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Vicki Van Tassel brings a wealth of experience, bundles of energy, and a unique brand of comedy to her role as Crystal’s first female Cruise Director

Written by

Authoress Zoe Hearne

Zoe Hearne

Published on 04/18/2024

In the spotlight: Vicki is proud to be part of the Crystal team with its stellar reputation for entertainment

Vicki Van Tassel has enjoyed a stellar career as a performer. Originally from Colorado, she’s trodden the boards on Broadway and in Las Vegas and appeared on television, making a name for herself in the U.S. and abroad in musical theater, stand-up comedy and more. Now, in her role as Cruise Director on Crystal Symphony, she's dedicated to providing exceptional entertainment experiences on land and at sea.

“As Cruise Director, I am responsible for the ship’s entertainment and activities – I’m always ‘switched on’. I want to make sure that every guest has a big choice of activities. Even though most get off in port, some always remain onboard and it’s up to me to offer plenty of alternative options.

"At Crystal, there is so much for guests to do during the day. If you don’t want to go on a destination experience, there is the movie theater, dance, bridge and art classes, the golf cage, pickleball courts... I mean, have you any idea how popular pickleball is right now? And we had full-size courts on our ships long before the craze began.

“The art classes get very full – you don’t need to be a Picasso or a Van Gogh to attend. And if the sea gets rough, we just call it ‘modern art’ class. These classes become a real social gathering spot onboard, which leads to friendships being made.

“At the end of our shows, I tell guests about the following day's activities and events – or sometimes a challenging upcoming situation. I use my stand-up experience to bring light, vivacity, and hopefully some laughter to the situation. I want them to know “we get it”. For example, some ports require a lot of paperwork, which can be frustrating, so I’ll joke about it while at the same time managing guest expectations.

“I’m not going to pretend that something isn’t what it is or how would they know to trust me? People say to me: ‘You joke about what we're all thinking, and we love that. You bring levity to a challenging situation.’ That’s the best compliment anyone can give me. My job is to make guests feel comfortable and add a bit of cheerfulness. I am who I am, and I stay true to that – I think that’s what makes me fit our brand.

“Years ago, when a friend of mine got a job on Crystal, I said, “Oh man, how do I get that gig?” He told me positions such as Cruise Director are rare and highly coveted, so I didn’t pursue it. But an opportunity arose and here I am, breaking the glass ceiling and offering something new under the new management as Crystal’s first female Cruise Director. I feel very humble, I’m aware that I have big boots to fill.

“I’m starting on the ground floor with the new Crystal but there’s so much respect for the company’s legacy. Crystal has always had a stellar reputation for entertainment, it’s been and remains at the very top of the industry. I love the entertainment that Keith Cox and Michael Campagna are bringing on and am proud to be part of their team. The guests deserve my time and, being new to the company, I need to earn their trust. I’m always available to listen to guests.

“I draw on my experience to create something new on Crystal Symphony. I still get excited about going on stage every night after the wonderful shows. I’m grateful that I’ve been so well accepted since I arrived – the Hotel Director comes to every single one of the shows, he even stays for when I go over the next day’s activities for the guests. He never knows what I might say and that I might not know what I’m going to say either – which is always good for a laugh.

“I have always been a comedic actress. I grew up on a farm in Colorado, one of seven kids. Both my parents worked – my mom was the only female director in her company, so being a female trailblazer runs in the family. My dad was also in business, but after a day in the office he'd put on his overalls and milk the cows.

“A farm is all-consuming, there’s not much time for anything else. Case in point: when my sister went into labor, my dad told her: ‘You’ll need to wait … the cow won’t.’ Comedy helped us all get through life on the farm.

“My mother introduced me to the theater. She was an amazing singer and wanted us to be performers of some kind. My brother Fred was a fantastic actor and dancer – he's now an award-winning hairdresser for Broadway shows. One of my sisters is a singer and the other is a costume seamstress. The three others are pastors of different denominations – mom always considered them performers, too, I mean, they have a captive audience once a week, right?

My first job was impersonating Marilyn Monroe for a show in Japan in the 1990s. While there, I met a dance teacher who told me that I should move to New York if I wanted to do theater. So that's what I did and I started to pursue more comedic roles, first on stage and then as a stand-up. But even though I was having a lot of success, living and working in NYC is hard for performers, and when I was offered a chance to do a season in Las Vegas as Tanya in Mamma Mia! I was ready to go.

“Once in Vegas I had an epiphany – do I want to go back to NYC and stand in line with 300 other women, all talented, all beautiful, all up for the same role as me? Or would I like to go and see some more of the world? The universe was listening; the Musical Director for Mamma Mia! was working for luxury cruise ships and was preparing for a World Cruise. So, I went to him and said: “I’m going to do your World Cruise for you.” I’ve never looked back.

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