As entertainment director on Queen Mary 2 Joanna Haley is in charge of the entertainment and activities presented to the guests. While often seen introducing the shows and on the onboard television, she is not just a master of ceremonies. The administrative aspect of the job involves scheduling the entertainment as well as supervising the activities staff, the ship's musicians and backstage personnel.
Ms Haley began her life at sea in 2004. “I originally joined as one of the production dancers. It was always my dream to do the ships as a dancer.”
However, once at sea, she made a change of course. “I found that not only did I enjoy the shows but I liked to get more involved in the activities with the guests, meeting them personally. So I just started to work my way up and moved over to the entertainment side of things as opposed to the production cast side of things.”
She rose to become a cruise director at FredOlsen Cruise Lines before shifting to Cunard in 2013. “ I came to Queen Mary 2 in 2014. It has been a wonderful experience, she is very much focused on the entertainment onboard, for me that is my job, that is what I love.”
“With Queen Mary 2, because we are always at sea, it is about the ship,it is about the entertainment, it is about the food and it is about the experience rather than the cruise ships where it is very much focused on the ports of call. We are the destination. This is focused on the experience of Queen Mary 2.”
Accordingly, Queen Mary 2 has a more extensive entertainment program than most other ships. On a typical voyage, QM2 will have production shows and shows by visiting comedians, magicians and/or singers. But it will also have classical recitals, performances by the ship's resident troupe from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, ballroom dancing and live music by its 24 staff musicians. There are movies about astronomy in the ship's planetarium as well as cinematic productions. For enrichment, there is usually a celebrity speaker and lectures by scientists, authors, historians and others as part of the Cunard Insights program.
Because Queen Mary 2 has a large German-speaking following, there are often two sets of programs going on simultaneously, one in English and one in German. “We have two or three German guest speakers, so as we have been having the lectures in the Royal Court Theater, we have been using Illuminations for the German guest lectures as well. Dual programs for dual languages.”
Beyond the regular entertainment offerings, there is also special programs that are presented once a year or perhaps only once. Some examples include the live shipboard concerts by Crosby, Stills and Nash in 2015, the songwriting workshops led by Chris Difford and other professional musicians in 2014 and the Transatlantic Fashion Week of 2016. Most of these events involve well-known personalities and give guests a glimpse into worlds not usually open to the public.
“It is keeping that tradition alive from the old transatlantic liners of the Cunard Line with having the stars aboard. Whereas they once used [the ships] to travel now we bring them back for our guests.. Keeping it high profile - - she is an iconic ship so we like to bring iconic people aboard.”
Above: Ms. Haley standing in front of the video wall in Queen Mary 2's Royal Court Theatre.
Below: Introducing a fashion show during Transatlantic Fashion Week.
These special events do not replace the ship's normal programming but are in addition. “We have not scaled back on anything from our regular program. We still have the celebrity speaker, the regular Cunard Insights speakers. Nothing has been lost along the way. We have retained our regular program but with a spot of glamor.”
In 2016, Queen Mary 2 underwent a major refurbishment. This revitalization affected QM2's entertainment venues. “For me, it has only made it better. For entertainment, it has really only upped [QM2's] game.”
Two changes are particularly noteworthy. First, the conversion of the Deck 7 Wintergarden into the Carinthia Lounge. “That has been a triumph for us, both the food and beverage during the day but also it has become a great venue for evening entertainment. We do our classical program up there and we do Dixieland jazz there.”
Second, the addition of a video wall to the Royal Court Theatre. The wall is used in place of traditional scenery during the production shows. “It means that we don't have to build a set during the day.” As a result, the theater can be used for more activities and entertainment. In addition, “It creates a completely different feel. You have one blanket set usually in the old production shows whereas now we can have [different scenery for] every scene and every number has a completely different feel and vibe to it.”
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Entertainment Director Joanna Haley