Interview of Cruise Director Ernest Marchain
Q: Where do you call home when you’re not on the ship?
Las Vegas is my home base. I try to see my family every time I’m on vacation, which is a couple of times a year. I stay with my folks in Sierra Madre right by Pasadena. It’s a small town in the Los Angeles area. We have a couple of one-year-old dogs and I love playing around with them. We always try to get the whole family together because I’m in town so infrequently. We often get a huge gathering with the aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and brothers and sisters.
Q: Tell us about the life of a Cruise Director on Azamara.
Things can change at a moment’s notice. You never know what’s going to happen. You could have someone who is sick who is supposed to be doing the show, which means you have to get a hold of the vocal captain and potentially re-block the performance. Because of the professionalism of my team, there are times we’ve done that and people did not notice that there were cast members missing. Sometimes there is an injury or a family emergency and someone has to leave the ship for a time. For example, this upcoming cruise, I might not have a trumpet player. So, I will have to talk to the band master and try to figure out how we can work our way around that, even in my own show. I think you have to think on your toes and stay calm, cool, and collected. You can’t let anybody see you panic. The guests are our number one priority, and we have to know that they’re comfortable and happy even in unexpected situations.
Q: What are your favorite places to visit?
That’s a really hard question, because I’ve been around the world. The only continent I have not been to is Antarctica. I was in Morocco for a day and visited Colombia in South America. So officially I've been to Africa and South America, but I would really love to visit more countries on those continents. What's amazing is that Quest is sailing to South Africa in 2020 and I can't wait! That’s definitely something on my bucket list and I’m really looking forward to it. However, as far as places that I’ve been to, Sorrento, Italy is definitely one of my favorites. Also, New Zealand is absolutely beautiful, and Amalfi is gorgeous. There are so many amazing places it's hard to narrow it down to just one or two—can I name 20?
Q: What is the nicest compliment you’ve received from a guest?
That they felt welcomed and at home. I also appreciate when they say that I’m genuine. I’m glad when that reads because I am a people-person for sure. I hope that people know that when I’m meeting guests and talking to them, I’m genuinely interested and it’s not because I’m obligated to do it. I really love meeting people, as well as seeing our guests come back to us time and time and again. That says we’re doing something right and we’re proud of that here at Azamara!
Q: What are the most challenging parts of your job? Best parts?
The most challenging part I think is catching up on emails! (laughs) Sometimes you get close to 150 in one day and sometimes it might even be more—and I have to answer every single one. Once you’ve gone through them, you go to lunch, come back and there’s a whole new batch. I think being able to manage your time wisely is very important, because I have to have time to be with our guests as well.
The best parts? I love being a manager. I have about 20 great people that I manage, and I love being able to build a team. I come from a sports background. I played baseball, water polo, swam, and was a 1- and 3-meter springboard diver. I was heavily into athletics growing up, so everything for me has always been about teams. If the team is good, then we’re all going to succeed. And let's not forget being onstage performing and getting to know our guests. Those are also great parts of being a Cruise Director. Most of the time our guests have some great stories to tell too! All in all, the best parts heavily outweigh the challenges.
Q: How do you spend your free time onshore?
I try to get off the ship and unwind, which is sometimes difficult, because there’s always so much to do. But when I do have free time, I’ll just go and have coffee, and sit at a nice restaurant. I’ll also try to squeeze in a quick nap because I’m up early and work late. Naps are so nice (laughs)
Q: What’s your favorite destination food you’ve tried?
You know what, when we were in Oman, we had this really amazing hummus. It had pine nuts, and a type of cranberry sauce on top. It sounds basic, but it really highlighted their beautiful food and culture. I also love Italian food, especially pasta. Find me a nice pasta Bolognese or carbonara and I am set!
Q: What kind of vision did you have for Azamara when you first started?
Having been a part of the production cast previously, I was familiar with the brand and the crew when I started. Russ Grieve, who was the Cruise Director on Azamara Quest at the time, was instrumental in getting me here. When Pursuit came out, it changed the entertainment schedules because we needed to have three entertainment managers per ship on rotation. When the position came up, I was flattered that Azamara would consider me. Once I got here, I had a really huge learning curve, I knew it was going to be a challenge transitioning from entertainer to management. Our Hotel Director, Philip, is an absolute star! He helped me get comfortable in my new position and continues to do so on a daily basis. I don’t know if I’ve had a better boss than him. He cares about everyone—guests and crew alike—he cares about how they feel and always asks if they need anything at all. He is the most supportive boss that I’ve had and we are all better at our jobs because of him.
Q: How do you plan for the year ahead?
We typically try to get our scheduling down so we know who’s going to be on as Cruise Director and Assistant Director, and who’s going to be on vacation. Then we figure out big holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and lay out the schedule accordingly. We typically work 4 months on 2 months off. We all work together to make sure we’re all happy with the time we’re on board and when we’re on vacation.
Q: What music would we find on your personal device playlist?
You can’t beat 80’s classic rock in my opinion. I’m a huge fan of Journey, Styx, Rush, Foreigner, and Van Halen. But I’ve also got Pachelbel’s Cannon, Mozart’s Requiem, jazz, and a little country on there too. Music is everything to me.