Some professions continue to be male dominated. Cruise directors fall into that category. When Lisa Richard joined the Celebrity Cruise Line staff three years ago, she was the first woman that Celebrity hired to fill this position, a trailblazing cruise director.
Since her hiring, Celebrity has offered 3 other women similar positions. Each talented woman brings a unique set of skills and interestingly represents different stages of life- the 30s, 40s and 60s. Lisa rounds out the age groupings by representing the 50s.
Before having the pleasure of sailing with Lisa, I had grown accustomed to gregarious male cruise directors. Lisa’s gracious personality coupled with her femininity cannot be duplicated by her male counterparts. She candidly admitted, “I can hug a guest and it’s not considered weird.” I would have to agree. Women can extend a certain level of warmth that a man cannot achieve.
After reading through her bio, I couldn’t help but wonder what motivated a woman to pursue so many diverse careers. While sailing between Athens and Sicily, we sat down to chat. With only a pen and paper in hand, I took notes as I sipped a cappuccino. Lisa drank a diet soft drink.
One’s upbringing oftentimes affects a person. Did her family/childhood influence her career aspirations? She smiled and responded, “Yes.” Her childhood was filled with loving memories of an idyllic marriage. Lisa was forthright when she stated that although she has met many men in her life, she “couldn’t settle for something less than what her parents had shared.” In addition to setting a high standard for marriage, her parents instilled values that allowed Lisa to face adult challenges without hesitation. A dominant tenet was the belief that children should pursue what they want to do rather than what parents would like for them to do. As a result, Lisa said that she is “not afraid to make big leaps.”
After Lisa’s mother passed away, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Her family values drew her back home. Lisa wanted to remain by her father’s side. This caused a conflict between work and family. Rather than dividing her time, she chose to quit her executive position. Not knowing what would happen next, she followed her parent’s values and “did what she wanted to do.”
Even though Lisa had not received any formal training, she embarked on a singing career- first in California and later in New York. She adored her new lifestyle. Days free and evening performances were a pleasant change after the demanding hours of the corporate world.
Luck and talent opened the door to her debut in Mama Mia. Being in her 40s and having an exuberant attitude opened the door to her first major contract. The producers of the show were looking for certain personalities with talent rather than known stars.
The grueling schedule of over 1300 performances in four years left her drained. Working for a cancer charity in Las Vegas provided an opportunity to provide support for cancer victims and simultaneously use her business skills. Once again, she felt that something was missing.
Although she had never experienced the joy of a cruise vacation, she was intrigued when she came across an ad for a cruise director. After extensively researching the profession, she learned about the expectations and duties associated with this administrative position. Confident that her entertainment and business skills made her well suited, she applied. Celebrity hired her shortly thereafter.
Unlike others who worked their way up through a series of cruise positions, she became a 3.5 stripe officer immediately. With an impressive business background, she was able to adeptly handle the management responsibilities. Many assume that a cruise director merely acts in a social capacity. That is only part of her duties. Cruise directors are part of a team of officers that oversee safety and security. Lisa also uses her business skills for audits, compliance and brand quality. With a staff of approximately 90 people, she supervises the audio visual components of the shows, the satellite information, the art studio and children’s services.
Entering a new profession in your 40s takes moxy. From the onset, she felt that people would either love or hate her. Celebrity Cruises provided a brief apprenticeship. She shadowed her predecessor for a 14 day cruise. Then she took over the reins. Trial and error became her mantra. She analyzed the comments on the passenger’s surveys. It took about 1 ½ months to find her comfort level and style. Central to her pursuit was her desire to maintain her own personality. Within no time, her ratings matched her personal expectations.
Catering to a diverse audience can be challenging, especially since the audience is continually changing based on the time of year, location of the cruise, and the duration. Each aspect of the guests’ mix- language, citizenship, ages, etc is taken into consideration when she schedules activities and entertainment. What appeals to a younger audience will not necessarily appeal to a geriatric group. Acknowledging cultural differences and acting accordingly comes hand in hand with working on a cruise ship with an international clientele.Lisa thrives in an environment that is filled with cultural diversity. She sees “every cruise as an amoeba. Each takes on its own shape because every sailing is different.”
As our time together came to a close, I asked her to identify the most fulfilling aspect of her position. Without hesitation she said, “guests who tell me that they had an awesome vacation.” Secondly, she stated that she is inspired by an international crew that works together with little strife. After living a myopic life in the US, she enjoys learning about different cultures.
Most Celebrity passengers who have witnessed Lisa’s talents would agree that Lisa is a trailblazer in the cruise industry.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.