MEET THE OFFICERS: Marina General Manager Damien LaCroix
Of the many wonderful things I get to do in my role as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, one of my favorites is getting to know the warm and generous officers and crew. From everything I see, hear and experience, the sense of family that the staff creates is one of the main reasons Oceania Cruises has so many loyal and returning guests.
On a recent cruise, I had the great pleasure of meeting Damien LaCroix, who has been a part of the Oceania Cruises family for eight years. Though his official title is General Manager onboard Marina, Damien considers himself a conductor, and after watching him “perform,” it’s obvious he can hold a baton with the best. When Damien is in charge the show flows seamlessly. Indeed, one might be tempted to think that his job is easy, given how effortlessly things unfold.
Originally from Lyon, France, Damien started with Renaissance Cruises. It was a good product but not upscale. He left Renaissance and joined a luxury resort in French Polynesia. It was there that Damien first got a call from Oceania Cruises asking him to come aboard. At first he resisted, because he didn’t want to leave the elegant atmosphere of the resort.
Oceania Cruises coaxed him into visiting one of the ships. He was immediately impressed with the ship and its focus of fine cuisine – the elegance, the presentation and the quality of service. He knew he could be happy in this environment. So in 2004 he accepted a position as Food and Beverage Director, and in 2007 he was promoted to General Manager.
Onboard Marina, he says there is never a typical day. Each day begins with a ship inspection, followed by a meeting with department heads. But after that, it is Damien’s job to be prepared for anything. While there is always a plan for what the day should look like, changes inevitably arise. Something as simple as the weather can present a logistical challenge, because on a rainy day the outside venues aren’t used, and the inside venues are all much busier.
Listening to Damien talk and watching him work, he thrives on handling the unexpected. He told a story about when cruises first began originating in China years ago. Guests had arrived for their cruise and were scheduled to embark at 11 am, but authorities delayed embarkation. Damien didn’t want guests to spend precious vacation hours just milling about the cruise terminal, so he quickly pulled the crew together to organize activities and provide food and drink.
Damien is quick to credit the wonderful people working with him for helping make each day a success. It is clear that the reason Oceania Cruises feels like a home away from home for guests is that it is a home away from home for staff as well. There is a real sense of family within the organization that is easily passed on to guests. Damien can often be found entertaining guests, who clearly enjoy his company, as he hosts cocktail parties or tables for dinner.
Choosing a favorite port of call from the vast array of wonderful destinations is tough for Damien. He enjoys Venice and Buenos Aires because ships often stay overnight there, and he can spend an evening exploring and enjoying dinner ashore. He thinks Santorini and Rhodes are gorgeous. And because he worked in Vietnam for three years, he loves stops in East Asia where he still has favorite places he likes to visit.
Of course the best part of working for Oceania Cruises is that it is where he met his wife Jackie, a cruise director. Since both he and Jackie work for Oceania Cruises, they know the lifestyle and enjoy the months of time off they have together. They recently welcomed Elise, the newest Oceania Cruises baby, to the family. Oceania Cruises has a family program, so if accommodations are available, Damien can bring his family onboard with him.
I’ve had the privilege of speaking with several officers and crew members, and each one has been quick to tell me about Oceania Cruises’ commitment to family and to the happiness and well being of their staff. This is just one more reason that Damien and his team are so dedicated to the happiness of every guest onboard and to creating the warm, welcoming environment that makes guests feel so comfortable and cared for. No wonder so many guests say that each time they board an Oceania Cruises ship, it feels like coming home!