04 Jan LIFE AFTER SHIPS: INTERVIEW WITH SPA DIRECTOR – ALAN NAVARRETE
Growing up in Mazatlán, Mexico, Alan Navarrete yearned to experience life outside of the tourist-y, beach community. When a friend told him that cruise ships hire employees he immediately sent in his application. Armed with a degree in corporate law from International University of La Paz, he dove deep into his love for global cultures – and cross-cultural communications – and accepted a job as Spa Director for Canyon Ranch Spa Club onboard Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. He stayed in that position for three years.
Fast forward a few years later and he’s at the helm of the 10,000-square-foot Auriga Spa at Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which Travel + Leisure readers named among the top-five hotel spas in Mexico earlier this year. It’s a luxury property in the touristy region, and has brought Navarette full-circle, back to his home country but armed with knowledge of spa therapies worldwide, thanks to the cruise career he once held. As Spa Director, Navarrete first joined the resort in 2009 as its Assistant Spa Director, to assist with the opening, and returned earlier this year.
What were your initial career aspirations?
I wanted to be a diplomat and travel around the world, promoting Mexican culture and learning from other cultures.
What was your professional experience prior to joining cruise ships?
I worked as a Spa Manager at Hilton Los Cabos for almost four years.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the cruise industry?
I am very passionate about spas, and other cultures that have created unique massage therapies, working with staff and guests from all over the world, and traveling to new and exciting places. It was the perfect opportunity to grow and learn in my field of expertise and, in general, as a person.
What position(s) did you hold while working onboard ships?
I was a Spa Director for Canyon Ranch Spa Club onboard Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. As a Spa Director you have to be knowledgeable and certified to provide massage services in case a staff member is injured or has to debark sooner.
What did you enjoy most about working onboard cruise ships?
The fun of being the unofficial “translator” among so many different accents. Since English is not my first language you quickly develop a sixth sense of what someone is trying to say.
What did you find most challenging about working onboard?
Being away from friends and family, and longing so much for a land-spa project to develop that I could feel was mine.
What is one of your favorite memories working onboard?
Giving a massage to a 90-year-old woman. She was the sweetest I have ever met, and she said it was the best massage she have ever received. It reminded me of why I fell so in love with the spa industry from the get-go: providing health to others. The experience is something I will never never forget.
What skills did you develop while working on ships that lead you to where you are today? Experiencing different spas from all over the world, and discovering new massage techniques and rituals. Also, to work with staff and guests from various cultures opens your mind to so many ways of thinking and perceiving the spa industry all over the world.
What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in the cruise industry?
Be ready to experience – without any preconceived concepts or established life rules – as you will be living many cultural differences which will make you a more humble and tolerant human being and a well-prepared and more well-rounded working professional.
Prepare to miss family, but do not let that get in the way of fully enjoying the experience as you will create friends for life from all over the world, that you will treasure even when you are not on ships anymore. Professionally, it is an amazing work experience.
As Spa Director what would you consider the most fascinating aspect of your current role?
Being able to identify and apply all the little details of my rich Mexican culture in our guest spa experiences, because when you have traveled and discovered other cultures, you learn to appreciate and share your own.