Of the many wonderful things I get to do in my role as Blogger-at-Large
for Oceania Cruises, one of my favorites is getting to know the warm and
generous officers and crew. From everything I see, hear and experience, the
sense of family that the staff creates is one of the main reasons Oceania
Cruises has so many loyal and returning guests.
On a recent cruise, I had the great pleasure of meeting Damien
LaCroix, who has been a part of the Oceania Cruises family for eight years.
Though his official title is General Manager onboard Marina, Damien considers
himself a conductor, and after watching him “perform,” it’s obvious he can hold
a baton with the best. When Damien is in charge the show flows seamlessly. Indeed,
one might be tempted to think that his job is easy, given how effortlessly
Originally from Lyon, France, Damien started with Renaissance Cruises. It was a good product but not upscale. He left Renaissance and joined
a luxury resort in French Polynesia. It was there that Damien first got a call
from Oceania Cruises asking him to come aboard. At first he resisted, because
he didn’t want to leave the elegant atmosphere of the resort.
Oceania Cruises coaxed him into visiting one of the ships. He
was immediately impressed with the ship and its focus of fine cuisine – the
elegance, the presentation and the quality of service. He knew he could be
happy in this environment. So in 2004 he accepted a position as Food and
Beverage Director, and in 2007 he was promoted to General Manager.
Onboard Marina, he says there is never a typical day. Each day
begins with a ship inspection, followed by a meeting with department heads. But
after that, it is Damien’s job to be prepared for anything. While there is always
a plan for what the day should look like, changes inevitably arise. Something
as simple as the weather can present a logistical challenge, because on a rainy
day the outside venues aren’t used, and the inside venues are all much busier.
Listening to Damien talk and watching him work, he thrives
on handling the unexpected. He told a story about when cruises first began
originating in China years ago. Guests had arrived for their cruise and were scheduled
to embark at 11 am, but authorities delayed embarkation. Damien didn’t want
guests to spend precious vacation hours just milling about the cruise terminal,
so he quickly pulled the crew together to organize activities and provide food
Damien is quick to credit the wonderful people working with
him for helping make each day a success. It is clear that the reason Oceania
Cruises feels like a home away from home for guests is that it is a home away
from home for staff as well. There is a real sense of family within the
organization that is easily passed on to guests. Damien can often be found entertaining
guests, who clearly enjoy his company, as he hosts cocktail parties or tables for
Choosing a favorite port of call from the vast array of
wonderful destinations is tough for Damien. He enjoys Venice and Buenos Aires
because ships often stay overnight there, and he can spend an evening exploring
and enjoying dinner ashore. He thinks Santorini and Rhodes are gorgeous. And because
he worked in Vietnam for three years, he loves stops in East Asia where he
still has favorite places he likes to visit.
Of course the best part of working for Oceania Cruises is
that it is where he met his wife Jackie, a cruise director. Since both he and
Jackie work for Oceania Cruises, they know the lifestyle and enjoy the months
of time off they have together. They recently welcomed Elise, the newest Oceania
Cruises baby, to the family. Oceania Cruises has a family program, so if
accommodations are available, Damien can bring his family onboard with him.
I’ve had the privilege of speaking with several officers and
crew members, and each one has been quick to tell me about Oceania Cruises’
commitment to family and to the happiness and well being of their staff. This is
just one more reason that Damien and his team are so dedicated to the happiness
of every guest onboard and to creating the warm, welcoming environment that makes
guests feel so comfortable and cared for. No wonder so many guests say that
each time they board an Oceania Cruises ship, it feels like coming home!