An Interview with

Cruise Director of QUEEN MARY 2

by Richard H. Wagner
Cruise Director Ray Rouse
mega-cruise ship.  Rouse brought out
SOVEREIGN as its first cruise director.
Over the next decade, he brought out a
series of increasingly bigger ships,
helping to shape modern mega-ship
Rouse was the first cruise director on
Royal Caribbean's SONG OF
Rouse was the first cruise director of
QUEEN MARY 2 and sees the ship as
demanding a unique cruise experience.
Ray Rouse is constantly on the go.  Passengers see him when they turn on
their in-cabin televisions in the morning, describing the days events and
interviewing performers and celebrities who are onboard.  They see him
introducing lecturers and at other activities during the day.  He is at the
receptions in the evening and then introduces the production show in the
theater and the gala ball in the Queens Room ballroom.  In between, he might
be hosting a table in the Britannia Restaurant with a group of VIPs.  He
appears to be everywhere.
But, this is only the public face of the job of being cruise director on the world’
s largest ocean liner.  The cruise director is in charge of all the entertainment
and activity programs and at the fore of the public relations efforts onboard.  
He supervises a staff of 120.  He must oversee and manage the live
entertainment, movies, music, enrichment programs, sports, and activities.  He
oversees communication with the guests including the publication of the daily
program and the programming for the interactive television.  In addition, he is
a member of the ship’s executive committee of six officers who decide the
running of QUEEN MARY 2.   “It consists of about 12 to 14 hours of work
a day, seven days a week for 15 or 16 weeks and then 10 weeks off.  It is
about 32 weeks a year,” Rouse says with a self-deprecating laugh.

