If you love travel, people and entertainment, what would be a good career path? And, how can you be in entertainment and not be an entertainer? It’s not easy, however those were the questions Paul had. Consequently, for the last 28 years, he’s been a Cruise Director on luxury ships, traveling the globe entertaining thousands of people from all over the world. Coming from Montana, the road to the high seas has had many twists and turns, as well as a few ups and downs. College in the 1960s served two purposes, first, to further his education and to prepare him for his chosen career path and second, to keep him out of the war in Vietnam. Another important reason for Paul was to also to play football because he was sure that would be his ultimate career. Having received a full scholarship to play tight end at Montana State University, Paul thought his career path would be straight to the NFL. But, it appeared as though the military wanted him more than the NFL. Paul, always a sucker for fast talking salesmen, fell for Navy recruiter’s promise of learning a valuable job skill, while enjoying the excitement of traveling the high seas and seeing the world. So, in 1966 he joined the Navy and, after advanced training in Jacksonville FL., became an Aviation Ordnanceman, not much of a job skill, unless the friendly skies of United started hiring tail gunners. From there, just as his recruiter promised, he headed out to see the world. For the next year Vietnam was his world. His helicopter squadron was primarily deployed as an anti-submarine warfare unit and Paul figures they must have done a pretty good job because not one ship in the fleet was attacked by an enemy sub. He found out later the Vietnamese had no subs, which also explained why they never found any. When not looking for submarines, they carried out search and rescue missions. Their most famous rescue came after Vietnam when they recovered the Apollo 11 capsule in the South Pacific.
After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Paul played football for Navy and ended his military career as All Navy linebacker. He had brief opportunity with an NFL team and he’s convinced that if he was bigger, stronger and faster, things would have turned out differently. Paul still holds on to the dream of a long successful career in the National Football career, but now well into middle age it’s starting to look like that may not happen.
His major in college was Telecommunication so in 1972 he auditioned as a seasonal announcer at Marine World Africa USA. in Redwood City CA. He fell in love with the Park with its wonderful people and amazing animals that made the park such a special place. As the season came to an end, he realized he didn’t want his time at the park to end so he convinced the trainers he worked with to keep him on throughout the year working in the training department. Working with Lions, Tigers, Elephants and Chimpanzees weekdays and Killer Whales, Dolphins and Sea Lions on the Weekend was an experience of a lifetime.
After a few years at the park his responsibilities expanded. He was promoted to Show Productions Manager and was asked to create themes and write scripts for the various shows within the park. This meant working closely with the animal trainers to create a logical running order to the animal behaviors and then writing an informative and entertaining script. The final touch was to find appropriate themed music to compliment the various animal antics. Eventually he moved on to The Water Ski and Boat Show which had its own unique challenges. The show’s fast paced, high energy action required the same style of production and narration. Perhaps because of his athletic background Paul found a niche among the Skiers and the ski Show. In the following years as the announcer of the newly formed Professional Water Ski Tour, he was soon considered a renowned expert in the sport and became know as “The voice of Water Skiing”. A big break happened while doing a national broadcast on NBC in Dallas Texas. One of the sponsors liked what they heard in Paul’s voice and hired him to be the voice of Mastercraft Boat Company. Coors, Budweiser and San Miguel Beer as well as American Express, were a few of many others that followed. Meanwhile, his ability to entertain audiences, while hosting these events, led to many other emceeing engagements which included beauty Pageants, hydro boat races and everything in between. Paul stayed busy through out the years learning from each hosting engagement. Through it all learned that he loved sharing life’s fun with an audience.
In 1984, on a tip, Paul heard that San Francisco based Royal Viking Line was looking for a Cruise Director. On a whim, he headed to their offices located on the top floor of the One Embarcadero Center to interview with the company that, at the time, was recognized as the number one luxury Cruise Line in the World. It would really have to be something to move on from his beloved Marine World Africa USA. What could be as fulfilling? During his interview Paul watched and was mesmerized as the beautifully sleek Royal Viking Star sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. The interviewer said, “there’s your stage” and Paul thought “I want this job”. It was a defining moment because then and there, he decided this was going to be his new calling. Luckily his background of writing and producing live shows, scheduling entertainment and announcing shows was the closest thing to being a Cruise Director on land. Paul’s new career began that day in San Francisco.
