A cruise director for all nations

By Lew Toulmin
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Frederic Jansen is the tall, handsome, energetic and always upbeat cruise director of the Star Clipper, which sails in the western Mediterranean, the eastern Caribbean and transatlantic. He has delightful manners and a charming sense of humor. I interviewed him in January ’06 on board the vessel, which is one of three tall ships in the Star Clippers (U.S. office in Miami, FL; 800/442-0551 or www.starclippers.com) fleet; see last month’s column.

Q: Tell me about yourself, Frederic.

A: I was born in Belgium and am 33 years old. I am the youngest in my family, with two older sisters. I am 6'1" tall and unmarried. I have been with Star Clippers for four years.

Q: I notice you give port talks in several languages. How many do you speak?

A: I speak six languages fluently: French, my native tongue, as well as German, Dutch, English, Spanish and Italian. I also understand Greek and Portuguese fairly well.

Q: Yikes! How did you learn all those languages?

A: My mother was French and my father, Flemish, and I spent my youth in a German-speaking town. So that got me three languages. My parents traveled a lot, and I liked to listen to different languages and accents. After getting a degree in Brussels in tourism management, I spent a year in Spain at a local language school, then another year in the U.K. studying English.

Q: What I find amazing is that you can talk rapidly in one language about a topic, then change instantly to another language, give a similar talk and not get confused. How do you do that?

A: I seem to have switches in my head, so I just switch into another language and never get them mixed up. Practice helps. On the Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, I make announcements in three languages, which is actually much easier than on some European lines where I have lectured and made ship’s announcements in up to five languages.

Q: What is your work schedule?

A: While at sea, I work all my waking hours. I sign on for a contract for six weeks to four months and then am usually off for one to three months.

Q: I am always interested in people like you, who can live anywhere they want. Where do you live?

A: I was in Valencia, Spain. It was April, and the flowers were blooming, the fruits in the markets were beautiful and the people were very warm and happy. I picked up a real estate brochure and bought a little villa in the charming village of Mojacar, near Valencia. It has a garden and a pool, and the town has great weather and no traffic or pollution, so I love it. Instead of waiting like most Belgian men until age 55 or 65 to buy my retirement house in Spain, I bought mine at 28!

Q: Besides Spain, what are your favorite places around the world?

A: I have been fortunate to sail on all the itineraries of all three of Star Clippers’ vessels, and I also worked on five other cruise lines. So I have seen much of the world. My favorite countries are Spain, Thailand and Brazil. I like the people and the fascinating cultures in those countries.

Q: What do you like about Star Clippers?

A: Our product is unique, and there are not really any competitors in our class. Our three vessels are real tall ships that actually use the wind to sail, yet they are newly constructed and have all the luxuries of a modern cruise ship. I am hooked on the romance of sailing and on our closeness to nature, and so are many of our passengers. As a result, we have a very high percentage of repeaters, averaging perhaps 62%. I really like the fact that the number of passengers is small, about 150 on most sailings for the Star Clipper, and therefore I get to know many of them well.

Q: What is your work philosophy?

A: “Exceed their expectations.”

Q: What do you want to do in the future?

A: Keep sailing with Star Clippers! But perhaps someday, once I meet the right girl, I might want to go ashore, settle down and run my own small hotel.

Q: What was your most memorable incident as cruise director?

A: I was the cruise director on a Festival line ship when it visited Havana, Cuba. President Fidel Castro himself came on board with a phalanx of bodyguards. Since it was Valentine’s Day, Fidel was given roses by the crew and especially by the many Cuban staff that we were required to hire. I escorted the president around the ship, answered his many questions and served as his translator. Castro was supposed to stay only an hour, but as a former sailor and pilot he was fascinated by all the technical aspects of the ship, especially the engine room and bridge. He stayed on board for many hours and didn’t leave until 2 a.m. I noticed he didn’t smoke many cigars while on board, but he did try all the fine French wines in the ship’s wine cellar!

