Cruise Around the World for Next to Nothing…
Most of us relish the opportunity to talk about our favorite subject, whether it’s history, a destination that we love, or a card game. We bend the ears of our friends and family any chance we get. And we launch into a prepared monologue whenever a stranger shows the least bit of interest.
But it might surprise you to know that you can use your knowledge of a subject to score expensive cruises for yourself and a guest for next to nothing by becoming a cruise ship speaker and presenter.
As a cruise-ship speaker, you can enjoy all the privileges that a regular passenger enjoys without the sky high prices. All you have to do in exchange is talk about a subject you love for 45 minutes to an hour, two to five times per cruise.
Carol Williams, who gives talks on her favorite card game, bridge, says that the best thing about presenting onboard is the cost savings. “I had all the freedom of a full paying passenger while sailing at a greatly reduced rate.”
“I love being at sea, and any way I can get there works for me,” says Peter Mandel, onboard speaker and author of multiple children’s books. “Working onboard was a very good experience, in part, because of the various passengers I got to know along the way. Everything that was on the daily ship’s calendar was on mine. I tried out the spa. I played shuffleboard. I went to lectures given by others, shows, magician acts, art auctions, the casino, and more. I loved hanging out in the onboard bars and chatting with the crew and passengers.”
Demo Simis, comedian and DJ, has been presenting onboard cruise ships for over 30 years and has loved his last three decades at sea. “It’s great to make passengers laugh and leave the events with a happy feeling.”
If you are retired (or near retirement), speaking and presenting on topics of your choice might be the best way to explore new ports of call around the world. Tim Castle, a past cruise director and now recruitment specialist, says, “The average age of an onboard speaker is 50 to 65+.”
Speaking and lecturing on a cruise ship is not just a job for university professors and celebrities. These are roles that are open to anyone that has a desire to share their knowledge and expertise on topics that they have a passion for. If you are a social butterfly, are humorous, and have a love of presenting in front of large audiences, then this gig is for you. It’s one of the cheapest ways to visit some of the most popular cruising destinations in the world, including the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, Alaska, the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, the South Pacific (including New Zealand and Australia), South America, South Africa, and Antarctica.
There are two main types of speaking and/or presenting positions available onboard: “enrichment lecturers” (also known as “edu-tainers”) and “port enhancement lecturers” (also known as destination lecturers).
Enrichment lectures can cover a wide variety of subjects, such as arts and crafts, bridge instruction, creative writing, computers/technology, culinary skills, dance basics, extreme couponing, feng shui, forensics/CSI, gardening, hoarding, home improvement, identity theft, interior design, music, and countless more. Basically, if you can dream it, you can land a position presenting about it onboard a cruise ship.
Port enhancement lecturers are presentations on the specific regions that the cruise is stopping in. They can be on recent or ancient history, politics, art, culture, geography, and even local flora and fauna.
Doug Jones, also a past cruise director and current CEO of Sixth Star Entertainment, says “People on a vacation want to hear about topics that are light hearted and interesting. We (as a cruise ship lecturer agency) have always followed what is hot in popular culture. For example, CSI and forensic science are popular because of the amount of TV shows that portray them.” Candidates with knowledge on these types of topics are always in high demand.
Doug says that cruise-line requests for speakers and lecturers is only continuing to rise. “These boats have gotten really big. They have more and more guests onboard now, which leads to an increased demand for good speakers.”
Presenters exchange their expertise for a low-cost vacation cruise for two, only having to commit to a few talks per cruise (depending on the cruise company you’re with). Speakers typically do not receive any pay for their services or supplies. However, you and your guest will receive an amazing cruise experience for a nominal daily fee (which is often paid to your hiring agency) of about $50 to $100 a day. According to Cruise Market Watch, the average cost of a cruise per passenger per day in 2018 was $212.80. That means that a sevenday cruise for two would cost almost $3,000, while as a speaker it would cost you just $350 to $700, which you would pay to the agency. These are huge savings for just a few hours of speaking per trip.
The arrangement includes onboard passenger status, a passenger cabin, a room steward (who will clean your TRAVEL SMARTS cabin each day), and dining room meals, for you and your guest, provided free of charge. Further, there is also the possibility of selling your own media products to your onboard audiences, such as books, CDs, etc., so long as you have prior cruise-line approval.
There are also some further added perks for presenters, including the possibility of acting as “an unpaid tour escort on the excursions that take passengers on brief adventures when in port,” says Peter Mandel. For Peter, escorting tours was a “good way to see a small chunk of Colombia…and a slice of Panama.”
Demo takes full advantage of all the perks. “I always have my meals in the passenger area (passenger buffet or specialty restaurants), as there is great variety and it’s delicious! And then, during my spare time, I go to the passenger gym and relax by the pool to sun it up.”
“It’s like staying and dining in a fine hotel,” adds Peter, “…a hotel that floats.”
When you’re selecting a cruise line to apply to, bigger is better, generally speaking. The more ships a cruise line has, the more opportunity for you and your guest.
Consider the demographic of the passengers and level of service on each provider. You will have a very different experience depending on where you lecture. The different audiences will also require different kinds of presentations. For example, Seabourn Cruises is a very high-end line that provides guests with 6+ star service. Guests are often paying thousands of dollars, and as such, the demographic of these guests tends to be in the older age range and higher income bracket. On the other hand, Disney Cruise Lines caters primarily to the family and youth market.
Crew treatment, amenities, benefits, and privileges can vary for each presenter and from cruise line to cruise line. In general, you will have passenger level status, and thus passenger area access. However, you may also be able to utilize the crew amenities as well.
Editor’s note: Amanda Hathorn has sailed the world on cruise ships for over a decade, working within a variety of roles with multiple cruise lines. She is author of How the Heck to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship.
How to Apply to Be a Cruise-Ship Speaker and Presenter
For the majority of candidates, the most direct path to becoming a guest speaker/lecturer onboard a cruise ship is through a specialized agency. All of the major cruise lines that have onboard destination and enrichment presenters rely on established niche agencies to fulfill their recruitment needs.
Most applications to the main presenting agencies are completed online. They will require that you fill out an initial online application form, and they may require you to send in a sample video demo of your presentations.
The five major agencies that provide guest speakers, worldwide, for almost every major cruise brand in existence include: Sixth Star Entertainment & Marketing, Compass Speakers and Entertainment, Inc., Posh Talks and Tim Castle (specializing in celebrity speakers), and the Cruise Lecturers Association.
None of the agencies charge an application fee to candidates for being considered for placement. However, once accepted, candidates are required to pay a daily rate to their agency for every day that they are onboard their assigned ship. As noted above, typically this is about $50 to $100 per day.
If you don’t wish to utilize a placement agency, there are some cruise lines that book a portion of their guest presenters directly, such as P&O Australia, Radisson Seven Seas, and Cunard. However, you are less likely to find success without an agency.
A fully prepared application package should include a list of about a dozen presentations that you can give, a video of your best lecture/presentation, a short bio highlighting your qualifications as a presenter (written in the third person), and a “head shot” photo. For assistance with your application requirements, check out the following services for even more support: Cruise Ship Job Coaching, Cruise Ship Resume Package Consults, Cruise Ship Job Resume Creation Packages.
Written by Amanda Hathorn