It was the winter of 1978 when Cruise Director Dottie Kulasa took her very first cruise, trading Pennsylvania’s harsh winter weather for the balmy Caribbean. As the ship sailed to San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and other ports throughout the Caribbean, Dottie knew she was hooked. She remembers watching the staff during the voyage and thinking, “I can do this.”
Following her graduation from college, Dottie went into public relations in Pittsburgh, eventually becoming the Director of Public Relations for McKeesport Hospital where she worked for seven years. During this period in her life, every vacation Dottie took was a cruise. Nearly ten years after her very first cruise, she began her career at sea in 1988. In fact, this spring marks Dottie’s 27th anniversary at sea, and all of these years later, she says she enjoys her role now more than ever.
“Here at Oceania Cruises, I am so engaged with the guests and we are blessed to have wonderful, appreciative guests,” Dottie said. “I love being the spark that allows them to relax and have a wonderful vacation.”
Dottie’s life at sea is also what led her to meet her husband, stand-up comedian Tom Drake, nearly 19 years ago aboard a ship. They worked together for about three years before getting married, and still enjoy traveling and working together since Tom is a comedian for Oceania Cruises.
“Of course, being married to a comedian means I am the subject of a few of Tom’s jokes but they are all in good fun,” Dottie said. “He is constantly adding new material to his show and all of it is tested out on me…he makes me laugh all the time!”
As Cruise Director, Dottie is at the center of activities aboard the ship and has had her share of memorable moments on board – some of which have a way of returning again and again. One such memory was aboard Nautica when in port at Salalah, Oman in 2011. Dottie recalls how they had a special deck party called “Sheik, Rattle & Roll Deck Party,” and that guests were encouraged to buy a traditional outfit in one of our ports of call.
“To our amazement, the majority of the guests arrived dressed in traditional outfits,” Dottie said. But even more remarkable, now years later, two of these guests on a recent voyage pulled up the photos they had taken at the party to show Dottie.
After traveling throughout the world for all of these years, Dottie also has some distinct favorites when it comes to destinations. She loves the markets of Shanghai and enjoys doing her holiday shopping there, while Edinburgh is one of those rare travel discoveries for Dottie that enchants with its haunting familiarity.
“This might sound strange but in another life I know I lived in the Edinburgh Castle,” Dottie said, laughing. “I feel as if I were once a handmaiden there.”
“I just love the romance of Venice and the food,” she said. “I’ll never tire of sailing into Venice.”
In fact, Dottie looks forward to visiting The Floating City once again this autumn aboard Marina, continuing her fascinating life at sea.