It really surprised me to find out that Vacation Entertainers are entirely invisible to a large number of guests.
I found this out when I went on a family cruise and didn't even meet all of the entertainment team across a two week break... and I was looking out for them!
It restated, for me, the importance of being so much more than just an events host... Vacation Entertainers are the host for the whole vacation. This means that whether guests see you at breakfast, by the pool, off duty in town, or on stage you are still hosting their vacation experience in some way.
Amazingly, many Vacation Entertainers aren't particularly confident away from the microphone and this can be seen in the tendency to suddenly disappear after finishing an event. The best entertainers stick around and build the atmosphere in the venue; understanding that their role is not 'quiz master' or 'karaoke host' but rather vacation ambassador.
Say Hello to many and often...
I set myself the challenge on my last Cruise Ship contract to say hello to as many guests as possible on the first day of their cruise. Crew Common Sense dictates that this is a terrible - and exhausting - idea: guests can be confused, tired and irritable on Day 1, so why on Earth would you want to get involved with that?
I'm not going to pretend that I enjoy being punched by guests as soon as they board the ship, or that I take great pleasure from sharing my free time with a screaming passenger who is scared of water and has been forced to come on the cruise by her family (who have abandoned her at the gangway because they're fed up of the amateur dramatics)... But it's so worth it.
Guests remember the friendly faces. Especially at the beginning of their vacation when they are very much out of their comfort zone - people don't even know how to get to their room or a toilet, let alone where to have fun and relax. By understanding what information and assistance guests need and offering it before they seek you out, you put yourself in a wonderful position to help them settle in, introduce yourself, and make personal recommendations to start creating their perfect getaway.
Picture the scene:
A couple in their 70s come on board the ship on Embarkation Day and look fairly disorientated. It's 11:30am and the rooms aren't available until 1pm, so there's an hour and a half window to fill before they can even drop off their hand luggage... This is a potential frustration for the guests, particularly as they don't know what they can (or are allowed) to do in the meantime.
You could stand in the vicinity smiling and looking friendly and answer any questions they have if they come over to you. However, a far warmer welcome would be to confidently walk over to them and introduce yourself by name and position, and welcome them to the ship.
Some guests don't have time for you and they'll make that perfectly clear - you can try and crack their shell, but I'll be honest with you, I wouldn't bother. If people think you're too lowly for them, then don't waste your time trying to convince them directly that they're wrong - that can turn into a confrontational style of interaction because both sides are trying to prove the other's assumptions to be wrong.
Instead keep introducing yourself and welcoming as many guests as you can. You'll find a large number of guests are delighted to have a personal welcome and an offer of help and advice. You'll also be indirectly showing the guests who didn't give you the time of day what personal and attentive service they could have received had they been open to the interaction.
Back to the scenario:
'Hello! Welcome on board! My name's Bertie and I'm part of the entertainment team. Your room will be ready in just under an hour and a half, so I would recommend visiting the Floating Castle Lounge at the front of the ship on Deck 5 - there's lots of space there for your bags and comfortable seats. The bar will be open too, if you want to grab a refreshment! Let me know if you need anything!'
Having a handful of pretty-much-scripted welcomes and conversation starters can give you that extra kick of confidence that you may need to approach a random stranger. It also means that you can practise making the introduction clear, and slow. Not rushing your introduction demonstrates confidence (even if it's 'fake') and helps the guests trust you more.
In particular don't rush your name and position - you may think this is not important information, but it is very important for the guests and is also the piece of your introduction that they are least likely to ask you to repeat - who's going to want you to repeat your name if they also heard something about an open bar.... which piece of information would you seek further information about?!
Let's break down the welcome above:
- Hello! - Friendly, but not over-familiar. (Good Morning = more formal / Hi, Hey, Sup = more informal)
- Welcome on board! - That's what you're here to do, so you might as well say it!
