While on our Celebrity Cruise in August, I had the pleasure of sitting down & chatting with Darren Tiller & Steve Gayda, the current Hotel Director & Cruise Director of the Celebrity Summit. We spoke in Darren’s office, which is tucked behind the guest services desk at sea level. The two were as friendly as can be & had a great back-&-forth banter – they’re worked together on several different ships. Below is an excerpt from our conversation:
How did you get to this position? Did you always know you wanted to work on a cruise ship?
Darren: I started washing dishes in my parents small hotel & during university, I trained with a UK hotel chain. After I graduated, I worked at different resorts in the Caribbean, before a friend who was working for Celebrity suggested that I might look into the cruise industry. I love working for Celebrity because it’s a dynamic & fast-paced company. I’m lucky & privileged to be doing this as my career.
Steve: I studied tourism & business in school – I thought ‘d work for a resort. Instead I started working for a company that did PR for cruise lines & fell in love with the industry. When I joined Celebrity, I thought I’d only stay for a few years, just to get a taste of it. 11 years later, I’m still here & loving it.
What’s challenging about your job – something the average cruiser may not know?
Steve: Most people don’t realize there’s a management side to being the Cruise Director; however, I really like the behind-the-scenes, administration, management part of it. For example, we’re currently planning for transition cruises to Canada – it’s a blank slate to plan. Some cruise directors hate this side – I love it.
This is a unique itinerary we’re sailing on – two days at sea, three on land, one at sea. What challenges does this itinerary present?
Darren: This is one of the least challenging itineraries for me because we’re docked for so long. Passengers follow a certain pattern, a certain flow. There’s a set way of doing things week after week.
Steve: Most passengers (75%) are back on the ship in the evening. They treat it like a traditional cruise, even though we’re docked in one place. The flow & pace is more relaxed for passengers vs a busy itinerary where they’re going from tour-to-tour, trying to cram it all in.
Darren: I agree, it’s a very relaxing itinerary.
What is your advice to DINK couples on cruising – especially those who are skeptical if it’s really for them?
Steve: Do your research. There’s a cruise for everyone, you just have to find it. Some itineraries are targeted toward old people. Some itineraries you’ll barely sleep because you’re busy & partying.
Darren: There really is a cruise line for everyone.
Steve: For example, I worked Asian itineraries with Darren. That draws an older crowd because it’s a longer itinerary. Young professionals don’t get enough vacation time to be able to take advantage of those trips. I very much identify with DINKS & can see myself as a guest on Celebrity.
Summit is an older ship that has been ‘Solsticized’ – what’s your favorite part of her?
Darren: Solsticizing really impacted the public areas on Summit; however, there’s really an elegance to an older ship, which I don’t think was lost in the updating process. I think Summit mixes modern & traditional.
Steve: I like that she’s a smaller ship, which means that over a seven day itinerary, I can meet almost everyone. [Interesting note: they shared that the ship was sailing the fullest it ever had on my sailing - yet it still felt uncrowded & Steve was able to get to know almost everyone].