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Cruise Ships Provide Partners for Single Women

September 13, 1987|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

AT SEA — Robert Hoy is on his 18th cruise since 1985. He's aboard the Golden Odyssey in the South China Sea. Is he a millionaire who's footloose and fancy-free?

Hoy is quite good on his feet as a dancer, and he frequently spends four to six weeks at a time sailing the high seas, but a rich man he's not.

Hoy has one of the most enviable "jobs" of anyone you're likely to encounter--be it on a cruise ship or anywhere else. He's a host aboard the luxury vessels of the Royal Cruise Line. His duty is to serve as a dining, dancing and card-playing partner for women traveling alone.

Romances Discouraged

"Please don't call me a gigolo," says Hoy, adding that romantic relationships are strictly forbidden by the cruise line.

"If one of the ladies starts to get possessive," he says, "I tell her she'll have to see me after the cruise."

This sun-tanned gentleman of 58 with the wavy white hair doesn't want to jeopardize the deal he has. Hoy cruises without paying a penny for his passage, and he's even given credit at the ships' bars.

Hoy retired three years ago as a purchasing agent for Northrop's aircraft division. He was married for more than two decades before he became a widower 16 years ago, when his wife was killed in a car accident.

"I consider myself a pretty shy person," says Hoy of Los Angeles, "so I can sympathize with the single women who come on board and are nervous about socializing. We have a get-acquainted cocktail party for single passengers early in the voyage to help break the ice."

Suggested by Wife

Royal Cruise Line President Richard Revnes began the host program in 1982 at the suggestion of his wife. She noticed the frustration of unescorted women because there are so few single men aboard cruise ships to share the fun.

Beginning as a three-month promotion, the program was a remarkable success for the line and has continued ever since. On every sailing of the Golden Odyssey and her big sister, the Royal Odyssey, four to six hosts are on board to socialize with women 50 and older who are traveling alone.

Many of the women book subsequent voyages just because there are genial men who ask them to dance, join in as bridge partners or go along as company on shore excursions.

Knowing how to dance is a major requirement for being a host. Hoy took private and group dance lessons so he'd be familiar with all the steps.

"Ladies tell me they haven't danced in years, and that getting the chance to spin around a dance floor again is a highlight of their cruise," he says.

Always Well-Dressed

Hoy bought a black tuxedo, white dinner jacket and an extensive cruise wardrobe to fulfill the line's requirement that hosts dress appropriately and in good taste at all times. One thing he didn't have to buy was a ready smile, which hosts are encouraged to wear at all times.

About 200 men make up Royal Cruise Line's pool of hosts, but more will be needed when the company launches another ship in mid-1988. To qualify, prospects must be recommended to the line by a travel agency.

After applications and resumes are carefully screened, potential hosts are interviewed at company headquarters in San Francisco, sometimes by the cruise line president.

"We credit our hosts with making a happier cruise for single lady passengers," says Revnes, "and we don't want one bad apple to spoil the program."

Learn more about the line's host program from a travel agent or from Royal Cruise Line, One Maritime Plaza, Suite 660, San Francisco 94111.

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