The Cunard Host Program on Queen Victoria
When I was considering booking for the cruise around the British Isles, one of the things that tipped my decision towards going was the fact that the Cunard liners are one of the few among cruise lines that have a regular Dance Host program. This means that if you are travelling without a dance partner, you can still get an opportunity to enjoy some ballroom dancing on the excellent Cunard ballroom floors.
I first learned about the dance hosts on the Labour Weekend Getaway Ballroom Dance Cruise that I took on the Queen Mary last fall. I had noticed several gentlemen impeccably dressed in dark blazers, and wearing badges identifying them as hosts on the ship but I was not sure what their jobs actually were. During the four evenings of the cruise I had the opportunity to dance with three of them and found them to be really good social dancers and interesting to talk to.
When I returned home I did some research on cruise dance hosts and I realized that it was quite impressive that the Queen Mary actually had four gentleman hosts for the Labour Weekend cruise, even though it was only a 4 night cruise.
On this British Isles cruise I was delighted to see that the Queen Victoria had four dance hosts aboard. They were introduced to the passengers on the first formal evening. This group of hosts were Art, Ed, Joe and Keith. According to the brief introductions, all of them liked the waltz as their favorite dance. Where are the Latin dance hosts I wondered to myself? Maybe on a South American cruise? Hmmm...
On this cruise I again got to dance a few times each with three of the four hosts. They were pleasantly chatty and comfortable social dance partners.
Cunard is one of the rare cruise lines with a Dance Host program and many people don't know that the program even exists. So I sat down for a brief chat with one of the hosts, Joe and Freda, the Social Hostess, who manages the program on the Queen Victoria, to find out more about the program.
Joe, it turned out, is a fellow Canadian, from Quebec. I asked how he came to be hosting on this cruise. Joe told me that he first learned about dance hosting 7 years ago when a friend gave him an article from Macleans Magazine (our Canadian equivalent of Time and Newsweek) on Working Vacations. He sent in an application to the agency run by the now-retired Lauretta Blake and was invited for an interview. Hosts at that time had to be able to dance at least 5 variations in a range of dances including waltz, foxtrot, tango, jive or East Coast swing and quickstep. He was accepted as a host and sometime later, went off on his first cruise to Buenos Aires. He has enjoyed hosting on many cruises since then.
He and Freda agreed that to be a good host a man has to be naturally outgoing, communicative and fun-loving as well as very skilled in diplomacy. In the Cunard Host Program, as part of the ship's crew they are expected to reflect Cunard's commitment to the maintaining traditional standards of elegance and high quality service. They must comply with the dress codes - they provide their own clothes but in accordance with the standards set out in the program. While on board, in most programs the hosts pay only a small daily fee. Some programs may offer free transport to and from the ship.
They are expected to participate in the social events as well as the dancing. For example, each host is designated to accompany one of the shore excursion groups. In the ballroom they are expected to dance with any of the solo female travellers who want to dance. This can mean anyone from a complete beginner to an experienced dancer, and they need to be able to adapt accordingly. Like the hosts in our Dancers at Sea group, they have to be careful to ensure that they are available to dance with many people, and not seek out favorites for repeated dances.
I chatted for a few minutes more to Freda after Joe left for hosting duties at one of the ship's dance classes. I wondered whether the host program is something that Cunard would maintain. While obviously she could not say what might happen in the future, she pointed out that the three large Cunard Liners, the Queen Mary, Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth all had the magnificent Queens Room ballrooms, where guests are entertained by traditional style orchestras, as well as places like Club Hemisphere where DJs spun other types of music.
She reiterated that the ballroom dances, the Formal Balls, and therefore the host program, are all important components of the Cunard traditions of elegant sophistication and superb service.
I had to agree that I found the quality of service on this Queen Victoria voyage to be exemplary. Our servers in the Britannia dining room had been most impressive - efficient, quick and always pleasant.
Hopefully Cunard will continue to employ their charming Dance hosts- and hopefully they will be good dancers. That will certainly cause me and my dancing pals to pick Cunard voyages over those that don't offer great dance floors and good partners.