Amy Fickert is proof that dream jobs are still out there for the taking.
A couple of years ago, the Oak Harbor High School graduate was working as an employee activities director for Aramark in Alaska’s Denali National Park in Alaska when a cruise ship job opportunity crossed her path via a friend.
Now, the 28-year-old touts the title of cruise ship director aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Radiance of the Seas navigating through Australian and New Zealand waters. She recently transferred there after a stint aboard the Oasis of the Seas, which frequents ports in the Caribbean and Western Europe. Her daily duties include assisting passengers numbering up to 6,000 and coordinating entertainment staff.
|Oak Harbor grad Amy Fickert with a kangaroo in Australia.|
Trips at sea can last four to six months at a time, and often, there is less than a few hours turnaround time between voyages.
She calls on her thespian and cheerleading background from her high school days to stay energized. She keeps her days in line with management skills honed in the communications program at Wittenberg College.
She admits, however, no one thing can fully prepare someone for a job like this. “There’s no land-based position that’s comparable,” she said. “I’m the face of the cruise. I host on the stage, host a television show every day, coordinate theme days. I’m out there with the people every day.”
Her days are filled with low moments and lots of highs. Every day brings new challenges, she said. “It’s a lot harder than I first thought. I do put a lot of miles on daily, walking the ship.”
The job also requires oversight of 75 employees – down from 210 aboard the Oasis. “There’s a lot of diversity – among employees and the customers,” she said.
And what does the Ohio native do in the downtime she has aboard the ship? Because she kicks into action around 6 a.m. and runs past midnight most nights, there’s very little free time, but when it happens, Fickert has a plan.
“I sleep as much as I can. I’m the queen of naps. I can sleep anywhere,” she said, laughing.
The vast experiences available from this job are not lost on her either. “I’m glad I can travel and do this while I am young and don’t have a family – that’s the best part of my job. I am able to travel around the world for basically free. The worst is being away from your family.”
Many of her co-workers are parents who spend up to eight months at a time away from their families to earn a living. “I don’t think I could do that,” she said.
She met someone aboard ship and they are lucky enough to have schedules in sync with one another – for now. He traveled with her to Ohio this March and April.
As to how she became so comfortable on the water for such lengthy jaunts, she looks to her dad, Jon Fickert of Oak Harbor, who inspired her love of the water at an early age. Boating, fishing and water skiing off the shores of Lake Erie became second nature as soon as they were old enough, she recalled. “I remember being 6 or 7 and he had me in the water with big flippers – bright orange flippers.”
“She’s always been pretty adventurous,” her dad said. “She goes all over the place.”
After months at sea, Fickert earns one or two months off. She flies home to visit her parents (her mother lives in Springfield, Ohio) then often travels across the nation and internationally, filling her vacation days with as much activity as possible. Her most recent vacation this March and April included trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas and Hawaii. During her Vegas trip she met up with an old high school buddy now living in North Carolina to enjoy quality “girl time.”
“She works hard and plays even harder,” her dad affirmed.
Over the past few years, the cruise ship industry has felt the economic blows of major bad publicity. Customers smitten with mysterious illnesses and vessels left idled by troubled engines filled the nightly news casts. The cruise director takes the complaints in stride.
“If we didn’t do something because we heard a bad review, we wouldn’t leave our house,” she said, adding the publicity of those few bad situations overshadows the safety record of thousands of other trips made annually.
“There are thousands, millions of favorable experiences aboard ship that go unpublicized,” she said.
“We have 6,000 guests every week. Our company has 20 ships. They just celebrated their 50th million guest in 2013,” she said of the Royal Caribbean line, which began operation in 1970.
This summer her dad and brother, Johnny, an outdoors writer, will be among the guests.
“I’m really looking forward to spending time with them aboard ship,” Fickert said.