The Road to QM2

Because the cruise director has so much contact with the passengers and is
responsible for so many things that determine whether the passengers enjoy
the voyage, it is a crucial position on any passenger ship.  This is perhaps even
more so on QUEEN MARY 2 because QUEEN MARY 2 is such a
prestigious and high profile ship.  Therefore, a veteran cruise director with a
list of significant accomplishments on his resume was needed.  Ray Rouse is
such a person.
Unlike many people in the cruise industry, a life at sea was not Rouse’s
childhood ambition.  However, “I can remember as a young boy going to the
Isle of Wight with my parents for holidays in the late forties and through the
fifties.  We used to take sides trips over on boats to see the great liners in
Southampton.  I can remember seeing the QUEEN MARY and the QUEEN
ELIZABETH, the UNITED STATES - - all those great liners of those days -
- as a young boy and being awed by them.  Whether that played any part of
me getting into the industry, I don’t know, but I can always remember as a
clear picture of seeing those great liners and then standing on the beach at
Ride or Cowes and watch them go by on their journeys across the Atlantic to
New York.”
A native of London, Rouse joined the Metropolitan Police.  He served with
the Special Patrol Group that was responsible for the protection of members
of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing
Street.  These were tense times following the political assignations in America
in the 1960s and the re-emergence of violence over Northern Ireland.
In order to relieve the tension, Rouse took up dancing as a hobby.  “I had
success  in dance sport and I became the amateur champion of the United
Kingdom.  Then, I met my wife through dancing.  We turned professional and
we started dancing professionally, teaching, and doing cabaret.  I left the
police force, my wife gave up her work and dancing became our career.”  In
addition to winning numerous dance championships, the Rouses performed at
a Gala Royal Ball at Buckingham Palace and appeared in The Beatles’ movie
“Magical Mystery Tour.”
The Rouses’ lives took a turn in 1973 when they were booked as a dance
team on a small cruise ship, the VICTORIA of the Incres Line, for a month-
long cruise around the Norwegian fjords.  “We got the bug then and we then
applied to several lines and got hired by Cunard Line.  We served on the
CUNARD ADVENTURER, the AMBASSADOR and the QE2 back in ‘73
and ‘74.  Then, we joined Royal Viking Line as a dance team on the ROYAL
VIKING SKY and SEA, served on them as a dance team, again doing
cabaret and teaching lessons.  [After that, we] joined Holland America Line
and were on the ROTTERDAM’s world cruises each year as a dance team.”
While at Holland America, Rouse was promoted to cruise director.  His wife,
Lisa, became a social hostess.  An indication of how much the industry and
the cruise director position was evolved since then, the Rouses still performed
as a dance team until Lisa retired in the early 1980s.
In 1981, the Rouses joined the young and growing Royal Caribbean Cruise
Line.  Ray was cruise director on two of RCCL’s most popular early ships:
Rouse observed that the cruise industry was evolving.  “The ships of the past
were ocean liners, built for world voyages, longer voyages and that is what the
industry was about.  In the late sixties and early seventies, the industry
changed.  The ships became more modern, more streamlined, the cruises
became shorter, and attracted the mass market.  Ted Arison, [Kurt] Koster,
Ed Stephan at Royal Caribbean,  Pete Wilton at Royal Caribbean, the
visionaries of that era who brought all those ships out at Norwegian Cruise
Line, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, built these sleek ships, just for calm
water cruising.  They were cost effective.”
By the early 1980s, the Miami-based cruise industry was taking-off and in
order to maintain a competitive edge, Royal Caribbean took the
unprecedented step of increasing the capacity of NORDIC PRINCE and
SONG OF NORWAY by cutting them in half and inserting additional
sections.  In increasing the capacity of their existing ships, RCCL was seeking
to exploit the theory that the cost of operating a ship that carried a large
number of passengers is less than operating several ships whose combined
capacity was equal to that of the large ship.  Experience validated their theory
and the race to build bigger cruise ships began.  
In 1982, RCCL followed this move by building the 31,000 ton SONG OF
AMERICA with a passenger capacity of 1,400.  While a small ship by today’
s standards, at the time, SONG OF AMERICA was almost double the size
of RCCL’s existing ships.  
“        SONG OF AMERICA came out, which was quite a turning point in
‘82.  I brought that ship out.”  Among other things, Rouse supervised the
development of the cruise program and entertainment for this ship, including
hiring staff and setting onboard policies and procedures.  In effect, he
established a foundation not only for the type of cruises that SONG OF
AMERICA would do but also for the increasingly larger ships that would
“Then, in 1987, I was selected for the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS, which
was [another] turning point, I think in this industry.  It was a visionary type of
ship.  It was the first ship ever with the giant atrium, seven, eight stories high, it
had big theaters, it had many dining options, clubs, large casino - - it was a
turning point and then all ships, whatever company, came out after that were
not modeled but certainly were styled similarly to the SOVEREIGN OF THE
Indeed, SOVEREIGN, the first cruise ship to exceed QE2 in gross tonnage,
was the first mega-cruise ship and Rouse would be in the front lines of this
revolution. “I brought out about eight ships for Royal Caribbean through until
the end of ’99.”
As Rouse sees it, the mega-cruise ships have become “pretty much the
destinations in themselves.  They have attracted a younger age group. That is
one of the biggest things I have seen in the industry with other companies.  
More families are cruising whereas you never had children - - very rarely --
on ships in the past.  So, young people’s facilities have become more
important on ships today.  They have become more adventurous, they have
built rock climbing walls, skating rinks, ice skating, rollerblading tracks, golf
courses, boxing rings, bowling alleys, they are all there now.  So, they are
destinations in themselves.  And who knows where the next evolution period
will take us.”
Still, having played a key role in the development of mega-ship cruising,
Rouse sees a danger.  “[For] the mass market lines, companies that have 15
to 20 ships - - Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Costa, Norwegian - - I
think the danger is, not that they will lose their identities but that the ships will
lose their identities.  People say: ‘Oh, I went on a Carnival ship or I went on a
Royal Caribbean ship’ but they can’t remember the name of the ship.  They
know it was with that company but they can’t individualize the ship.  Whereas
when they go on the QUEEN MARY 2, they say they were on the QUEEN
MARY 2, they don’t say they went on a Cunard ship.  That is one of the
dangers of the industry is that they lose that individualistic type of thing that the
QUEEN MARY 2 has and the QE2 have as well. I think they offer a great
product - - it is a great cost effective vacation at sea for people - - but, that is
the danger.”
After leaving Royal Caribbean, Rouse served briefly with Costa Cruises,
bring out the COSTA ATLANTIQUA in 2000.  Then in 2002, Rouse
received a call asking whether he would like to serve as the first cruise
director for QUEEN MARY 2.  “I, in 1998, was surprised but pleased when
Carnival Corporation purchased Cunard Line.  Even more surprised six to
eight months later when Micky Arison announced the building of the QUEEN
MARY 2.  I was so happy.  I remember sitting in my home in Florida, reading
a paper and seeing the graphic of QUEEN MARY 2 and I said to my wife:
‘This is marvelous, who would have ever thought they are going back to the
days of the great liners,” not realizing that I would ever be involved in the job
of being a cruise director of the greatest ocean liner ever built.  I never even
thought about it.  It wasn’t in my mind.  It wasn’t until about three years later
that they gave me a call.  I am very pleased to be here.”