- My name's ... and I'm ... - Personal touch. Also helps the guests get some of their questions answered as you may be able to save them a long wait at Guest Services.
- Your room will be ready... - Information. This will prevent them heading straight to their room to find it is not ready yet - you are saving them hassle, frustration and disappointment. Also note the positive phrasing (your room will be ready) rather than negative phrasing (your room isn't ready yet/won't be ready until).
- ... so I would recommend ... - Personal and guest-focused. Demonstrates to the guest that you care about their experience and understand their desires and requirements.
- ... there's lots of space there for your bags ... - Adding conversational touches which show that you understand their lifestyle can help build a rapport, which will make their vacation and your job even more enjoyable.
- Let me know if you need anything! - Finish your introduction with an invitation to continue the conversation. Without this, the guests may think that you are impersonal and disinterested.
A common question from guests on the first day of a Cruise is 'where's reception/guest services/purser's office?'. By all means give them the direct answer to their question, including directions from where you currently are, but also ask if it's something that you can help with as that will save the guests a long wait by the Guest Services Desk.
In my experience, many guests want to get a double bed split into two single, want to track their luggage, want to enquire about an upgrade, want to find out about wifi packages, want to buy a drinks package, or want to cancel their gratuities. There only two enquiries (underlined) in this list that require a visit to Guest Services - an extra moment of your time saves the guest up to an hour waiting at Guest Services; they'll thank you for looking out for them!
Invite guests to your events!
You're an entertainer, right? So make sure they know! You could be filling their afternoons with quizzes and fun activities and turbo-charging their evenings with karaoke, dance parties and gameshows... but only if they know about them and want to go. A personal invitation covers both of these.
I was the Solo Travelers Rep for a couple of months on a Cruise Ship, which involved hosting breakfasts, lunches and evening get-togethers for cruisers who were travelling on their own and wanted to meet more people. On the first day of the cruise I would mention this to lots of people who I stopped and chatted with - even if they weren't a solo traveler. My logic was that they may meet a solo traveler in a bar or at dinner that night and recommend the events that I had told them about.
I also left messages on the room phones of solo travelers who didn't attend any of the events on the first day to reach out to them, welcome them on board and let them know about the events, just in case they didn't know they were on offer.
We used to bring together between 10-15 people each day and most people came back again and again, proving they felt personally welcome at the events and wanted to keep returning.
Cross Promote Events...
Are you hosting a dance class by the pool? You've got a huge audience poolside, so you're in the perfect position to promote other entertainment activities during your event. Even if you've just got 10 dancers, you've got a poolside crowd of hundreds.
Whilst an event is going on, drop in a couple of suggestions of what to look out for later that day. And at the end of the event let guests know when the next activity is that is similar to the one they've just enjoyed. Give them something to look forward to and make it a personal invitation.
Within all of my events I promote the following:
- If you're enjoying this event, then make sure you come back tomorrow for X! - Similar Event
- I'm having so much fun this afternoon, and I hope you'll join me later this evening when I host Y! - My next event, some guests pick their favourite entertainer and join all of his/her events.
- Completely different from this, there's going to be Z happening from 3pm! - Some people will want variety, give them an option of something different.
- Next up in this venue, stick around for A with B! - At the end of an event I add what's coming up next/soon in the venue they are currently in, and if I know the host I'll promote that too.
- Say hello to as many guests as you can, as often as you can.
- Remember you are hosting their whole vacation experience, not just events where you hold a microphone.
- Introduce yourself by name and position - and ask guests their names... if you can remember names people are really impressed.
- Answer questions proactively - before they are asked!
- Personally invite guests to join in.
- Cross promote events and activities during your events.
By going that extra mile and being attentive, friendly and personal, guests will want to spend more time with you enjoying your activities. The more they join in with, the more fun they're a likely to have, which means: happy guests, happy staff, happy management, strong ratings, good comments and repeat customers... It's so worth it!
Have a good Easter Weekend,
The VE 🙂