Aside from being friendly and absolutely approachable by anybody, one key skill shared by many cruise directors, regardless of the brand for which they sail, is that they have to be able to run with maximum energy on minimal sleep. It’s just part of the job.
To many people, the job of a Cruise Director would have to be one of those ‘I can’t believe you do that for a living’ professions. They get to sail the high seas, seeing most parts of the world and according to many who do it, it’s not something just anybody can do. The job requires an abundance of energy, a permanent smile and accompanying happy disposition, quick thinking problem solving, attention to detail and exemplary time management skills.
During a recent voyage onboard Carnival Spirit, we managed to pin down the ship’s Cruise Director Eli Sharplin to find out his personal tips on what a cruise holiday is able to offer, regardless of whether you’re an experienced cruiser or it’s your first holiday at sea.
Anybody who can recall cruising with Eli can attest he loves to have a hand in anything and everything he possibly can. While he certainly trusts his dedicated and skilled Entertainment Team to do their jobs, it’s the love of interacting with passengers that sees him running – or sometimes rolling on the wheels in his sneakers – between activities and events.
You’ll find him summarising the day’s activities while filming the Morning Show, DJ’ing a lunchtime or evening dance party up on the pool deck, introducing or hosting shows in the theatre at night, running games of trivia and everything in between. But there’s more to the man than what you see onboard.
Sharplin is nothing if not an eclectic and mixed bag of skills, passions and vocations, who is emotionally tied to Carnival Spirit and considers it something of a spiritual home. Despite 15 years with Carnival Cruise Line (seven close to full-time), Sharplin is also a qualified visual arts teacher and property manager in New Zealand, a landscaper by trade, a film and television connoisseur, not to mention an architecture and osteopathy student. He has also been told he is the only cruise director in the world hailing from New Zealand – although he is sure there must be another one out there.
Not a day goes by that in his day to day duties, Sharplin doesn’t meet a first-time passenger who professes to him their newfound love for cruising. He says that for anybody who has formed their own idea of what cruising is like but who may have talked themselves into trying it, the best way is not to do a short 3-5 day cruise but to instead aim for at least a 10-day voyage – that’s the best way to accurately gauge whether or not cruising is for you.
Sharplin referred to his 97-year-old grandmother, who he said “was almost alive when the Titanic set sail”.
“When she came onboard, she was amazed at what it looked like and I get that from a lot of people who have a pre-conceived idea of what cruising is. They think maybe it’s just lots of rich old people and there’s lots of ballroom dancing and that’s it. And that’s honestly what a lot of people think. We’re starting to change that misconception.”
The best advice Sharplin says he can give a first-timer to Carnival Cruise Line is to allow a few days to settle in, find your way around and get used to cruising. The first few days will be more difficult as you find your groove but he says once you do, such as the last few days on the way back to Australia, even a first-timer is engaged in all the activities and having a ball.
“This isn’t normal. This isn’t real life,” Sharplin admitted.