Speaking or Guest Lecturer on a Cruise Ship

Author: Frank

Date: April 18, 2015

Guest Lecturer/Speakers Guide

Guest lecturers/speakers booked on short-term cruise assignments are often called Enrichment Staff. As a guest lecturer you will be expected to be an expert (or at least very knowledgeable) about your topic as well as be able to deliver an informative and entertaining presentation to cruise ship passengers and guests of between 5 too 500 people.

As enrichment staff/guest speaker, you’re probably wondering, “Where do I fit in?” Good question. Enrichment staff exist in a bit of a grey area… you’re not crew or passengers. That said, this grey area is one of the best travel deals afloat.

In exchange for sharing your programs several times throughout the voyage, you will enjoy a cruise for two and all the on-board food, entertainment and activities for a small fraction of the cost that passengers pay. However, please note that due to this unique role, it’s important that full-fare passengers always ‘come first’ around the ship.

Remember that the people who will be listening to you are on vacation and will have the opportunity at the end of the cruise to comment on your performance.

Do Guest Lecturers Get Paid?

It depends. If you are a recognizable speaker/personality (i.e if I stopped people in the street and they knew who you were) then yes, you possibly would get paid. The fee you get in this case is negotiable depending on your ‘celebrity’ status. If you are not ‘known’ then you may or may not get paid, depending on the cruise line that books you. It has to be said that the vast majority of cruise lines do not pay guest lecturers and there are probably only one or two in the world that do. When/if you are invited as a guest lecturer on a cruise, you will be advised if this is paid or unpaid.

If I Don’t Get Paid Why Should I Do It?

Most people think of guest lecturing on cruise ships as a working holiday and a way to see the world. Even with the fee you pay to Shapiro International, you will still be getting a cruise for you (and up to one guest) for what is usually a fraction of the cost of going on the cruise as a passenger.

Can I Take Someone With Me When I Go?

Usually you will be allowed to take one guest with you as long as they share your cabin. Your guest will have to abide by the same rules that you do when on board.

Can I Take More Than One Person With Me?

Yes, if there is availability. But anyone you take (over and above your first guest) will be subject to availability and they will be charged at the normal passenger rate even if they are sharing a cabin with you. (Sometimes you will get a small discount).

What Kind Of Accommodation Will I Get?

The minimum standard of accommodation you will get is a Guest Entertainers Cabin, and on occasions you will be given a passenger cabin where available. Guest entertainers cabin are often located in passenger areas, though this isn’t all the time.

Am I A Passenger Or Crew?

There is no one answer to this question. Different cruise lines have different rules on this but it will all be clearly stated in the contract/acceptance letter. Truth be told, you are neither and both at the same time.

As Part Crew

  • As guest lecturer, you will sign onto the ships company (this makes you part crew). You may be asked to attend a safety drill with other new guests entertainers
  • Similarly with eating arrangements. Some cruise lines allocate you a table in the dining room with passengers and some ask that you eat with the other entertainers and officers
  • You will not be allowed to use the casino or gaming machines on board the ship

As Part Passenger

  • You will usually be allowed to use every facility that full paying passengers use, but you must be aware that passengers always come first. Use of the gym or spa is perfectly okay, but at busy times, it is best to allow passengers the use of them and visit at quieter times instead
  • Similarly at evening stage shows. If seats are scarce and it is busy, you should allow passengers to have a seat before finding one for yourself

What Do I Do When I Get To The Ship

You will be told in advance when and where to join the ship. Find a member of the ship’s company or a security person on the dock and they will tell you where to embark. Usually the first place you will go once you get on the ship and before anywhere else, is the crew office to sign on to the ship’s company. You will then visit the cruise director’s office to introduce yourself before going to your cabin.

It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the ship and in particular with the room/venue you will be presenting in. Make sure everything you asked for is there (ie. projector, screen etc.). You will be told the days, times and venue for your talks by the cruise director.

If the guest lecturer is employed by Shapiro International (or any company associated with it) it is not an employment agency and the cruise line is not your employer. At all times you will be hired as a freelance, self-employed speaker and responsible for your own taxes, insurance etc.

Who Is Contacting Whom?

The contract will always be between the cruise line and you, the guest lecturer. Shapiro International will not sign any contracts on your behalf and will never agree to the guest lecturer doing any work until they have spoken to the guest lecturer.

How Often Will I Be Expected To Speak?

Most cruise lines (but not all) will expect you to deliver one (different) talk on every day the ship is at sea. Be prepared to help out by doing an extra talk if asked to, due to changes in the ships program. This is rare but you will be appreciated even more if you help out in these circumstances.

Your talks should usually be no less than 45 minutes and no more than 50 minutes. Always be aware of what is happening in your venue directly after your talk, as there may only be 10 minutes of change over time.

Typically, enrichment lectures take place on days the ship is at sea. Enrichment programs are generally not scheduled during port calls, because passengers choose to spend these days on tours exploring the sights ashore. This allows you ample time to explore those sights as well.

Please note, if your cruise features a block of several port days in a row, there is a possibility that you may be called upon by the Cruise Director to conduct a program on a port day afternoon prior to the ship’s departure.

