Dance Hosts on Board
The reason I went on my first dance cruise with Dancers at Sea, the West Coast Ballroom Dancing and Wine-Tasting Cruise, that started my whole craze for dance cruising, was because on the DAS web-site, I noted that Wendy promised a dance host for every three single guests. So at worst, one would be dancing every third dance instead of sitting wistfully on the sidelines watching others on the dance floor.
On the second cruise I took with the DAS group, the four night East Coast Labor Weekend Getaway from New York, I first encountered Dance Hosts from the Queen Mary 2 Dance Host program. A couple of the hosts on that cruise were really excellent dancers and thanks to them, we found that we got to dance more frequently than every third dance. The next three cruises I went on were on two Princess and one Costa ship, none of which had dance hosts and I thought for me, that was a significant lack.
I was happy to learn that the British Isles cruise was on a Cunard ship, Queen Victoria, where I would have more time to see how the Cunard Host program worked, and as it turned out I had a brief opportunity to chat with the Social Hostess and one of the Hosts on that cruise - The Cunard Dance Host Program. This time on the 9 night round trip cruise from New York to Quebec, I had ample opportunity to see the valuable role that the ship's Dance Hosts played in getting single women travellers out on the dance floor.
I had planned that on this Autumn Escape cruise I would pay a little more attention to the role of the hosts. So on the first day of the cruise I attended the Sailing Solo get together upstairs in the G32 Club to meet other guests who were - well - sailing solo. I came from our dance workshop so was a few minutes late and I found the guests seated in a large circle, with the hosts interspersed. A brief count showed me that there were probably about thirty to forty women, and one solitary younger male passenger. I guess the single men on board don't bother to come to these gatherings. And there were 6 hosts. The Social Hostess, Gunn, introduced herself and then invited the guests and the hosts, in sequence to introduce themselves.
The six hosts (and I think I have the details correct) were Arthur from New York, Bill from Cleveland, Jeff from Albuquerque, Michael from Florida via New York City, Naedi from Egypt via Germany and Omar from Idaho . The thing that stood out for me from the really brief introductions the guests gave was how repeatedly I heard: "I really love to dance" or "I am crazy about dancing" or "dancing is my passion". This tells me that the host program has to be a major draw for these women to travel on Cunard.
In the Queens Room I noticed each night that there were many single ladies, sitting in groups on the opposite side of the ballroom from our group. Over the course of the cruise I chatted to some of them, several had done the transatlantic crossing from Southampton, and were staying on board for the return crossing to Southampton. Others had boarded in New York, as we did. The women were of all ages and a range of dancing abilities; some were recent cruisers and one woman told me she had logged a couple of hundred nights on Cunard cruises - but they all appreciated the chance to get onto the floor, and dance with the ship's hosts.
Towards the end of the cruise, in between their hosting duties, I met with Jeff from Albuquerque and Bill from Cleveland, for a brief chat about the dance backgrounds and how they got into hosting.
Jeff who had, on an earlier encounter on the dance floor, drawled that he was "just a cowboy from Albuquerque" has a wry sense of humor that complements a debonair attitude. He got hooked on ballroom dancing after signing up for a college elective and finding out that in the dance class there were "22 gals and 2 guys." When a friend of his who was scheduled to host on a cruise, got injured just beforehand, he stepped in and has been hosting ever since. He uses his vacation time twice a year to travel as a cruise dance host and loves it.
Bill, who has retired from a career in law enforcement, projects a warm and friendly attitude. He grew up dancing. He was on the Queen Mary as a passenger in 2008. At the formal dance on board he heard about dance hosting and applied to become a host. He hosted on the QM2 in 2009 and this is his 7th cruise since then.
So what makes a great dance host? Here is their input:
Obviously key is the ability to dance, a variety of dances and reasonably well at a social level. Never attempt to teach! and make your partner look and feel good regardless of her ability. The ideal host is personable, fair - rotates dances, dancing with all the single women before returning to dance with one, and does not favor anyone, regardless of how good a dancer they may be. The third important characteristic is availability - one of the reasons why good hosts are often hard to get. They are often busy people with lots of interests.
They both emphasized something that is not often realized by the guests. The Dance Hosts are not crew or staff but are in fact guests, albeit guests at a reduced rate. As Jeff put it - "we are just guests who love to dance," and who love to to make the cruise more fun for those lady guests who also love to dance.
I did not get to dance much with the hosts on this trip - maybe a couple of times with each of them. There were a lot of single lady passengers, and our DAS group had lots of dancing with our own terrific hosts, Robert, Honey, Chris, John, Philip and Sam, as well as guests, Bruce, Loren and Bill. So, although as passengers, the dance hosts were there for us as well, it seemed a bit unfair to use much of their time. Anyway I figure that I was storing up good karma for a time when I may be a "Solo Traveller" and hope for dance hosts on board.
Rock on guys, you do a great job, and make lots of ladies happy!