The Toulmins received a discount on their Star Clippers cruise.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Frederic Jansen is the tall, handsome, energetic and always upbeat cruise director of the Star Clipper, which sails in the western Mediterranean, the eastern Caribbean and transatlantic. He has delightful manners and a charming sense of humor. I interviewed him in January ’06 on board the vessel, which is one of three tall ships in the Star Clippers (U.S. office in Miami, FL; 800/442-0551 or www.starclippers.com) fleet; see last month’s column.

Q: Tell me about yourself, Frederic.

A: I was born in Belgium and am 33 years old. I am the youngest in my family, with two older sisters. I am 6'1" tall and unmarried. I have been with Star Clippers for four years.

Q: I notice you give port talks in several languages. How many do you speak?

A: I speak six languages fluently: French, my native tongue, as well as German, Dutch, English, Spanish and Italian. I also understand Greek and Portuguese fairly well.

Q: Yikes! How did you learn all those languages?

A: My mother was French and my father, Flemish, and I spent my youth in a German-speaking town. So that got me three languages. My parents traveled a lot, and I liked to listen to different languages and accents. After getting a degree in Brussels in tourism management, I spent a year in Spain at a local language school, then another year in the U.K. studying English.

Q: What I find amazing is that you can talk rapidly in one language about a topic, then change instantly to another language, give a similar talk and not get confused. How do you do that?

A: I seem to have switches in my head, so I just switch into another language and never get them mixed up. Practice helps. On the Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, I make announcements in three languages, which is actually much easier than on some European lines where I have lectured and made ship’s announcements in up to five languages.

Q: What is your work schedule?

A: While at sea, I work all my waking hours. I sign on for a contract for six weeks to four months and then am usually off for one to three months.

Q: I am always interested in people like you, who can live anywhere they want. Where do you live?

A: I was in Valencia, Spain. It was April, and the flowers were blooming, the fruits in the markets were beautiful and the people were very warm and happy. I picked up a real estate brochure and bought a little villa in the charming village of Mojacar, near Valencia. It has a garden and a pool, and the town has great weather and no traffic or pollution, so I love it. Instead of waiting like most Belgian men until age 55 or 65 to buy my retirement house in Spain, I bought mine at 28!

Q: Besides Spain, what are your favorite places around the world?

A: I have been fortunate to sail on all the itineraries of all three of Star Clippers’ vessels, and I also worked on five other cruise lines. So I have seen much of the world. My favorite countries are Spain, Thailand and Brazil. I like the people and the fascinating cultures in those countries.

Q: What do you like about Star Clippers?

A: Our product is unique, and there are not really any competitors in our class. Our three vessels are real tall ships that actually use the wind to sail, yet they are newly constructed and have all the luxuries of a modern cruise ship. I am hooked on the romance of sailing and on our closeness to nature, and so are many of our passengers. As a result, we have a very high percentage of repeaters, averaging perhaps 62%. I really like the fact that the number of passengers is small, about 150 on most sailings for the Star Clipper, and therefore I get to know many of them well.

Q: What is your work philosophy?

A: “Exceed their expectations.”

Q: What do you want to do in the future?

A: Keep sailing with Star Clippers! But perhaps someday, once I meet the right girl, I might want to go ashore, settle down and run my own small hotel.

Q: What was your most memorable incident as cruise director?

A: I was the cruise director on a Festival line ship when it visited Havana, Cuba. President Fidel Castro himself came on board with a phalanx of bodyguards. Since it was Valentine’s Day, Fidel was given roses by the crew and especially by the many Cuban staff that we were required to hire. I escorted the president around the ship, answered his many questions and served as his translator. Castro was supposed to stay only an hour, but as a former sailor and pilot he was fascinated by all the technical aspects of the ship, especially the engine room and bridge. He stayed on board for many hours and didn’t leave until 2 a.m. I noticed he didn’t smoke many cigars while on board, but he did try all the fine French wines in the ship’s wine cellar!

The Toulmins received a discount on their Star Clippers cruise.