A Day in the Life of a: Tour Guide on a ‘Party Boat’

Total Croatia News

Working on a boat for island-hopping tours is not as easy as it seems.

Five years ago, I worked on an island-hopping boat for 18 – 30-somethings as a tour guide. It never took long for people to say – ‘wow you have the best job in the world.’

And, don’t get me wrong, it was a great gig.  I was 27 years old and my day-to-day job entailed swimming, having a beer in the sun, visiting beautiful destinations every day, hanging out on a boat, taking my groups to restaurants and bars every night as well as seeing every sunset…

I was lucky in the sense that the majority of my groups, were mid-twenties to early thirties, which meant they mostly all had a decent amount of life and travel experience. So, they weren’t fresh, or green so to speak; which meant I wasn’t dealing with a bunch of 18-year-olds, travelling on Daddy’s credit card who had no clue about the world.

But, there is still a lot more to being a guide, even on a so-called ‘party boat’, than most people realise. Besides the damage to my liver, it is patience and a strong sense of humour that is needed in this role.

A guide wears many ‘hats’ so to speak. Check out this video for a small taste

When I watched this short video, I did have a little giggle and it made me reminisce, but I also thought, it misses a few points and is definitely a mild-mannered version of a ‘day in the life of a boat-rep’. So here are a few more in no particular order…


As a guide, you are naturally expected to know about the area, history and destinations. However, the questions thrown your way are so much more than this. I worked at sea for five years and guaranteed I could work another five and still be asked something new. From the flora and fauna, water-depths and temperatures, to history, architecture, geology… There is not one subject I haven’t been asked about.

What is the lifespan of a bluefin tuna, how many types of flowers does this island have, what is the water-depth right now, when was the lightbulb invented?…

Of course, some questions are relevant and interesting, so you would make a point of going away to research the answer and add it to your repertoire of useful (or useless?) information. Others, not so much, but you learned to be quick on your feet with wit or charm.


Being in a position of leading people, it is natural I guess that they look to you for more… I have had people tell me their deepest, darkest secrets, share their life goals, romantic stories or dramas, personal struggles…

This side I did enjoy. You learn to listen. But, most of all I learned that we are all so similar, we all have our hopes our dreams and our struggles, and we are all just trying to navigate through this strange thing called life. After one week together on a boat, I would feel closer to some people, than after knowing colleagues or acquaintances for months.


I was always up for showing my groups there is more to Croatia than sun, sea and clubs – so I would promote rafting, hiking to the tops of fortresses, biking around… anything to get them to see Croatia from a new perspective, which also meant me leading the way.


This aspect was quite entertaining. In the past, I doubt that anyone would have called me a mother-figure, but in this role, that’s kinda what it turned into. I would find myself saying things like – make sure you drink enough water, are you wearing sunscreen, don’t leave your clothes there they could blow-away, don’t jump off that you might hurt yourself, don’t come into the salon wet, be careful on these steps, they are slippery…

Wow, when I write it all down, I do sound like a nagging-mum and by end of most weeks, my groups were either calling me Mum or Boss. But, the fact is, while everyone on tour is an adult, I still felt responsible for the safety and well-being of every, single, person.


I should really have started charging for this. Being the one in charge, people looked to me to take all group photos. And, after so many weeks touring the Adriatic, I knew the perfect photo opportunities and locations; I was the one stopping people to say – hey, wait, stand there and look that way…


Ever seen someone walk into a room and just light it up with their energy? It is amazing the influence one person can have on the people around them. Not to big myself up, but when you are a ‘leader’ as such, people do look to you to set the tone. You learn to not only read the vibe, but lift it up – with music, games, a story… So, when I say “entertainer”, I don’t mean like – ‘dance monkey dance’, I mean tour guides, get extremely good at making everyone feel comfortable, bringing a group of strangers together and bringing out the best in others.


There is a weekly itinerary and daily schedule for an island-hopping tour and it goes something like – sail – swim-stop – lunch – swim-stop – arrival at destination – walking tour – free-time – dinner – bar – club.

It is a similar pattern every day, yet you still need to explain it to everyone and answer the same question 30 times over. You also book the guided tours, extra excursions, restaurants, communicate with the Captain and crew daily – what time are we leaving, arriving, what time is lunch… you coordinate everything and somehow herd thirty (potentially drunk), 20-something year-olds from place to place. Not always as easy as it looks.


People come to show you every scratch, bruise or a weird rash they get, expecting that you will have the answers and, after a few tours, you normally do – ice, plaster, aloe vera, drink water, hospital! I have even spent an entire morning getting sea urchin needles out of someone’s foot.


OK, it has to be said, there is a lot of drinking. Everyone looks to you to get the party started, it is almost impossible to avoid going a day without one alcoholic beverage. Then, there are the destinations. Being that you are in the same bars and clubs every night, the staff get to know you, so everyone wants to give you shots. Your body adjusts quickly and now, looking back – the amount of alcohol I could consume by the end of the season is scary. I would have given Frank the Tank a run for his money.


Not quite the same as ‘entertainer’, this may not happen on every boat, but on the boat I worked on, we had two themed parties per week. One was always a pirate party (original I know) and the other was a ‘trash bag party’ (which I cringe about now because of plastic pollution) – where there was a new theme every week and the guests had to make an outfit out of trash bags for the evening. I would plan and organise the theme, games and sometimes there was even a talent-contest section… it all sounds a little cheesy, but the fact is, everyone loves a good dress-up party and it was always a great night for getting the group to bond as a whole (I won’t talk about other bonding).

There were also the days when the weather wasn’t so great, so to keep everyone entertained, you need to think on your feet – like organising an on-boat wine & cheese tasting, poker tournament or even a sports tournament.


I have done a training session for budding new tour guides before, and one of my sections was titled ‘Expect the Unexpected’. There are so many issues that can arise when you combine 30-strangers + a boat + travel + alcohol… There are certain things you may expect – someone losing their luggage or wallet, getting drunk and passing out, missing the boat (the boats normally depart at 6 am), then there are things that you would never expect in a million years – like someone lighting himself on fire for a talent contest… You learn to respond, rather than react and think outside the box for solutions. Above all, you learn to keep your cool, when everything turns to s***.


I could easily write a novel on my experiences from my time as a guide on a boat (and I just might), and these are just some of the roles and situations that can arise in a single day for a guide on a boat. I did love it, I made lasting memories and connections and for a point in time, it was a dream job. But, there is so much more than most people realise; it is not for everyone and it is definitely not a forever-job (no one’s liver would survive that long).

For more on these subjects, why not head over and like the Total Croatia Sailing Facebook page to stay up-to-date.


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