How does a river cruise differ from that of an ocean cruise, what’s the most enjoyable part of being on the river, and which itinerary would you advise guests not to miss? We ask Jana Pakstaitis to give us insight in what it’s like to be an Emerald Waterways Cruise Director...
1. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Estonia but moved to the UK at the age of 16. Over the last 10 years, I’ve lived in different countries until settling in Barcelona seven years ago.
2. How long have you worked for Emerald Waterways?
This is my third season.
3. How did you become a Cruise Director?
I was working as a researcher on an economic history project in pre-Revolutionary Russia and I spent months in the archives sieving through the personal papers and documents. One day, I had a eureka moment and decided that I would love to work in travel. And the rest is history!
4. What are your main responsibilities?
Organising the programme and making sure it runs smoothly. Buses, tour guides, excursions, daily programme, lectures, port talks, entertainment, etc. Looking after my guests and ensuring their well-being and enjoyment of the cruise.
5. What do you enjoy most about your job?
1. Being part of and helping create an unforgettable experience of a lifetime for someone. I had a guest last year who came to tell me at the end of the cruise that she woke up every morning on the ship and pinched herself to make sure she was not dreaming. To hear something like this makes me all gooey inside because my job allows me, in my own little way, to make a difference to people’s lives. It’s very rewarding to know that I help create positive memories for my guests that they may cherish for the rest of their lives!
2. Meeting fascinating people. Two years ago, I had an English gentleman on my cruise who was 96 years old and was as a Royal Air Force paratrooper in the WWII landings in Greece. There are few jobs out there where you can meet extraordinary people of different walks of life on a daily basis who are happy to share their stories.
6. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Lock closures and delays or high and low water. The things that can lead to the uncertainty of arriving in time for disembarkation.
7. Which is your favourite Emerald Waterways itinerary?
Sensations of Southern France.
8. Which included excursion from this itinerary would you advise guests don’t miss?
Beaune Hospices. It is probably the most fascinating historic hospital that I have ever been to. Not just because it has a collection of medical instruments that look like tortures devices, the hospital also boasts some of the most innovative architecture of the 15th century and was built by a man who was driven by financing a hospital for the poor.
Apart from the Hospices, the town itself is lovely. It’s the capital of Burgundian wine and has a myriad of quaint little shops and bakeries, typically and deliciously French. All in all, Beaune is definitely worth a visit and is in fact one of the cruise highlights.
9. How would you best explain the river cruising experience to someone who has never tried it?
A river cruise is a relaxing way of travelling without packing and unpacking. It is very soothing to glide on the water as compared to the oceans, as there are no rough seas and you can always see the shores on both sides of the ship. It is also a convenient way of seeing beautiful scenery, historic towns and villages, and big metropoles like Vienna or Lyon. And it is intimate, there are never more than 182 guests on-board, even fewer in France and Portugal, so you have a more personalised attention from the staff and you get to interact much more with your fellow travellers.
10. How do you relax while you’re on-board?
We have a crew mess where I go sometimes to talk to other crew members. Otherwise, I read and catch up on sleep. I try to schedule my workload so that I would have more time on land because then I like to go and explore the ports, to find some new cafes, museums or other interesting places and routes that I may then suggest to my future guests. They always appreciate little insider tips.
We’d like to thank Jana for taking part in Cruise Director Questions, and hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Emerald Waterways from a different view. If you’d like to find out more about our luxury river cruises, visit the homepage or call us today on 0808 159 8422 and our friendly team will be happy to help you.