The QM2 Difference

Having started his career with Cunard, including time on the legendary QE2,
and then having helped develop mega-ship cruising with Royal Caribbean and
other lines, Rouse is well aware that there is a difference between a
transatlantic liner and a big cruise ship.  Consequently, the style of life onboard
QM2 that he as cruise director has helped develop is different than the style of
life onboard even cruise ships of similar size.  Rouse points out that a
passenger coming from one of the mass market lines would find life on QM2
different in several key ways.
“The first thing would definitely be the formality, the dress code would be the
first item.  The QUEEN MARY 2 is a very formal ship, even on short
voyages, we will still have formal evenings whereas many companies wouldn’t
bother with a formal night.  It would be [all] casual.  And, a lot of companies
are going very casual throughout their whole voyage.  That won’t happen
here, not on the QUEEN MARY 2, not with Cunard Line.  It will be formal.  
Our transatlantic voyage is basically, take away the first and last night, formal.
That was the same as on our first world cruise this year.  Most nights at sea
were formal.  That is the way it will be on the next world cruise too.  We will
never have a totally casual evening per se.  It will either be formal, semi-
formal, or elegant casual on all voyages now.”  
“Our facilities are geared toward a formal gala occasion.  That is part of the
gala, pomp and circumstance of traveling on the QUEEN MARY 2.  And the
customer who comes here, they expect it, the majority, and they demand it.  
We won’t let our standards drop because we want to keep our customer
base.    I think that is one of the big differences.”
“There is [also] a lot more culture here.  When you are on a transatlantic
voyage, you are at sea for five days and six nights, crossing the Atlantic.  So,
the programs offered are very educational, entertaining, interesting.  Our
Library and Book Shop has 9,000 copies of books - - the largest library at
sea on any passenger ship.”
“The Cunard Insights program, the lecture program, is very strong on
academic subjects - - entertaining but enriching to the guests.  [It] is very
diversified.  On every transatlantic crossing, we will have three or four
lecturers and their subjects will be a mixture, a balance of subjects that are of
interest to all the guests.  We might have someone lecturing on science, for
example, that might not be interesting [to a particular guest] but then, there will
also will be someone lecturing on politics or sport or movies or some other
subject that would be of interest so there is a choice and an option for the
“The entertainment is geared to an international audience.  The QUEEN
MARY 2 is a very international ocean liner.  It attracts many people from all
over the world.  Whereas comedy is a big part of entertainment, it does not
necessarily go well with our international guest list because you could have
people where English is not their premier language. Also, British comedy
might not appeal sometimes to Americans and vice versa and that is always
the difficulty with stand-up comedy.  Musical comedy is a little different, visual
comedy is a little different, mime can be different.  But to be on the safe side,
to attract the international audience, you need shows and entertainment of the
character of production shows with plenty of dancing, singing, costumes,
special effects, live music, vocalists, musical acts and visual acts.  That is
basically what the QUEEN MARY 2 is about, we get comedy occasionally
but it is comedy mixed with music with juggling or magic or something like
In addition to the programming and entertainment, there are other factors that
distinguish the QM2 experience from the experience on the large cruise ships.  
One is passenger space. To illustrate, QM2 is approximately the same size as
Royal Caribbean’s FREEDOM OF THE SEAS.  However, whereas
FREEDOM has a maximum passenger capacity of 4,375, QUEEN MARY
2, at maximum carries less than 3,000 passengers.  “I find there is so much
space on here even when we are full, 2,800 guests.   As the Commodore
[Bernard Warner] always says [to passengers]: ‘I hope you are enjoying the
space and the luxury’ and that is what the QUEEN MARY 2 is about.”
Another distinguishing factor is the dining.  On QUEEN MARY 2, passengers
are assigned to a dining room based upon their cabin category, with the suites
assigned to the intimate Queens Grill or the Princess Grill and the other
categories to the Britannia Restaurant.  “If you are going to have a Grill
accommodation, the dining becomes an experience, a much longer experience
normally too.  There is a choice of menus in the Grills, in that experience.  
[There is] the White Star service.  The Queens Grill is rated the top restaurant
at sea on any ship.”
“The grandeur of the Britannia Restaurant is what Cunard was all about - - the
grandeur of the great restaurants of the QUEEN MARY and the QUEEN
ELIZABETH.  There is that tremendous space and wonderment of this dining
hall.  It might seem cavernous but the decoration and the music, the service
and the blending of everything just makes that what I think a great opulence.”
A final distinction is fame.  “Wherever the QUEEN MARY 2 goes it always
attracts extra attention more than any ship just because it is the QUEEN
MARY 2.  It is one of a kind that is why. Whenever the ship goes into a port
with other ships, people are always out on deck from the other ships taking
pictures of the QUEEN MARY 2.  If you were to ask anybody in the world,
name a ship, I think 90 percent would say QE2 or QM2.”
“I have been on about 25 ships in my career. I am very proud of my career
and particularly this ship, the QUEEN MARY 2, because I think it is the
greatest ocean liner ever built and the best ship out there today.  It makes me
work harder.  There are constant challenges and issues to deal with.  I strive
to exceed the guests’ expectations as I would on any ship.  But, there is that
extra pride of being on here because it is the QUEEN MARY 2.  I think that
drives you on.  I think that gives you that impetus, that excitement.”
The Queens Grill Restaurant offers a
unique top-rated dining experience.
The Britannia Restaurant illustrates
the passenger space and grandeur of
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Entertainment Director Ray Rouse