Worker Profile: Assistant Public Relations Director

Mary McDowall is an assistant public relations director with Windstar Cruises. By nature she’s an outgoing person and has always looked for jobs that require interacting with people. When Mary realized she could combine traveling with her people skills, suddenly a shoreside job in the cruise industry made a lot of sense.

The irony of my current job is that it may have never happened. Originally, I submitted an application to work on a cruise ship, but the timing wasn’t right when they called me, and so I never ended up going. In hindsight, I realized that shoreside employment is more up my alley. As a public relations assistant director I still get the opportunity to travel but with the stability I want. Many people in corporate positions start out as reservation agents or tour operators; it tends to be a very common launching pad in this business. Convenience is the number one reason I chose to work a shoreside job instead on board a ship. I have the flexibility of living in the same city, yet I can experience travel without having to commit to it for long periods of time. All company employees receive one free cruise a year, on a standby basis.

But I’m not just limited to this one opportunity to travel. Two or three times a year I get to escort a group of people such as travel agents, media people, travel writers and editors, or wholesalers (tour operators). As the designated tour guide, I accompany my group around the ship and on offshore excursions, answering any questions they might have, pointing out details, giving tours of the ship, arranging interviews between them and the different crew members, basically selling the features of our company’s ships and package. Last year I went to Tahiti on one of these tours.

On a day-to-day basis, my public relations responsibilities can be broken down into four different categories: correspondence, administrative, editorial, and promotional. About 25 percent of my day is spent responding to incoming inquiries, whether it be from consumers, travel agents, writers, or the media. Another 25 percent is spent managing little details like scheduling appointments, setting up travel arrangements, and collecting port taxes from travel writers.

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