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Cruise Ship Hosts
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

Wanted: Attractive, single men, 45 years or older, to see the world by cruise ship for free. Must be accomplished conversationalists, charming, and great dancers. Our Savvy Traveler, Rudy Maxa, has more details.

If that description fits you, you're could cruise the Caribbean or the South Pacific or the coasts of South America or Europe for next-to-nothing. It's an option for single men that was invented in the early '80s when the Royal Cruise Lines began recruiting presentable bachelors-usually friends of management--to dance with the large number of single women who take cruise vacations. Before that, ship captains pressed regular crew into duty at night as hosts. But today it's a small industry that's always looking for talent.

Louretta Blake is owner of a company called The Working Vacation, and she and her staff scour applications from around the country trying to find some good men to go to sea. Sure, they have to be single and know how to keep the conversation going. But along with an outgoing personality, the make-it-or-break-it criterion for selection is the ability to dance.

"Our culture doesn't support learning dance as a skill," Louretta Blake complained when we chatted on the phone recently. "And that's the shame of it all."

She says men who won't hesitate to take golf or tennis lessons won't even consider dance lessons. Too bad, says Loretta, because a world at sea could be their oyster if they didn't have two left feet. How good a dancer do you have to be? Well, you better be able to do the foxtrot, waltz, cha-cha, rhumba and some swing dancing. If you know how to samba or tango, well, you get major bonus points. And the coming thing is the salsa, thanks to Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony, says Louretta.

Here's how you become a host. Minimum age is usually 45. Maximum can stretch into the 70s depending on whether you're a spry 70 or not. You can apply directly to some cruise lines or you can click on http://www.theworkingvacation.com. You'll be asked for references. Your background will be checked to make sure you didn't just get out of prison for committing some heinous crime. And then you'll be put to the big test: A qualified dance reviewer will check out your moves on the floor. If you pass that, have a bubbling personality, and know how to dress, well, welcome aboard!

You'll be flown from your hometown to your cruise ship. Your cabin and meals are free, but you'll pay $28 a day to The Working Vacation as a placement fee. You should be prepared to sail for a minimum of 21 days, though some hosts spend an entire year afloat, saving money by not having a residence anywhere. The Working Vacation, by the way, has trademarked the title "Gentleman Host," so don't go trying to use that as a monicker somewhere else down the road.

OK, let's say you DO have two left feet. Don't give up hope. The Working Vacation also places lecturers aboard cruise lines. Again, you don't get paid, but you and a companion do get a free cruise. Popular vocations of speakers include historians and naturalists. Imagine how much of the world you could see if you were an historian who also know how to...tango! You might never get any rest, but you'd be the most popular guy on some ships.

Oh, one more thing. Romances between passengers and hosts are not allowed. But who knows how many couples have gotten together on terra firma?

I'm Rudy Maxa, from the Savvy Traveler, for Marketplace.


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