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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

Royal Caribbean — No Gamble Here

Employees in the cruise industry know you can go from the bottom to the top if you play your cards right, and nobody knows that better than Dean Bailey.

He is part of the management team in Royal Caribbean, most recently as hotel director on Explorer of the Seas.

In the beginning, he was a casino dealer.

"It was either blind luck…or I wasn't very lucky at sea," laughs the personable British-born, 20-year cruise veteran. "I tell people I'm really a casino dealer masquerading as a hotel director."

The current CEO of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain, started as a purser.

"A great message for our employees," says Bailey. "The sky's the limit. From the 20 years I've been with the company, I can see that we rarely lose people."

Like so many who people work on cruise ships, Dean Bailey's story is interesting, perhaps even fascinating. And like so many, he's in a time and a place that as a 20s-something he could never have imagined he'd be.

When he was just six, Dean was told he was destined to be a gambler.

"I used to know every card game," he says. "I never have been a big gambler, but I knew the mathematics…the strategy…and I guess I was that good it was logical to say I'd probably be a professional gambler."

Young and single, he and a buddy were looking for work in the remote parts of the world because "most casino workers like to go traveling" and they wound up with two geographical choices — Eastern Europe or the Bahamas.

"I was thinking that Eastern Europe was cold and I couldn't speak the language…Bahamas, sun and sea and sand…sold to the man in the white suit!" he explains Bailey, who was hired by Royal Caribbean after acing a "table test." in his interview. "The woman who hired me said I had all the skills and then she asked me "Why should I hire you?' And I said: 'Because I love people and I have a great smile!'"

His first was Legend of the Seas. Between that and Explorer of the Seas, his personal armada of ships has taken him from Vladivostok to Vietnam and from New Jersey to New Zealand. When he returns from his 10-week vacation at the end of this month, it will be to Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami.

It really wasn't supposed to be that way.

"I was studying mechanical engineering and I only worked in a casino to take time off from engineering," he chuckles. "The same thing happened when I went to work on a ship — it was a time-out from getting on with my career."

His buddy went to Budapest. Ironically, today Dean Bailey lives in Budapest, but that's a story for another day.


Disney Dream
3 nights
August 29, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, Castaway Cay
Inside: $735
Cost per day: $245

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