October 19, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
Thank you for all your questions and comments, which have created some lively discussion this week. We are continually looking to develop this Blog and have some ideas (many of which have come from your comments on this Blog and at the on board Bloggers Get Togethers), that we’ll be looking to introduce when we can. As we approach our 100th Blog we are now posting twice a week (every Thursday and usually every Monday as well), and we’ll see how this goes. Thank you to Chris Cruickshank for his comment, and I would like to clarify that as much as I like to encourage younger people to sail with us on Cunard ships, I wouldn’t want to change our current guest profile in any way. Interestingly, as I mentioned to a journalist who is travelling with us on Queen Victoria this voyage, I think a guest who chooses Cunard is defined by the experience that that they wish to have as well as the expectation of quality they are looking for, rather than by age.
Here as promised is the long awaited opportunity to meet Cunard’s new Entertainment Director Paul O’Loughlin, who joined Queen Mary 2 in July. We let him settle in and find his feet before asking him for an interview, but as you’ll see from his background, he brings a wealth of experience to the job. I know many of you have already met Paul during his time on Queen Mary 2 and maybe before. I have known Paul for many years but unfortunately I’ve never worked with him, although we have handed over to one another on a few occasions and it’s always been a pleasure. So now it’s time to meet Cunard’s newest addition to the Entertainment Director Team.
Paul was born in Dublin, Ireland and spent his childhood in Oxford, England, where his family settled. He commenced his career at sea in 1980 after a fortunate evening that changed his life when the Director of Entertainment for a cruise line offered him a contract after seeing him perform. Later, Paul became an Entertainments Officer for the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company on board the legendary SS Canberra in 1981, and fell in love with life at sea. In 1982, he became an Assistant Cruise Director for Princess Cruises. He was swiftly promoted to Cruise Director in 1986 at the age of 24.
His life at sea has brought many unforgettable moments; he was Cruise Director on board the Pacific Princess for the July 7th 1987 celebration of the 150th anniversary of P&O at Greenwich, England. Paul was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Paul was also honoured to sail with President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. He treasures another special moment when he was introduced to Her Royal Highness Diana, the Princess of Wales at the naming ceremony of the Royal Princess.
He has hosted many celebrities and dignitaries as well as sharing a stage with Hollywood legends and Entertainers including Ginger Rogers, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Artie Shaw, Ben Vereen and Cleo Laine. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programmes over the years. He co-starred as an Entertainer in an episode of the American TV show “Loveboat – The Next Wave”. His career has spanned nearly 30 years and he has sailed on 27 different ships, seven of them new builds. The Entertainment Director’s day consists of around 12 hours of duties commencing recording live TV shows, meeting with the Executive Officers of the ship, contact with corporate office in Southampton, meeting with his own managers and staff, socialising with guests, as host with the Commodore, at cocktail parties and generally supervising the overall entertainment programme. Paul considers one of the proudest moments of his career was his appointment to the magnificent Queen Mary 2 to become a part of the greatest and most famous shipping line in the world.
Paul is married to Deborah, a former P&O/Princess Senior Nursing Officer. They live with their Shar Pei dog Harry in a delightful old fishing town called Whitby on the North East coast of England. He has many interests which include theatre, sport, music, long walks over the North Yorkshire Moors and looking for his ball on numerous golf courses.
Here’s Paul on the fantastic Queen Mary 2 Royal Court Theatre Stage.
And now here’s the interview:
How are you finding the role of Entertainment Director on Queen Mary 2?
It took me a journey of 30 years and 27 ships to make it to Queen Mary 2 and now I am here it is an absolute joy. The atmosphere on the ship is great and the teamwork with all the departments on board is very special. The Royal Court Theatre is a pleasure to work and heading up a team of 120 staff is a challenging and rewarding experience.
Before joining the company what did you know about Cunard?
I love maritime history and the rich heritage of Cunard Line has always been an interest of mine. Lunch has been a great part of my learning about Cunard. Over the years I have enjoyed being invited to lunch in ports all over the world on Cunard ships including the Cunard Countess, Cunard Princess, Caronia, Sagafjord, QE2 and Queen Mary 2. It is great to finally have lunch on a Cunarder that is moving!
What were your first impressions when you came on board and did anything surprise you?
Seeing so many old friends such as Commodore Warner, Hotel Manager David Stephenson, Senior Maitre D’ Beniamino Acler and many more. The elegance and grandeur of the Ship is the first impression you get when you step on board.
What has been the highlight for you, since joining Queen Mary 2?
Hosting Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra along with the Guest choir made for a memorable “Last night of the Cunard Proms”, interviewing Hollywood Actress Jane Russell, Director Baz Luhrmann, having a Martini with Barbara Streisand’s Manager of 40 years, Marty Erlichman. The magic of Queen Mary 2 is you never know who you are going to meet on a voyage or crossing. I even met one of my primary school teachers who amazingly recognised my name and enquired if I went to John Blandy Primary School. It was there as I child, I appeared in my first stage performance and got the show business bug.
What is the most frequent question you get asked – and what’s the answer?
“Where is Ray?” has been the most asked question since I have been on board Queen Mary 2. The other main one is “What are those sculptures at the front of the ship on deck 7? The answer is spare propeller blades but I tell the guests they’re the Commodore’s cufflinks!
What does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?
The spirit of the people of Cunard sums the expression up. The guests and everyone who works and is connected with the company have a pride and feeling of belonging to something very special.
What would be your favourite golden nugget of advice to guests coming on a voyage for the first time?
Embrace the rich history of Cunard Line and have some fun!
What is your ideal way of relaxing when you are on leave?
My wife Deborah and I love to walk with our dog Harry along the Yorkshire coastline and the Esk Valley. I love watching all sport and my favourite is Rugby, London Irish being my club. We spend as much time as we can with family and friends in Yorkshire, Oxford and Abingdon where I grew up. Being away at sea for so long I do not stray too far from home once I get there. My wife says I am like the Olympic flame…..I never go out!
What is your favourite quote and who said it?
No matter how successful or wealthy you become the success of your funeral will largely depend on the weather! (Author unknown). I take from that don’t worry too much and enjoy every minute of life!
Paul was kind enough to do this interview just before he left Queen Mary 2 last week so thank you so much Paul, and of course enjoy your leave. Paul will return to Queen Mary 2 in November, while Ray has a break before the World Voyage in January. Meanwhile I’ll be having a busy week of posting as I am looking forward to receiving reports from Peter Shanks (President and Managing Director of Cunard Line) who is on board Queen Mary 2 for her Around the British Isles Voyage. I’ll also have (at long last!) the video Blog interview with the TOGmeister himself, Terry Wogan on Thursday so please do keep logging on. Cheers Alastair