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Vicki Van Tassel: Crystal Cruise Director Interview

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From the stage to the comedy circuit to the high seas we meet the world's funniest Cruise Director, Vicki Van Tassel, who tells us why she loves Crystal and what it's like being the first female Cruise Director for the line…

Q: Vicki, how has your career brought you aboard Crystal?

A: I was playing the lead role of Tanya in Mamma Mia in Las Vegas, spending a few months at a time there from my home in New York. I've always loved performing. My first professional job was as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in Japan. I've toured Europe with 42nd Street, done off-Broadway in New York as well as standup comedy. After my mother passed away, I looked at my life and I thought to myself - is this as good as it gets? Do I want to stand in line with 300 other women for an audition or do I want to see the world? Then the musical director of Mamma Mia introduced me to the cruise industry and I've never looked back...

crystal cruises aerial view

Q: What is it that you enjoy most about working on Crystal?

A: I love that they have so much entertainment for guests. It is a real focus for us. There's a huge array of activities from the Computer University@Sea, the ballroom dance couples who teach, the art instructor, a creative fundamentals class teaching iPhone photo skills, guest lectures, guest entertainers, and on every cruise I have a comedian. The guests love it, especially on itineraries that have several sea days. And the ship is just so beautiful!

Serenity_Computer_University_Sea

Q: Crystal has always enjoyed great staff retention and saw over 80% of former staff return when they relaunched, what's their secret?

A: It's a family - and everything starts from the top down. When new staff join the ship it's a captain's quarters event. The captain serves them pastries and, along with the senior team, gets to know them, asking where they're from, whether they are new to ships, making sure that they know the officers are all available as they settle in, which can be challenging if they've never worked on cruise ships before. It's made clear that the door isalways open if someone needs them and this creates such a wonderfully warm and welcoming experience. Plus, being such a small fleet, when the staff rotate they return to the same people, so friendships form and the camaraderie grows.

Crystal Serenity_in_Stockholm

Q: What are the most important aspects of the job?

A: It's to integrate myself with the guests, to connect with them in a way that they know I'm there for them and I will do anything I can for them. What's so great about Crystal is with lower guest numbers it's easy to make those personal connections. I've also got a huge department to manage that comes from having such a focus on entertainment. It means that there's a lot of planning to make sure that entertainment is where it needs to be, at exactly the right time, to work around schedules dependent on the itinerary and passenger mix. I want to make sure that those past guests who'll want to see Dan playing in Avenue Saloon after dining aren't disappointed.

Palm_Court crystal cruises

Q: How does it feel being the first female cruise director for Crystal?

A: The guests told me I've got big shoes to fill! My friend Russ, a Crystal cruise director who introduced me to the line, is excellent. He looks like Richard Gere and he sings beautifully - he's just perfect. I'm none of those things! I bring something different to the table with a comic sensibility, communicating through humour, to make sure the guest experience is as good as it can be. Having this variety is great. With a significant number of female staff, including two bridge officers, what's great is it's considered completely normal to have women in the role

Galaxy Lounge on Crystal Serenity

Q: What's your favourite place you've travelled to?

A: One of the coolest things I've done was the Falklands because it's so difficult to get ashore. The ships I've worked on have to use tenders and the winds are strong. Several times I visited but we weren't able to get in. On one call we made it and I thought it was really cool to be in this weird place with the red phone boxes and a statue of Margaret Thatcher but the thing I really loved was getting to see penguins.

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Q: And finally, where's the place you'd most like to visit?

A: I want to go to all the places I've never been able to see from the ship. When we're in Casablanca the guests get to see Marrakesh. I see people returning from Victoria Falls and Machu Picchu and think to myself, I have to go there. I've also never been to Alaska, and I'm an American! So I would love to be on Serenity for the Alaska cruise.

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Meet the author

Alex is Director of Sales & Marketing at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for 10 years and in travel for over 18 years. Most recently he's cruised on Silversea and has also sailed with Seabourn, Crystal, SeaDream, Tauck, Regent Seven Seas and Ponant. His favourite destination is South America however he's also enjoyed cruises in the Western Mediterranean, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, India, Myanmar, South East Asia and Antarctica. When he’s not travelling he loves walking holidays; a favourite included a trek to Everest Base Camp.

More about Alex

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