Tony is originally from London, although he now lives in Newcastle, the north east of England. He has had a varied career beginning as a medical research scientist having 4 scientific papers published before starting out for a career in medicine. After he qualified as a Pharmacologist his life changed when, in 1983 he starred in the Song For Europe Contest for BBC TV.
After this dramatic change of career he attended the highly rated Sylvia Young Theatre School in London’s West End where he honed his art and has subsequently starred in many shows including Godspell, Gilbert and Sullivan and the Rocky Horror Show.
Tony is proud to have been the singing voice of the world’s number 1 toy: ‘My Little Pony’! He is a certified SCUBA Master Diver and Fenced (foil) for his University. He was thrilled to have been appointed a ‘Justice Of The Peace’ in 1999 (now retired) and went back to university to study Law before graduating (summa cum laude) in Science and Education and going on to teach High School Science for a while. In 2010 he had a #6 hit single in the UK Gospel Chart.
During all this, he continued to tour the world as featured Guest Entertainer for a variety of cruise companies including Sun Cruises, Cunard, P&O, Seabourn (where he was crucially involved in the infamous “Pirate Incident”!) before moving to Cruise Director in 2005. He is now proud to call Azamara Club Cruises his home. His new CD “I’d Rather Be Sailing” is available on itunes.
How do the experiences offered at Azamara Club Cruises provide guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of the areas you sail?
We have a proud partnership with Compass Speakers who provide world class enrichment speakers for all of our itineraries. These provide a good mix of historical, political & social aspects of the areas we visit. We also try our best to bring on local folkloric cultural entertainment on as many itineraries as possible. Azamara also has a unique opportunity in Cruising with our AzAmazing Evenings. These are bespoke complimentary evening shore excursions where the entire ship (600+) are invited to a shoreside venue such as Ephesus & they experience local drinks, snacks and local cultural entertainment. However, our biggest plus is that we are small enough to get to ports few other vessels can such as docking in the heart of Seville or a 3 minute walk from the center of Saigon.
How has the job of being a cruise director changed since you started?
WOW! I have been at sea for 28 years although only cruise director for 11. I started out as a guest entertainer singing with my wife Christine as a duo. There are SO many aspects that are different nowadays. From the physical attributes of a ship with all the technology we have to hand as well as the expectations and ability to deliver a 5* product that simply was not possible all those years ago. I am fortunate that I came from Seabourn so had great 5* training but my team & I are now able to respond almost instantly to a guest request & if it involves shoreside support they are only a satellite call or e mail away.
HOWEVER … it also means guests no longer “vacate”… until the early 90’s guests would come away for a week or two & forget all about work. For those in high stress jobs this was imperative. Today, I have yet to meet a guest who does not use their cell phone or email (home or business) regularly and insist they “cannot possibly survive without this contact.” I wonder how they did in years past. A shame really.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
On Azamara we have Attention to detail cards (ATDs) which are kind of mini comment cards that go out on day 3 or 4. This allows us to pick up any issues that a guest may have and respond immediately, often without the guests knowing. This may be as simple as a Brit expressing they prefer Twinning’s tea or something more serious. This enables us to respond before it is an issue & complete the vacation experience.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider going on an Azamara Club Cruise?
That we are genuinely here to help them have as best time as they possibly can. I hear daily that “Oh I didn’t like to say anything but…”. Oh yea.. also that on each voyage we have our Signature Event “White Night.” A fantastic deck event with a deck buffet & a 2 hour live show featuring our singers, dancers, orchestra AND the cruise director in a Motown, Soul Rock night of fun. It is great when guests know ahead of time & come prepared with something white to wear. The deck atmosphere is electric.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
The move away from ‘package holidays’ and a move towards an individual experience where a guest can immerse themselves in a local culture such as our Nights and Cool Places and Insider Access program.
What sets Azamara Club Cruises apart from other cruise lines?
Our Crew! Hardware is hardware … it is the ‘software’ that counts. We have around 403 crew from 50 nations working seamlessly together and consistently delivering unbeatable results. The guest feedback is mostly about the crew making “a difference.”
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
You were born with 2 eyes, 2 ears & 1 mouth. Look & listen twice as much as you speak. You will learn & experience SO much more.
What is one strategy that has helps you remain engaged and excited about being a cruise director?
After so many years at sea I still get excited about every port. Yes, it may be my 87th time in Venice but… IT’S VENICE! Stay fresh, since never, ever, ever are any 2 days the same.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I truly & deeply believe we are the architects of our own destiny & each day we wake up it is US that decide which side of the bed to get out. I consciously chose every single day to get out of the ‘good & happy’ side & I honestly do not remember the last time I was miserable!
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
As a singer & performer I notice how songs can touch someone’s heart for a variety of reasons. In my own solo show I usually sing a very touching version of ‘Danny Boy’ and have had many guests come to me in tears later since this song was used for family funerals etc. But my favorite interaction with guests emotional side is when I perform a “vow renewal” onboard. When I have 2 guests celebrating 50 or 60 years together & re-committing it is a very personal & emotional experience & I am thrilled to be able to play such a key role in their ongoing memories.