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It is with great excitement and pleasure that we introduce our new Cruise Director, Vicki Van Tassel. Sailing on Crystal Symphony, Vicki not only brings her unique brand of comedy to our ships but also a wealth of experience and vibrant energy.

Written by

Authoress Zoe Hearne

Zoe Hearne

Published on Invalid Date

Vicki Van Tassel's performing career speaks for itself: she has spanned all areas of the industry, making a name for herself in the U.S. and abroad in musical theater, stand-up comedy and television, and more. She’s known throughout both the entertainment and cruising industry for her passionate dedication to providing exceptional entertainment experiences on land and at sea.

I had the chance to chat with our newest and only female Cruise Director in the company.


Can you tell us a little bit about what responsibilities and challenges you face in your role?

As a Cruise Director, you are responsible for the ship’s entertainment and activities, and you’re always “switched on.” I want to make sure that any guest who is sailing on one of our ships has a lot of choices when it comes to activities. Even though the majority of guests may get off in port, there will always be some remaining on board and therefore, it’s up to me as Cruise Director to offer plenty of alternative options if that’s the case.

I’m so lucky here at Crystal as there is so much for guests to do during the day. If they don’t want to go on a destination experience, there is the movie theatre, dance classes, bridge classes, 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.

What are the benefits of having an exciting onboard program?

One of the things I love about Crystal is the creativity that's offered to guests – take the art classes for example. They get very full, but no one needs to be a Picasso or a Van Gogh to attend. And if the sea gets rough, we just call it a Modern Art class! Guests come along and the classes become a real social gathering spot onboard, which of course leads to friendships being made. That’s just one example but there are so many others.

How do you use your entertainment experience as a Cruise Director?

At the end of a performance when presenting to guests the following day's activities and events – or sometimes some very challenging upcoming situations, I pull from 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. Then how would they know to trust me? Many times, people have said to me, “You joke about what we're all thinking, and we love that. You bring levity to a challenging situation,” and to me, that is the best compliment anyone can give me. My job is to make guests feel comfortable and add a bit of cheerfulness to make everyone feel at home. I am who I am and I stay true to that. And I think that’s what makes me fit with our Brand.

What did you know about Crystal before you joined Crystal Symphony?

I remember, years ago, when a friend of mine got a job on Crystal and I said, “Oh man, how do I get that gig?” He told me positions as CD are rarely available 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 come very humbled to Crystal. I’m aware that I have big boots to fill. The company has a fantastic reputation in the industry both pre- and post-bankruptcy, but Manfredi Lefebvre would not have purchased Crystal if he didn’t think that it would succeed, and I mean, no one in the world knows luxury cruising better than him, right? And on top of that, there is A&K who deliver these exceptional experiences on land. Not forgetting the incredible crew who have nearly all returned – I think the number is around 80% and more return rate.

Many times, people have said to me, “You joke about what we're all thinking, and we love that. You bring levity to a challenging situation”

How have the crew and guests helped you settle into your new role?

I’ve already been lucky enough previously to work alongside Fernando (Barroso, Crystal’s World Cruise Ambassador). Fernando is a star in the industry and knows luxury. Both Fernando and I have backgrounds in different companies so we know cruising, but what has really stood out to me is how well-trained and welcoming the crew is. Perhaps this is down to the size of the ships, or maybe that the crew stay on the same vessel so they really take the time to get to know the guests, or who knows, but the crew is really exceptional. I mean, at the end of the day it’s the crew that bring guests back. I’m certain even with the new ships, Manfredi Lefebvre and Cristina Levis will make sure the new ships retain that family feeling.

The guests onboard deserve my time, and being new to the company, I need to earn their trust. I’m always available to listen to the guests at all timesI’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 always been at the very top of the industry and still is. I love the entertainment that Keith Cox and Michael Campagna are bringing on and am proud to be part of their team.

What has been the biggest difference between Crystal and your past experiences?

I love the ship size, the venues, and the layout, it’s amazing. I love that Crystal focuses on what happens onboard as well as on land. The destination experiences are some of the best in the industry, but let’s not forget that there’s so much time spent onboard too – I could just spend all day eating as the food is exceptional. With such a focus on entertainment, I get to bring my past experience and create something new on Crystal Symphony. I still get excited about going on stage every night after the wonderful shows. I’m so grateful that I’ve been so well accepted since I arrived- the Hotel Director comes to every single one of the shows supporting the team. He even stays for when I go over the next day’s activities for the guests. He never knows what I might say and also knows I might not know what I’m going to say either - which is always good for a laugh. I feel like we are a real team!

What influenced your journey into show business? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to the stage? 

It was my mother who introduced me to theater. She was an amazing singer and wanted us to be performers of some kind. My brother Fred was an amazing actor and dancer, and he’s now living in NYC and is an award-winning hairdresser for Broadway shows. The three others are pastors of different denominations. My mom always considered them performers too. I mean, they have a captive audience once a week, right? And you should have seen Thanksgiving! My whole family was in the business, one of my sisters was a singer and the other was an amazing costume seamstress.

I have always been a comedic actress. I grew up on a farm in Colorado, and that had its challenges. I come from a big family, with seven kids, and both my parents worked – my mom in fact was the only female director in her company, so being female trailblazers runs in the family. My dad was also in business, but then he would come home after a day in the office and take off his suit and tie, put on his overalls, and milk the cows. Being brought up on 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.” My father was hilarious, but I’m not sure my sister thought so. Comedy helped us all get through life on the farm.

What made you make the leap from stage to sea?

My first job was impersonating Marilyn Monroe for a show in Japan in the 1990s. It was in Tokyo that I met a dance teacher who told me that I should move to New York if I wanted to do theatre, which at the time I thought I did. I mean that was the dream, right? So, in around the mid-nineties, I moved to NYC and started to pursue more comedic roles, first on stage and then as a stand-up. But even though I’d been 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 get out of New York for a while. I had been going through a tough time with a lot of personal loss, and 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? As if the universe was listening, I got the word my musical Director for Mamma Mia! was working for luxury cruise ships and was preparing for a World Cruise. So, I went to him and I said, “I’m going to do your World Cruise for you.” I never looked back.

Vicki Van Tussel performing as Tanya in Mamma Mia! in Las Vegas 2006

What are you looking forward to in the future with Crystal?

The company is like a beautiful phoenix rising from its ashes. Of course, it will take time to get back to where we once were, but no one really expected Crystal to even come back after the bankruptcy, let alone to have returned to sailing in less than a year and a multi-million-dollar refit. I know some guests may be anxious about coming back due to the bankruptcy but the fact is that we’re here to stay now – and we are on fire! (not literally). The new builds will be kept to a family size which means that the ships will be able to retain that family-first feeling that makes Crystal stand head and shoulders above the rest. This is why I love it here, as that’s the atmosphere where I work best. Here at Crystal, it’s a community shared equally by all. I feel I’ve been welcomed into this very select club, and I’m so thankful.

I read a guest review somewhere that said Crystal is intact. And we’re only just getting started.

Join Vicki onboard Crystal Symphony until June 3, or from July 30 to October 14, 2024.

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