May 12, 2011
We Are Cunard
Hello everybody – I trust you are keeping well. Greetings from North America – I have been on the West Coast for a few days meeting with our Cunard North America Sales Team. North America remains a very important place for Cunard, where we have many regular and valued guests. It is always good for me to spend time with our Sales Team – they provide me with ideas and feedback both from our guests and Travel Agents in North America. I was encouraging them to read our We Are Cunard Blog as it keeps them in touch with what we are up to and how the ships are doing. Talking of ships – they are all doing well. As I write, Queen Mary 2 is mid-Atlantic – and much excitement on board as we have some exciting and different entertainment on board this week – ‘Who’ I hear you ask – well that’s a clue and you will read about it here next week. Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are settling nicely into their European season. I will be sailing on Queen Victoria for a couple of days soon – looking forward to that and will let you know what I find.
Today we want to introduce you to our new Entertainment Director on board Queen Victoria. Keith is very much enjoying his first experience with Cunard – and from the feedback we have had from guests so far he has got off to an excellent start. I hope you enjoy reading more about him – and that you are able to meet him personally next time you are on board.
Before that – I have a fun picture to show you. Imagine what it would look like on approach to an airport runway from the bridge of Queen Mary 2 – well let me show you;
How did we do that I hear you ask. Well as Queen Mary 2 sailed up the Elbe River to Hamburg last week, they sailed past the massive Airbus factory – and they have their own runway (I guess if you build planes then you need your own runway). Captain Paul Wright took this picture from the bridge and sent it to me. It was taken from the side window of the bridge on Queen Mary 2 – but the perspective really looks as though Paul is about to land the ship on a runway – now that would have been quite a story.
So – over to Keith;
Congratulations on your permanent appointment as Entertainment Director; how have your first few months gone on board Queen Victoria?
Thank you! Well I must admit it’s been a fantastic roller coaster ride so far – Cunard does things very differently to other companies and it’s been a revelation to become part of such a dedicated and professional team. From my initial awe at first stepping on board Queen Elizabeth in December and then joining Queen Victoria 6 days later in Southampton to the present where I still occasionally pinch myself just to make sure that this isn’t all a dream. Queen Victoria is such a beautiful ship. I am surrounded by reminders of the Golden age of the transatlantic liners, pictures of these amazing Leviathans of the sea and the stars that became synonymous with them! I walk out onto the stage in the Royal Court Theatre and I could be anywhere in the West End or Broadway! But most of all I’ve loved meeting so many wonderful guests – people from all over the world who have had so many stories to tell of their past voyages on the Queens. As you can probably tell – I am very happy!
What did you know about Cunard before you joined Queen Victoria?
Funnily enough in the year leading up to me joining Cunard I had started to read extensively on the history of the great Ocean Liners. I think I had reached that point in my career where I had decided I was going to stay at sea rather than just saying, ‘well I’ll do one more contract and then I’ll move on’. Of course you can’t research or read about Ocean Liners and not be captivated by the wealth of history Cunard enjoys as one of the original pioneers of the industry. Discovering that throughout its 171 year history Cunard has been involved in almost every major world event, from the invention of the first Marconi wireless sets on the Lucania to Churchill’s belief that Queen Mary and Elizabeth singlehandedly shortened WWII by at least a year, I became enthralled with a company that for me represented some much needed national pride.
Having been at sea some years now how does it feel joining the Cunard family?
I feel a little like the prodigal son. Such is the welcome I have received. I feel totally at home now and can honestly not imagine working anywhere else! There really is a genuine team spirit on here and you know that all you need to do is ask and people are almost queuing up to help!
What have been some of the highlights during your career at sea?
Well I started back in 2000 and was lucky enough to be a part of the famous World Cup Cruise where for the first time since 1966 the entire English Football team meet up and spent two weeks aboard the M/S Sundream. I introduced the likes of Jack Charlton and Sir Jeff Hurst onto the stage and chatted at length with Nobby Stiles and Gordon Banks and the lovely Alan Ball. I’ve still got a wonderful picture at home of me holding the world cup surrounded by the team! Of course nothing quite compares with my most recent highlight – sailing out of New York for the first time as part of the historic royal rendezvous of the three Queens! To stand there in the freezing winter night air with Queen Mary 2 ahead, Queen Elizabeth behind, the Empire State Building lit up in Cunard Red and the fireworks exploding all around it was a moment I will truly treasure forever!
Although you are still fairly new to the company, what does “We Are Cunard” mean to you?
If I was to sum it up in one phrase it means ‘we are here for you’. And in saying that I make no distinction between guests and employees. Never have I known a company put so much effort into looking after everyone on board. Cunard is never happy complying with the base line or the bare minimum – we strive to set an example to the rest of the industry about how things should be done.
What would be your favourite golden nugget of advice to guests coming on a voyage for the first time?
Bring two sizes of clothing – one for the start and some slightly larger more comfortable fitting garments for the final few days…the food is incredible and there’s so much of it!
What is your ideal way of relaxing when you are on leave?
I ride my motorbike around the UK visiting friends and family. Currently I own a BMW1200GS which is sitting in my brother’s garage. My mum used to take me to school on a motorbike (much to my horror at the time) and both my brothers ride Motorbikes so you could say it’s a family calling – rather like their vocations –as both my father and two of my brothers are vicars and my sister is a missionary! I suppose you could be forgiven for thinking that I am the black sheep of the family – the one who ran away to sea!
When I am not spending time on the open road relishing Britain’s beautiful countryside I like to travel to some of the more remote areas of the world. I’ve been lucky enough to backpack around India, Thailand & more recently Cambodia where I was awe-struck by the majesty & splendor of Ankor Wat!
I am also a keen Scuba Diver and adore the chance to explore our amazing ports of call from under the water. My last dive was in Bonaire with the Chief Engineer Ronnie Keir. It was right in front of the ship so we had a chance to inspect the hull – I am happy to report that everything looked in good working order!!
In June I have booked to go back out to Thailand with my friend Gun Sukwanna who is the social hostess on Queen Mary 2. Our plan is simple – fly to Bangkok – buy a map of Thailand – and randomly point at a spot on the map (blindfolded) and then well…. who knows!
Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
I have always wanted to meet the Dalai Lama and in a similar vein travel to Tibet. I would also love to ride an old Enfield Bullet across India and into Nepal – oh and one day I need to dive the Galapagos Islands!
Career wise though I have always wanted to be a TV Presenter – I got very close a couple of years ago when I got down to the last two for the BBC’s search for a new CBBC presenter. In the end the producer of CBBC rang me and told me that it had taken them over a week to decide but that they chose the other chap because he had blond hair which was more of a contrast to the rest of the presenters! It was the first and only time in my life I wished I had been born blond!!!
What is your favourite quote and who said it?
‘Beauty is in the heart of the beholder’. HG Wells
It is marvellous to read how enthusiastic Keith is – and I am sure he has a bright future with us and hopefully many of you will be able to meet with him in the future. He joins the list of Cunard Entertainment Legends – none more of a legend that the ‘James Bond’ of the Cruise Industry our very own Queen Mary 2 Entertainment Director Ray Rouse.
That’s all for now – back soon with a lovely story about ‘War Brides’ and the answer as to exactly ‘Who’ is travelling on Queen Mary 2 this week. Any guesses?