A life of dancing on the cruise liners

Experiences of being a professional cruise host

By Eric Foster

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A life of dancing on the cruise liners' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A life of dancing on the cruise liners' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

If anyone had told me early last year that I would return to work after taking "early-retirement" more than 20 years ago, I would have told them not to be daft! After all, despite having some wonderful, interesting jobs throughout life, I had really enjoyed my prolonged leisure time in retirement with more holidays, more sports activities, more dancing, theatre visits, starting to use computers and the internet, and a lot of other things I now had time for.

But then, while enjoying a cruise on the QE2 (as a paying guest !), dancing every night and all night with lots of lovely ladies, I noticed that there were a few other "elderly gentlemen" also dancing all night and every night but they had badges on their blazers to indicate that they were Gentleman Dance Hosts. They noticed me too, for I was "stealing" the best dancers before they had a chance to ask them, so they "ganged up" on me and asked me to become a Gentleman Dance Host! In fact they all signed a letter/reference extolling my virtues/competence which they told me should be sent to the person who recruited Ghosts. That way, I could be reined in and forced to share the loveliest ladies with my colleagues.

My new job then was as a Gentleman Dance Host on luxury cruise ships, and already I can hear some of you saying "well that's not really work - its a doddle". Nothing could be further from the truth, it is much harder work than I ever experienced as a younger man!  I never thought I had such stamina as is needed now. Dance Hosts have nearly every dance from about 7-30 pm to after midnight every night (and with many different partners), and it is not just shuffling around for many of the lady guests on cruise ships are keen dancers and want to practice their old routines or new variations. Of course, some ladies are happy to keep to basic or social dancing but we have to "suss out" their ability/preferences quickly and make sure they are comfortable and enjoy their holiday for we are there to help enhance their cruise.

There are many ladies travelling alone (or with another lady) on cruise ships and the cruise Lines discovered many years ago that it would be in their interests to provide them with dance partners to enhance their holiday and encourage repeat business.   Many ladies now only  book cruises on the ships that provide Dance Hosts (usually the upper market Lines) for they know they will not get a dance or the company of gentlemen because so few men are on these holiday cruises. The sad fact is that women generally outlive the men.

It is not only dancing every evening that Gentleman Dance Hosts are useful for:  there is usually a dance class every day (at sea) so again the ladies need partners to practice the steps demonstrated by professional teachers (usually). There will be coffee mornigs for solo travellers, occasional tea dances, cocktail parties (an hour on your feet - no sitting, keep circulating!) private parties where a Host might be needed if there are some ladies with no partner/husband), and of course, we are often required to host a table of singles in the restaurants for Dinner. Deck Parties and Sail Aways from each port of call also mean lots of work for Dance Hosts.

Another job we perform is particularly time-consuming and often exhausting for we have to act as Tour Escorts on shore excursions at each port of call. The ships are anxious that they have a representative on each tour bus or boat to assist the guides and drivers, and "round up" stray guests at each stop and deal with any emergencies.  On these trips we also have to carry out appraisals of all aspects of the tours and compile reports on the transport, the guides, the drivers, the places visited, etc.,etc. So we have a long day, every day, followed by a long night in the ballroom ! Let no-one mention the words doddle of a job!

Mind you it is quite fulfilling, interesting and enjoyable, and to visit so many exciting places all over the world is exhilerating. Not forgetting the many lovely ladies we meet and dance with, and they are from many different countries. I keep in touch with many by email or letter/cards from places as far away as Australia, Japan, USA, Canada, and of course, many parts of the U.K. I come across many of the ladies again because they like cruising often, especially on the ships that have Dance Hosts, and - modestly - I can report we have our own fan clubs!

This page was added by John Cheves on 29/01/2010.

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