Meet the Officer

Officer Q&A: Getting to know Marella Explorer’s Cruise Director

For my latest officer interview, I am pleased to introduce you to Matthew Shaw, Cruise Director on board Marella Explorer, part of the Marella Cruises fleet. If you’ve read my recent Marella Discovery ship review, you’ll know that I’ve been really impressed with Marella Cruises as a cruise line and I would love to sail with them in the future. Their entertainment receives rave reviews from guests, so it’s been great interviewing Matthew to find out more about his role as head of the entertainment team.

How long have you been working on cruise ships?

I began my career in 1997, ironically with Thomson Cruises as a lead vocalist on the Emerald. I have had the pleasure of working at sea, on and off for the last 20 years! Gosh I feel old saying that! My career has been very varied moving between theatre, TV and cruise ships, as a presenter and a lead vocalist.

How did your background lead you to becoming a Cruise Director?

In 2011 I completed what would become my final contract as lead vocalist with SAGA Cruises. The opportunity to become Assistant Cruise Director with SAGA then came out of nowhere, a role which gave me the chance to still sing. After 6 months in the role, management approached me to become their new Cruise Director. I remained with SAGA for the next 4 years before moving onto pastures new.

Matthew Shaw. Photo: TEDGroup
Matthew Shaw. Photo: TEDGroup

I’d love to hear more about your role – what would a typical day involve? Do you have time to go ashore?

Yes I have some time to go ashore depending on the cruise. My role is very fluid. My main role on-board is to oversee the whole entertainment operation while also remaining visible around the ship. I always strive to work on the floor with my team as much as possible because I think it’s important to lead from the front. I also host the main entertainment every night of the cruise. There isn’t a typical day on any cruise ship and that’s what makes it a dream job. Every day is different and every day we meet new guests.

You manage lots of people. How many are in your department overall and how do you balance your workload?

I am very lucky to have line managers that work closely with me, delivering the product successfully to their individual teams. In my department I have a show cast, technicians, musicians, entertainment hosts, photographers and the M Club; our children’s offering. All in all over 50 people!

What do you like most about being a Cruise Director?

In my opinion people come away from life at home to have good food, exceptional destinations and excellent entertainment. My team are the stars of the show and being in a position to be able to nurture people and lead, gives me the job satisfaction that I crave. I am very lucky to have had a career in this business for as long as I have had and feel so proud to be working with the talent that we have here now.

What challenges do you face on a daily basis?

There are never ever two days the same at sea and that’s what keeps you on your toes. From changes in the weather to changes in the demographic of our guests, we are constantly adapting the entertainment to suit every scenario.

Matthew Shaw. Photo: TEDGroup
Matthew Shaw. Photo: TEDGroup

What do you believe are the most important qualities you need to become a successful Cruise Director?

You need to be real. That’s the most important thing. Be yourself! Guests can see straight through you if you aren’t. When I first started off I thought that you had to be the character that was a Cruise Director. It takes years to get the hang of it and I realised very early on that people just want you to be you. Apart from that, be humble, approachable and always do as you want your team to do. Lead by example and get stuck in and graft. That’s the only way to gain the respect that you need from your team.

How far in advance do you plan the entertainment on board? What elements of the entertainment are organised by your head office?

I plan as far ahead as I can. I try and have a cruise ready to go at least two weeks before it, but I have to be always flexible with my expectations. I work for TEDGroup (The Entertainment Department), who supply the entertainment to the Explorer class of Marella ships and my head office team are fantastic! They create, produce and cast all of the Explorer Show Cast shows, book all of the fabulous guest acts and design our light entertainment. They are absolute specialists in entertainment and provide the most support that I have ever had at sea.

Have you met any celebrities while you’ve been at sea?

Oh yes!! I have been very lucky. Recently I have worked with the Overtones, Lisa Riley, Lulu, Honor Blackman, Russell Watson, Billy Ocean, Lesley Garrett, Anton Du Beke…to name a few!

What makes Marella Cruises entertainment stand out from other cruise lines?

On Marella Explorer we strive to give you fresh and imaginative West End quality shows.

Show cast. Photo: TEDGroup
Show cast and Matthew Shaw. Photo: TEDGroup

Do you have a favourite guest entertainer or performance you recommend others see?

All of the guest acts are great but I do have a few personal favourites…Tucker for example, a comic at the top of his game. The Harper Brothers…never fail to please. They’re fab. And Josh Adams….I love him…great vocals and top notch comedy. Gosh, I could go on.

Where do you call home and what do you like to do in your free time, when you are on leave?

Moreton, Wirral is home for me. It has been since I was 6 years old and always will be even if I keep travelling for years to come (fingers crossed). In my free time I like to do what all my family do. There is nothing better than nipping down the local for a game of pool with my Dad or putting my feet up and watching morning TV with Mum. And sleeping in past 8am!

Finally, what’s been your most memorable moment during your time at sea so far?

Being part of the launch team on the Marella Explorer by far. Marella are moving forward at a rapid rate and this ship is just the start. I am over the moon to be part of this amazing project and will find it hard handing the ship over in January 2019 when I go on leave. But…Explorer 2 is on the horizon and I’ll get to do it all over again.

Marella Explorer's theatre. Photo: Andrew McAlpine
Marella Explorer’s theatre. Photo: Andrew McAlpine

About Marella Cruises

  • Marella Cruises, formerly Thomson Cruises, is a British cruise line operated by TUI UK.
  • The British company are the third largest cruise line in the UK with six ships in the fleet: Marella Dream, Marella Celebration, Marella Discovery, Marella Discovery 2, Marella Spirit and the recently launched Marella Explorer.
  • The fleet has a varied itinerary, which takes in stops in Norway, Asia, North America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
  • The cruise line is well known for its excellent onboard entertainment and British style of cruising, which get outstanding reviews from passengers. It offers very good cruise packages – all tips and gratuities are inclusive of your fare.

About TEDGroup

TEDGroup hold the entertainment contract for the Explorer class of the Marella Cruises fleet. They have designed, produced and implemented a brand new, original and creative West End standard entertainment product and deploy staff to these class of ships.

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