a
ship which began plowing the seas for the first time in the
summer of 2003, these three officers all said they consider
themselves at the top of their professions.
Captain Reidulf Maalen, a well-known master at
Crystal Cruises, now captains Crystal Serenity
Maalen, a 56-year-old Norwegian, served as captain of
the other two ships in the company, the Crystal Harmony
and the Crystal Symphony, before taking on the same
job on the new Serenity. He said he especially enjoys
mixing with the passengers and the crew. When not at sea, he
lives in Las Vegas with his wife, whom he met when she
worked on his ship.
“It takes a particular personality to enjoy being the
captain of a cruise ship,” he said in an interview. “I know
there are cruise ship captains who hate the social aspects
of the job, and my advice to them is to go and drive a
tanker or a container ship.”
“It has also been important for me to break down the
traditional barriers between the officers and the crew, and
I’ve been doing that for over 40 years,” he said. “At the
end of the day, a happy crew makes a happy ship.”
Maalen indicated that in this age of automation, uniformity,
and strict scheduling, there is still an element of
adventure in a modern passage. He said his most memorable
cruise was the one which included Crystal’s initial port
call to Myanmar last year.
“That port is not much visited,” he said. “It took some
tremendous preparation before we could go there. But the
passengers came back on board just raving about the
experience. So the Serenity is going there again on our
World Cruise in 2004.”
Pressed for an example of a time that something didn’t go as
planned, the captain recalled that a call at the Pacific
Island of Ponape had to be cancelled one year because of
some kind of blockage in the harbor.
“We always laugh about being on a cruise to nowhere,” but
then suddenly that’s just what it seemed to be – a cruise to
nowhere! Anyway, we felt we had to give the passengers come
kind of an experience, and also in order to keep to our
schedule later on, we decided to make a port call at Chuuk,
an island we had never visited before.
“As usual, we took a local pilot on board, came through the
barrier reef without incident, and then we asked him where
we should dock. But to our surprise he shrugged his
shoulders and said he had no idea. So we just chose
someplace and it worked out okay. But later we learned that
the guy isn’t really a pilot; he’s a taxi driver!”
Gary Hunter, Cruise director on Crystal Serenity,
started out as a ventriloquist
director of the Crystal Serenity is Gary Hunter,
a Floridian who has been sailing with Crystal ships for 12
years, principally in his role as ventriloquist.
"I felt really good that they would introduce me to the
cruise director job on the new ship,” he said. He had had
some experience in the field, having been a cruise director
for the Carnival Lines for a few years before he joined
“A cruise director needs to have some type of stage
experience. But besides being able to stand up in front of
an audience, he also must be an office manager, and one who
can stroke the egos of performers and lecturers. Really, you
have to be some sort of a natural psychologist,” he said.
“Generally it’s a fairly easy task,” he said. “After all,
the ship is set up to please people.”
Hunter is occasionally challenged by passengers who feel the
ship’s activities schedules should be changed in some way.
“But I find that when you explain why the golf lessons
simply can’t start at 9 o’clock, they usually understand,”
he said. “You have to give people reasons. You can’t just
say, ‘That’s the way it is.’ ”
director of Crystal Serenity is Austrian, Herbert
Serenity's hotel director, Herbert Jaeger, is an
Austrian. Like many who now work for Crystal, he is a
veteran of the defunct Royal Viking Line, considered the top
of the cruise ship lines in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He
eventually becoming executive chef for the Royal Viking Sun.
In contrast to the captain and the cruise director, most of
his work is behind the scenes.
Occasionally, passengers manage to seek him out to ask to
arrange something different in their cabin or at their
tables in the dining room. He said in these cases he is
almost always able to make amends.
“They pay a lot of money for their cruise,” he said. “So
they expect whatever it is to be taken care of. And so we do
it—whatever it is.”
Photographs Copyright © Robert W. Bone
writer Robert W. Bone has been traveling on passenger ships,
off and on, since 1957.