Having never been on a cruise ship albeit having seen several episodes of the popular “Love Boat”, Paul knew he would have his work cut out for him if the passengers were expecting Cruise Director Julie. Paul’s first ship was the 5 star Royal Viking Sea. Immediately he fell in love with the idea that, on the first night of a cruise, his audiences were virtual strangers and, by the end of the cruise, having shared in so many wonderful experiences many of the passengers became his friends.
During the early stages of his career as a Cruise Director the entertainment was much less structured. The elaborate production shows hadn’t made their splash on the Royal Viking Ships and much of the entertainment depended on the creativity of the Cruise Director. Paul enjoyed this creative challenge and started doing a comedy radio show called “On the Air and Off the Cuff” which was piped into the passenger staterooms at 5:30 every evening. The show was live and featured old radio shows, comedy clips and novelty music. Paul figured all legitimate radio stations had a traffic reporter at commute time so, he created a character called “Eye in the Sky, Sky King”. The segment was supported with helicopter sound effects and a fabricated traffic report. He would report on the wait time at the various elevators and the flow of traffic on promenade deck. The report would end with Sky King’s humorous words of wisdom. Invariably, the imaginary Sky King was the most popular part of the show and one of the most talked about parts of the cruise.
For the next four years Paul was asked to do contracts on all three of the original Royal Viking Ships, the Royal Viking Sea, Sky, and Star. In 1987 Royal Viking Line asked Paul to do their 1988 World Cruise. The 100 day World Cruise is the ultimate challenge for the entire company but, perhaps even more so for the entertainment department. Many of the passengers did the entire 100 plus day cruise and many had done many previous World Cruises. Expectations were very high and it was extremely satisfying to meet the challenge and then to be asked to do the subsequent world cruises. In 1988 Paul was invited to join the new Royal Viking Sun on her inaugural world cruise. Paul stayed with that magnificent ship for 8 years and did another 7 world cruises on board her. Royal Viking had a wonderful family feeling and Paul really enjoyed his many years with them but, in 1996 he was courted by Crystal Cruises to join, what promised to be, the new industry leader in the luxury Cruise market. Paul joined the spectacular new Crystal Symphony in June of that year and professionally has never been happier. His choice to go to Crystal Cruises wasn’t easy but it was smart. Paul had many friends that had previously made the move to this new cruise line and they all reinforced what he had been hearing. Crystal Cruises was totally committed to being the very best in the luxury market. They built the most beautiful ships in the world but, more importantly they recognized the need for qualified and dedicated people to operate them. In particular, Paul was most impressed that Crystal Cruises made entertainment, along with food and service, one of the pillars that the company stood on. This was backed up financially with unbelievably lavish production shows which were a symbol of their very real commitment to entertainment. Cruise ship entertainment was changing and Crystal Cruises was leading the way. Paul has now been with Crystal for 16 years and according to Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast travel magazines Crystal has been at the very top of the luxury market for 16 consecutive years. Paul smiles and says it’s probably just a coincidence.
As proud as Paul is of his professional life his personal life, is his greatest joy and pleasure. In 1986 Paul’s life changed forever when a beautiful blonde dancer named Pam took to the Royal Viking Sky Stage. It was love at first sight for the two of them. They were married the following year and now have two children. Their son, Gavin, is 24 and their daughter, Kelsey, is 20. The hardest part of Paul’s job today is being away from his family however, it’s something that they’ve been doing for about 25 years and they have it down to a routine. He works three months on the ship and then three months home. Every other year he’s home for the holidays. When he’s not home, often the family joins him on the ship to travel the world. Paul laughs and says that it’s the perfect marriage. “Pam misses me and I come home, she gets tired of me and I’m off to the ship.”
Paul feels extremely fortunate to have discovered a career that combines his love of travel, people and entertainment. It also introduced him to his true love and soul mate. As for the future, he knows there is a pattern to all of this, but is darned if he can figure out what it is. Meanwhile, he continues to bring warmth, hard work and, above all, humor, to the world of cruising.