Cruise director Joff Eaton marks 20 years in the game this year, having worked for two cruise companies before seeing the light and joining Royal Caribbean International in 2008. He is currently onboard Ovation of the Seas for the remainder of the Australian summer – it’s Australia’s newest, biggest and most technologically advanced cruise ship – before heading north to spend the European summer aboard Independence of the Seas. Here he shares some insights into his role, as well as some of the tricks of the trade.
Can you describe in a nutshell what a cruise director does?
The cruise director is ultimately responsible for entertainment and guest activities. Any cruise planning begins months in advance to piece together the voyage and plan for a program that works in line with the likes of the ports of call, the time in those ports, the known weather in the sailing region, the guest demographic etc. An understanding of the guest flow for any ship is also vital to plan the best timings for the production and guest entertainer shows, events, parties, theme nights and interactive game shows, in order to get the best result for the cruise.
It's the most incredible job in the world due to the variety of the role, which also consists of presenting the shows and events, working with international teams of up to 200-plus staff in the entertainment department alone, and meeting and interacting with guests from all over the world.
Your job is to ensure hundreds of people are having a good time – how do you even do that?
There’s the million dollar question! Each cruise audience is different. There are so many variables that can happen during a cruise.
The scheduled program is designed to build over the first few days in particular, allowing guests to be wowed by the ship and what is has on offer, followed by guests becoming orientated with their home away from home. The entertainment shows and events have a flow, with the various singers’ and dancers’ performances, guest entertainer, comedy, variety, vocal acts, live music, theme nights etc.
What are your top tips for passengers to get the most out of onboard activities and entertainment?
People cruise for different reasons and our programs offer something for everyone on Ovation, be it a surfing lesson on the FlowRider, a bumper car experience at SeaPlex, skydiving at RipCord by iFLY, riding the North Star 90 metres above sea level... oh then it's time for breakfast!
The technologically advanced Two70 venue, which offers 270-degree views of the ocean by day, transforms into a multi-dimensional lounge at night, and offers events, shows and robotic experiences. Music Hall, with its live bands, tribute acts, nightclubs and events, attracts the party goers; while the theatre, with the most outstanding contemporary and visual shows, invites guests nightly, in addition to 3D Movies.
What are the most popular activities/entertainment on board?
The three main production shows with our casts (Live. Love. Legs., The Beautiful Dream and Pixels), including state-of-the-art technology, robots, Vistarama imagery, aerialists, acrobats, and incredible singers and dancers, take place in both the theatre and Two70. The headliner guest entertainer also performs each night.
Various theme nights are performed during the cruise: Groovy Town ’70s, Ovation Rocks, The Two70 Beach Party, Twist & Shout, and RED, the nightclub experience. Interactive gameshows are performed in all venues both day and night and of course the SeaPlex, the largest sports indoor active space at sea, featuring bumper cars, roller skating, football, basketball... and the list goes on.
What is the most unusual activity/entertainment you have been involved with?
RipCord by iFLY is another first at sea, offering guests the opportunity to jump into a skydiving simulator in our wind tunnel. We now offer circus skills, where guests can attend trapeze school. They can learn how to perform this amazing art form from the high platform, taking the bar by their hands or feet. It's truly incredible to watch and be a part of it. No pun intended, but the bar has been set high and Ovation’s unique offerings really do put us ahead of the pack.
What is the most common question that you get asked?
What is Joff short for? (Sister couldn't pronounce it, so it was shortened to what she could pronounce.)
What is the best thing about your job?
Every cruise director will tell you that the presenting/performing aspects of the role are most fun. There is a very unique licence that comes with that, and used well it can enhance the cruise and guest experience no end.
Ensuring the guests are kept up to date with relevant information is vital, but of course add some humour and personality and it's a winning combination. I've always done what I can to remain relatable and natural, and if people like you for being those things, you can't ask for more.
What are your favourite ports of call and why?
I have always had an attraction to the south of France and the French Riviera. The likes of Nice, Monaco, Cannes are just incredible places... and the cars... wow! However, since being based in Australia of late, my new favourite sail-in is Sydney. It just gets you every time. I'm currently saving for one of those apartments by the Opera House!!!