From planning and supervising the on-board entertainment, to hosting social events and even performing, there’s never a dull moment for Jo Boase, one of Saga’s Cruise Directors. She took five minutes out of her busy schedule to talk to writer Ben Gibson…
“The fact that our ships are small means that I really get to know the guests and hopefully instil an atmosphere to have fun!” says Jo, who has worked on every Saga cruise ship in her 12+ years with the company. “I have so many amazing memories of cruising the world with Saga, not least meeting my husband-to-be outside the Grill Restaurant on Saga Sapphire!”
With everyone on board wanting different styles of entertainment, how does she keep everyone happy? “Well obviously that’s not always possible” Jo laughs. “Everyone has their own taste and as I always say, if we only offered guests one option for their main course each evening, it wouldn’t always be to their taste. So I like to mix things up – one night might be a classical concert, the next a musical show, or perhaps even a comedian or pop group. We try to always appeal to a wide range of tastes, bringing in new acts as well as favourites that are popular with previous guests.”
And Saga’s small ships have welcomed aboard some big names in the past – previous celebrities have included opera stars Katherine Jenkins, Lesley Garrett CBE and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, celebrity chefs Phil Vickery and Aldo Zilli, comedy legend Des O’Connor and the stars of Strictly Come Dancing, while future big names include MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace, wildlife presenter Michaela Stachan and larger than life actor Christopher Biggins.
Because life on the ocean wave changes constantly, every day is different. But on a typical day at sea, Jo starts early. “I’ll start by checking everything in the ‘Today’ programme, which then gets printed and delivered to every cabin. Then I’ll walk around the ship, talking to guests to see how they are enjoying their cruise. After the day’s activities of classes, sport and music, there’s often a cocktail party to host, followed by dinner with guests, before it’s the main event… showtime! After that there is further entertainment around the ship which I attend and help get the party going.”
But if the ship has arrived at a new destination, the day pans out a little differently. “On a day in port I’ll be up on the Bridge at whatever time we arrive – often quite early – to speak over the PA system, giving our guests all the vital information about how to get ashore. Then after seeing them off on their excursions, I’ll check the following day’s programme and start planning the entertainment for the next cruise. I’m always working one step ahead! Then I might manage to get a couple of hours ashore to go power walking, which I think is one of the best ways of seeing the sights. This means that next time I get asked what to do in a particular destination, I can recommend things to see and do. Then by the evening with everyone back on board, I’ll be socialising at the sailaway party, followed by showtime and another packed evening of entertainment. It never stops really.”
So what challenges does she face during long periods at sea? “We have to expect the unexpected – itineraries can change due to weather, which means we have to quickly amend the entertainment or activities from our original plans. But we’re lucky, our work is always appreciated by our guests. They’re a great bunch” she says with a smile.