Who Should I Talk To If I Have Any Questions?

Any questions you have will be answered by your contact at the cruise line head office.

Presentation Skills

For the most part, cruise ships have all of the modern technical equipment needed to present a multi-media lecture. This includes LCD projectors for PowerPoint, DVD, VHS, microphone, podium, etc. You will let us know your requirements and we will send your technical needs to the cruise line prior to your voyage, but it’s always wise to go over your requirements with the Cruise Director or their staff after boarding the vessel.

A member of the ship’s technical staff will set everything up for you before each presentation. You will usually be asked what equipment you need for your talks. Most ships these days have compatible projectors for plugging into your laptop for using things like PowerPoint. But make sure you advise us of anything you need for your talks well in advance of you joining the ship, so that you will know if the ship can accommodate you.

Make sure you carry notes in your hand luggage so that if your luggage goes missing at the airport, you will still be able to do your talks.

Remember to make your talks fun. The people you will be talking to are on holiday and while they want to be informed, they also want to be entertained. (No, that doesn’t mean cracking jokes during your talk!)

Do I Get Any Perks While On Board?

Most cruise lines will give guest lecturers discounts on bar purchases and on board shop purchases. The discount varies from company to company, but it usually means that your eventual on-board bill will be much less than it would be if you were a passenger.

You will also usually be allowed to put your name forward to lead a tour excursion when the ship is in port. If you are asked to do this, it simply means you will help the actual tour guide do a headcount on and off of your tour bus. In return, you will not pay for the tour. Your guest, if you are taking one, will be charged.

How Do I Get From My Home To The Ship?

This again depends on the cruise line, but in general it falls into 2 categories (the following examples are if you and your guest are UK residents – substitute your country for ‘UK’ below where the ship leaves and returns to that country).

  • Cruises where you embark in a UK port
    • In this instance, you will usually be responsible for getting yourself to and from your home to the ship at your own expense.
  • Cruises where you embark in a non-UK port
    • In this case, the cruise line will organize and pay for flights to and from a UK airport (not always the closest one to your home) to the port of embarkation. If you are taking someone with you, the cruise line will usually charge you a reduced rate for that person’s air fare. You will know what that is beforehand. Transfers to and from the ship at the non-UK port will be arranged for you. You will be responsible for getting to and from your home to the UK airport that you fly from, at your own expense.

Will I Be Able To Go On Tours?

Yes. See ‘Perks’ section.

Can I Sell Products While I Am On Board?

Yes, you will usually be allowed to sell your own product while on board. This is usually at the end of your talks. But, you will not be allowed to set up a stall selling anything.

All products must be your own work ie. a book you have written or a CD you have made. The cruise line will usually take a percentage of what you sell (usually 20%) but this will be detailed in your contract.

Who Am I Answerable To While On The Ship

Ultimately, the captain of the ship, but you will usually come under the Entertainment department, and as such, will be under the charge of the Cruise Director (head of entertainment).

Some Things To Remember

  • Passengers ALWAYS come first
  • Your passport must be valid for all the countries you (and the ship) are visiting, even if you do not get off the ship
  • It is your responsibility to have a valid visa for any country the ship is visiting even if you will not get off the ship in that country
  • It is your responsibility to have valid travel insurance (which covers you lecturing on the ship)
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you have all the vaccinations needed to visit all places the ship will visit, even if you do not intend to get off the ship in that place
  • Have fun while you are on board and make use of the fantastic facilities available

How Will I Know If I Have Done Well As Guest Lecturer?

Well, for a start, if you have done well, you will be asked back by the passengers at the end of cruise questionnaire survey and the cruise director, who will assess how you fitted in with working with the rest of the entertainments team. In other words, delivering great presentations, but making the life of the entertainment team difficult, is as damaging to you as being a really lovely person and delivering terrible presentations.

Success in the world of cruise line entertainment and enrichment, is usually defined by a number – a score compiled from passenger questionnaires that are distributed by the cruise line towards the end of each and every sailing. Your name and position may be included in this questionnaire, and passengers will rate you as excellent, good, fair or poor.

We also receive important feedback from Cruise Directors regarding your professionalism, preparedness, cooperation and attitude. As cruise lines strive for excellence in passenger satisfaction, only those who receive a top score and excellent feedback will be allowed to return for future engagements.

Cruise Lines Have Identified A Number Of Key Success Factors For Lecturers

  1. Lectures should be serious, but not heavy: guests want to be informed, not lectured. The emphasis is on what might best be called infotainment rather than education: tell an interesting story rather than delivering dry facts.
  2. Your lecture topics should be easily followed by a general audience. Guests on luxury cruises are usually highly educated, but no special subject knowledge should be assumed.
  3. Most lectures will be enhanced by the use of visuals. PowerPoint, DVD, and other digital media are highly effective components of a good presentation.
  4. Your presentations should be enthusiastic, without reliance on a text or detailed notes. Involving the audience, through occasional Q&As or other mechanisms, is an excellent tool for success.
  5. A ship is a very social environment, and guests like to meet the people who are there to enrich their cruise experience. Therefore, it’s important that you and your companion enjoy being approachable and sociable.