Daniel Cuasito, known as “Dan Dan” to his many fans, is the popular cruise director of Norwegian Breakaway. He began his career in the travel business with an airline but then shifted over to work on entertainment for a cruise line. After taking a break from the sea, he applied to Norwegian Cruise Line. However, at that time only an entry level position was available on Norwegian Gem's cruise directors staff. Dan Dan took the job and within the course of one contract he was promoted to assistant cruise director and then cruise director.
“I had 13 years of experience with entertainment with another cruise line. I shared those experiences with Norwegian Cruise Line, coming up with activities and the flow of events. That's the kind of thing that you really need to have a knack for. I think also what helped was that they saw that I was versatile with my approach as an entertainer. They saw that I can do a whole lot of different things.”
What is the role of the cruise director on a ship like Norwegian Breakaway? “First-time cruisers often have the perception is that I am in charge of everything that involves cruising. Because of the title they think I am in charge of food and beverage and not just entertainment. But even experienced cruisers who do not know the behind the scenes role of the cruise director job do not know that it is not just a matter of being out there on the floor either or hosting events or activities. There is a lot of behind the scenes as well.”
The cruise director is a ship's officer with a large staff. “As the cruise director, I am in charge of the cruise program which includes the youth program; the recreational facilities; the cruise directors staff, which are in charge of the activities' the theatrical operations, also the technicians and the musicians.” As a result, a significant portion of the cruise director's day is spent meeting with the ship's senior officers and officers from other departments, managing and interacting with his managers and employees, and making inspections of the facilities in his area of responsibility. This is in addition to being the public face and voice of the ship, making announcements, hosting events and starring in the ship's morning television show.
The Art of Programming
One of the most important aspects of the cruise director's job is programming - - deciding what entertainment or activity will be provided when and where. Not only does this affect guest satisfaction with the cruise experience but it affects passenger flow - - the movement of guests around the ship. Having the right passenger flow prevents overcrowding and facilitates the operation of other departments such as food and beverage.
In order to ensure that the ship is operating consistent with the cruise line's image and with the other ships in the fleet, the cruise director receives input from headwaters. However, Norwegian does not script or micromanage the programming. “They do have an input as to game shows that we can and cannot have. We have standards regarding game shows. Entertainment, if it is a shorter cruise like a seven day cruise, that is pretty much set. We have the two Broadway shows and a comedy/magician. But on a longer cruise, then shoreside will assist us and send out the names of [potential] guest entertainers. We have our wish lists and we will coordinate to get those people in. For the programming, we pretty much have control.”
Even though Breakaway is an established ship, the programming varies from cruise to cruise. “It is quite dynamic. It is not a cut and paste from the previous cruise. It depends upon the age demographics, the feedback we get from the guests, and the itinerary.”
To illustrate, “when it is summer or spring and there are a lot of kids, the age demographic is lower. [We have] a lot of high energy events. The guests do a lot of dancing and music, We utilize the Bliss Lounge and Spice H2O and its a very busy ship. When he age demographics are more mature guests - -a lot of trivias, game shows. Our theme parties will be a lot earlier. We usually have a 10:45 or 11 o'clock start time for the theme parties but with our mature guests, 10 o'clock is when we start because they retire early.”
Along the same lines, programming for a long voyage such as an Atlantic crossing is different than programming for a week-long cruise. “The great thing about a crossing is that there are a lot of days. So we are able to get and utilize entertainers that we do not normally get on a shorter cruise.- - comedy/magic, a hypnotist, a vocalist, groups of vocalists. We are also able to have a guest or destination lecturer, which is very popular, We also have bridge directors. On a shorter cruise, we only have pretty much two Broadway shows and a comedy magician.“
The programming for a given day of a cruise is not independent of the programming for the other days. Rather, when the various events are scheduled is done to make the cruise a unified experience with its own rhythm. “I look at it like waves. Waves go up and go down. There are ups and downs and inbetweens. At the beginning of the week, the guests orient themselves in what the ship is all about, there are a lot of seminars to give them information and immerse them in the cruising experience. We have a lot of events for first timers as well so they get oriented as to what cruising is all about. The next few days is all about building it up, familiarizing the guests with each other. So we have a lot of activities and team events such as team contests. It builds up into what I call a peek or the climax of the cruise. That would be our most popular, highly-anticipated big events. I am talking about the Glo Party, Ultimate Dance, - - those are always big events on a cruise. After that peek, we go down to have some relaxing time. Then it builds up again to the last impression. So you have first impression, orientation, building up, climax, relaxing and last impression.”
The program for a day is built with the assumption that a certain portion of the guests will be outdoors using the recreational facilities during the day and attending theme parties at night. However, sometimes the weather does not co-operate. “You have to adjust rather quickly. If the outdoor recreational facilities are not open, then you have to provide more events indoors – tournaments like goofy golf, add a movie inside. As far as theme parties, we have to move the party from outdoors to inside - - from the Spice, we go to the Atrium or the Bliss Lounge.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway - Cruise Director 2018