Who are those suave strangers who spin the ladies around the dance floor aboard cruise ships? They're Gentlemen Hosts, and Lauretta Blake, president of the Working Vacation (www.theworkingvacation.com ), recruits them to serve as dance partners and dinner companions for women traveling solo.
Q: What are the duties of the Gentlemen Hosts?
A: They host a dinner table and commit to three to four hours of dancing per night. They're active, on average, 50 hours a week. Some do one, two, three cruises a year, some four. We encourage them to take breaks in between. It's like being on stage.
Q: Are they paid?
A: No. Gentlemen Hosts get the cruise almost free. They pay us a nominal fee of $28 to $38 per day. But they feel valued because others are so appreciative of what they do.
Q: What qualities do you find in great hosts?
A: They need to be compatible not just with the ladies but with other gentlemen and staff. They have to know how to socialize at a dinner table and show courtesy and manners. They should be honorable, outgoing, caring individuals who are interested in mixing and talking. We get a lot of people who've worked in service professions. The age range is 45 to 70-plus.
Q: Are there many rules?
A: Circulate among as many ladies as possible and learn to coax the timid ones. Good hosts look around the room, spot people who don't look involved, and try to involve them.
Q: Any shipboard romances?
A: No onboard romances are allowed, but people have gotten to know each other afterward. A few people have gotten married. It really doesn't happen very often.
Photography by Edward R. Rodriguez
This article was first published in May 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.