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Ken Rush

Cruise Director

Ken Rush
Entertainment and activities are his forte. If you don't have anything to do, Ken Rush will certainly find something. From parties to parades, his day isn't done until he sees you smile. 

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Meet Cruise Director Gordon Whatman
When did you first know you wanted to be a cruise director?
I went on a cruise at 20 with my mom, dad, two sisters and two grandmothers. My parents thought working on a ship would be great for me since I was so outgoing and comfortable in front of a crowd.
How did you get started?
I spoke to the cruise director and he said I was too young. But I still applied and persisted. Two years later a new cruise director saw my application with "persistent young man" on it. He called me and asked if I'd be interested.
And that was convincing enough?
Not really. We met, and as he was closing the door I said, "I don't mean to sound bold, but you're not going to get anyone better than me. I'm going to work nonstop, 150% at everything I do. And one day, I'll have your job." He then said, "Okay, okay, we love your enthusiasm. We'll give you a call later." Sure enough, they called me that night and asked if I could start in a week.
Then what?
I worked my way up. I was a disc jockey, cruise staff, did shore excursions, and stage and production. Four years later I became a cruise director. At 26! Back then, that was a very young age to be a cruise director.
Are you satisfied with your career choice?
I tell people you either love or hate living at sea. As corny as it sounds, after 14 years, I still love what I do. I love waking up every day loving what I do.
You're a pretty popular guy. What sets you apart?
I put myself in the guest's shoes. Say, for instance, I'm in main seating and just finished dinner, what's there for me to do? By always putting myself in their shoes and trying to anticipate their needs, hopefully I'll give them some fun ways to figure it out.
So, if they don't have something to do, you'll find something?
Well, I want every guest to come to every single activity and event. I think our entertainment is out of this world, especially our ice shows. (See photo of ice shows above on bottom right.) But, cruising is all about doing whatever you want. If guests want to sit out by the pool and read a book all day, they can.
Is each cruise director responsible for creating his or her own programs for each ship?
I set up the foundation, then each cruise director builds on it and customizes it for what's appropriate for each cruise. Every cruise director should always be fine-tuning the activities and entertainment. I'm forever looking for ways to make the guest experience better. (See photo of Promenade Mardi Gras Parade above on the left.)
Who's on your staff?
My key people are the Adventure Ocean manager, the two stage and production managers and the assistant cruise director. They're my four right-hand people. Then I have the ice captain, the head bar technician, the dance captain, the sports supervisor, and the head stage staff. I have all these people who are specialists in their area. Anything entertainment and activities is my responsibility.
What's the best show?
I hate to say anything's the best since all the ships have amazing entertainment, but the newest ice show, "Ice Under the Big Top," is just incredible. We received our ratings for the show last week, and out of a perfect score of 300 we got 295.5. An all-time record!
Do you notice the difference between Crown & Anchor Society members versus first-timers?
The only way I know they're Crown & Anchor Society members is if I've cruised with them before. And so many of them remember me from other ships. Captain's Corner is a new activity, where guests ask the key members of the staff questions. At the end of a session, this one man stood up and said, "I don't have a question. I would like to say we've cruised with Ken Rush on four other ships and we're so happy he was on this one. It's the cruise director that makes your cruise, and we have the best one here. So I'm asking everyone to give him a big round of applause." It was the greatest compliment.
What's your favorite destination?
I really enjoyed Europe - Italy especially. I was actually able to trace my family there to a small town outside Messina. We had a family reunion. It was absolutely amazing.
What do you do in your off time while still onboard?
In the past year, I've really gotten into fitness. It's been a great way to relieve stress and it keeps me energetic.
What's your favorite part of the job?
Sometimes after I introduce a show, I'll step aside and watch the crowd's reaction. What I love the most is knowing people are happy, and that somehow something I did gave them that happiness.
How do you know when you've succeeded?
When guests walk off the ship with a smile on their face.
What's your most memorable story?
I was on Voyager and a lady came up to me at the end of the cruise and said, "Today would have been my 50th wedding anniversary. My husband died four years ago. I haven't smiled since, until I met you. I'm not kidding. You have put a smile back on my face."
That must have made your day.
How does that not make your life? How does that not prove I was put on this earth to make people happy someway, somehow?

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