An Unlikely Home for Dean Bailey

Dean Bailey is from Great Britain, of Jamaican parents, lives in Hungary and spends his work days on the high seas in whatever country his Royal Caribbean ship is visiting. 

Home is Budapest, a city he once rejected as a place to live because of "cold weather' and "language."

So what took him to Budapest?

"A woman," he laughs.

The woman is Csilla Ali, who was born in Hungary, whom he met on a cruise ship in 1994 and who is the mother of their 10-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl. If Papa plans it properly, he can schedule his contracts to take ships around the worst of Eastern Europe's weather and he has become comfortable with the language. 

At least that's what he thinks.

"At first I thought that no one else speaks this language…maybe on Mars but nowhere else," he recalls. "Now my children speak Hungarian and I speak a little, which is of great amusement to them. In school, they study in English and Hungarian. My daughter — she thinks she's funny but she's really not — has my sense of humor. Occasionally she will speak to me in Hungarian and pretend she doesn't understand English…just so I'll speak Hungarian."

The language this personable hotel director speaks mostly is sports.

"I am nuts for sports," he says. "Any sport. I've probably seen every sports film that's ever been made. I play many, many sports."

And is a fan of many. Like his home "football" team, Birmingham City, which he says is "terrible, but they were in the Premiership for a fleeting moment two years ago and gave me hope." And the New York Knicks, because of Patrick Ewing, who was born in Jamaica and played 17 years in the NBA: "It broke my heart when Reggie Miller buried them in '95." And boxing, because of Colin McMillan, a British featherweight who briefly held the World Boxing Organization title. And baseball, because his understanding of its history was enhanced by a Navigator of the Seas theme cruise 11 years ago that featured Hall of Famers like Joe Morgan — "I didn't want that cruise to come to an end." And hockey, because of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and whatever teams they played for at the time.

"I follow players more than I follow teams," adds Bailey, who boxed, ran cross-country, played tennis and looks fit enough — after 20 years at sea — that he could still do all of them today.

Today his ambitions are modest.

"My only ambition in life is to be happy," he says. "I would throw money over the side of the ship and whatever came back I would save so maybe there will be something left over for my children. That makes me happy — as long as I do things that make me happy. There are four reasons why what I do makes me happy…the people, the people, the people and the people. Crew and guests."

And, of course, those special people who are the reason he lives in Budapest.

(Wayne Gretzky photo by Troy Parla)

Holland America Ryndam
7 nights
August 31, 2013
VeniceDubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Olympia, Nauplion. SantoriniAthens
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

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