Neil Kelly had worked as a deputy cruise director for four years when he was asked to be the cruise director for EasyCruise. Ready for the challenge, Kelly saw the latest enterprise from entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou as an ideal opportunity to tackle something different.
Kelly had been contacted by an intermediary on behalf of EasyGroup and was surprised when Stelios personally conducted his interview. "It was the company's personal touch that convinced me to make the move," said Kelly.
With just 170 passengers on board EasyCruiseOne compared with 3,000 passengers at his previous employer, Princess Cruises, Kelly has the luxury of "meeting and greeting" far more guests than before.
EasyCruise was launched in May 2005, which meant Kelly was the first person to fill the cruise director position at the company.
He enjoys the job's flexibility and varied responsibilities, which include being a representative for the owner, overseeing a crew of 54, assigning cabins, co-ordinating entertainment on board, creating passenger travel guides and dealing with complaints.
He admits that launching the new operation was stressful at times, but being part of a strong crew helped mitigate much of it, and Kelly and his team are now proud of what they have achieved with the fledgling business.
However, it could have been very different for Kelly. Ten years ago, in 1998, he had just gained a bachelor of education degree and was set on a career as a teacher, but an advert from Disney Cruise Line looking for qualified education graduates changed that.
Opting for something different, Kelly taught dance classes and ran games and quizzes aboard Disney cruise ships for a year.
"It was meant to be a year out, but eight years later I was still on that gap year," he says.
Kelly joined Royal Caribbean International in 1999 as a member of cruise staff, and despite a brief spell teaching primary school children at the end of 2000, he was back at sea by 2001 with Princess Cruises.
Now settled in his role, there's no time to take breath as Kelly is looking towards the company's next chapter: its first winter cruise in the Caribbean.