How to be a Cruise Line Lecturer
(I recently finished a 31 day cruise of South America and the Amazon River, which you can currently follow on my Facebook page. I met Dr. Adrian Cooper who gave some fascinating lectures about the area. I thought it would be fun to be a cruise lecturer and travel the world for free. After talking with him, he agreed to write an article for the blog to help you jump into this fun side gig. It’s another smart career alternative. Safe travels!)
I wrote this blog toward the end of my 67th cruise as a cruise line lecturer. At that time, lecturing on cruise ships had taken me to 99 nations across 6 continents. I have met so many fascinating people, and visited some of the most extraordinary places on this planet – from the Galapagos Islands to the Sahara Desert; and from Japanese temples to the Amazon rain forest, the islands of the South Pacific, and so much more.
If you’d like to be a cruise lecturer, I’d like to use this blog to offer some advice. I’m not suggesting for one moment that I know all there is to know, or that my advice is the best, but it’s worked for me.
First of all, it doesn’t matter how eminent you are, the chances are that cruise lines will not have heard of you as a lecturer. So you need to fix that! I would therefore recommend that you plan and prepare a talk that might be appealing to a cruise line audience, and then record it as an audio sound track, with slides, on your YouTube Channel. If you don’t have a YouTube Channel, they’re easy to make.
But, what should your YouTube talk be about? Well, the cruise lines are increasingly encouraging their guest lecturers to focus in some way on the itinerary of a chosen route. Since you haven’t been booked for any itinerary, that gives you complete freedom to pick one yourself. But, which one? If I was starting out again, I’d pick a part of the world where a lot of different cruises tend to go – such as the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or the Baltic.
Once you have chosen your Geographic region, the next question is what topic should you choose for your YouTube lecture? Well, I’d recommend that you choose something that comes from one of your hobbies or personal interests. So, it’s really up to you – just as long as it focuses on a cruise itinerary.
When you plan your YouTube talk, remember that your audience on the cruise ships will come from every background imaginable. So keep your style chatty. Don’t be afraid to add humor – but not too much!
There’s always the temptation to make your presentation into a hi-tech masterpiece. My advice is to avoid that temptation like the plague! Even if your lap top (which you will need to bring with you onboard) might be the latest model, there’s always a risk that it might not want to ‘talk’ to the ship’s projector. So, my advice is to keep your presentation simple. You don’t need video. You don’t need audio either. An average of 45 PowerPoint slides is perfectly fine. Make sure that those slides are high-resolution though.
The next step is to add the link to your YouTube talk to a web site that will be the platform that you will present to the cruise line. So, again, keep the tone and content of your website chatty and accessible to people who will not understand any of the jargon of medical excellence that you might feel tempted to include. Remember that your audience for your website does not want to be turned off by someone who appears boastful or pompous. Cruise lines are only looking for friendly and fascinating lecturers who can offer their cruise guests an enjoyable series of (usually) eight 45 minute talks per cruise. So, that’s the kind of personality you should communicate in your website. Somewhere toward the beginning of that website should be a link to your YouTube ‘show reel’ talk.
The next question is “who should you contact to send a link to your website, with its link to your YouTube channel”? Well, this is where the real hard work begins, because you will need to identify the cruise lines with which you’d feel most comfortable. The top person within each line is the Head of Entertainment, or the Entertainment Director. So, be prepared to send off your email of introduction, and not get any replies – simply because these people are incredibly busy, and they’re always being bombarded with applications from other people just like you to get a booking on your first cruise. So, be prepared to make a lot of phone calls, and to send off a lot of emails.
Everyone reading this blog will have their own expectations about cruise lecturing. There are several agents who will tell you they will try and place you on a cruise, provided that you pay them a fee. Perhaps you are one of those people who would be happy with that arrangement. However, from my personal point of view, I have never paid any such fee. I have always taken the view that I should get my bookings for lecture cruises on the merit of my talks. But, like I said, that’s only my view.
So what happens next? You’ll be sent a list of options for cruises, run by that cruise line, where there is a vacancy for a lecturer. You won’t be paid to give your talks, but usually you will get your flights and transfers paid for, plus the cruise and a very comfortable cabin for you and your partner. But before all that happens, you have to reply to the cruise line with a list of lecture titles for your cruise. Now, remember what I said earlier about focusing on the itinerary of each cruise? Well, that’s what you need to do when you reply with your titles.
How many talks should you suggest? That number corresponds to the number of sea days on your favoured cruise, plus at least two or three more, just in case other lecturers fall sick on the cruise, and the Cruise Director asks you to step in to do more talks. Although it’s always sad when a fellow lecturer is unable to present their work, it’s a golden opportunity for you to shine – so be prepared by carrying extra talks. It’s simply an investment in your career as a cruise lecturer!
The next ‘Big Event’ is when you are confirmed on some (or even all) of those cruises that you’ve selected. FANTASTIC!!! Now all you have to do is to prepare those talks. I’d also recommend that you try them out in front of an audience of people in your local community. Don’t make your audiences entirely of friends because they’ll simply tell you that you’re completely wonderful in every way. And that really is not helpful. So instead, trial your talks in front of people who don’t know you. Then ask for feedback by distributing Feedback Forms. On those forms, ask for ways to improve your talks. People will often give you some very direct advice! Incorporate those ideas into your lectures, and present the talks again to different audiences. It’s great practice! And please remember that talking to a public audience of people from mixed backgrounds is a completely different ball game to any kind of academic or professional talk.
It’s now the Big Day, and you’re shaking hands with the Cruise Director, or one of her / his Assistants onboard the cruise ship! At that first meeting, it’s always a smart move to have a single sheet summary of your lecture titles and a one sentence summary which the Assistant Cruise Director will use in the daily news sheet which is distributed to cruise guests.
After I’ve had those meetings, I always head straight for the Shore Excursion Desk, and I volunteer to Escort for my favourite tours ashore. The benefit of doing that is it gives cruise guests who are on those tours an added opportunity to ask me questions about my talks. For me individually, it means I get to have free shore excursions doing all sorts of fun stuff like sailing, snorkelling, dune buggy riding, horse riding, power boating, trekking etc.
Now, the final piece of advice I would offer you is to make yourself available to cruise guests so they can ask you questions about your talks as often as you can. Be friendly! Always have time for people! And above all else, make sure you enjoy these priceless experiences of lecturing on cruise ships!
Good luck and bon voyage!
Dr Cooper is the founder of Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve – an innovative and successful example of community-based conservation. The Facebook site can be found here.
If you are looking for some other career alternatives, check out my book The Doctors Guide to Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement.