Nick Weir seems to have been born for his job as vice president of entertainment for Royal Caribbean International.
The 44-year-old is the son of two former cruise ship entertainers: His father, Leonard, was a stage actor and singer who went on to become a cruise director, and his mother, Beverley, also sang.
Nick and his brother Simon (now director of hotel operations for Royal Caribbean International) traveled with their parents, attending school on ships and “constantly bumping into dancers in feather costumes.”
Weir never expected to follow in his parents’ footsteps; instead, he considered a career in marine biology, which brought him to the University of Miami. That’s when he found the lure of a paycheck — and the industry he knew so well — was too strong to resist.
After first working as an audio-visual operator for Costa Cruises, he took other behind-the-scenes jobs handling sound and light, and then moved to the activities side. He worked briefly as a ship’s photographer and hotel director, but he enjoyed the role of cruise director most.
While working on his skills in front of the television camera, which became an essential way to communicate with guests on board, Weir was offered a job hosting and writing for the British game show Catchphrase. He did that for a couple of years before starting a consulting practice in Las Vegas in 2003, where he helped Celebrity Cruises (owned by parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.) develop entertainment for the Solstice class of ships.
Weir was hired as vice president for entertainment at Royal Caribbean International in September. The Miami-based cruise line is known for its Broadway shows at sea as well as ice skating performances, water spectacles and, on the soon-to-launch Quantum class, a new type of venue featuring giant screens controlled by robotic arms.
During an interview in his office at Royal Caribbean’s Miami headquarters, Weir talked about his family history, the challenges of his job and the cruise ship show he still travels to see.
Something had already happened to me: I remember doing a presentation at UM, it was part of a course I was on, and it required a 30-minute presentation. And I remember getting laughs. And I remember doing 25 minutes of standup and five minutes of biology. When you hear 1,000 people really laughing, you get hooked on it. I actually ended up going into performance. It’s only in the last 15, 10 years that I’ve been on the production side and on the management side. The first part of my career was actually as a performer.
The quality of entertainers now are entertainers that work in Vegas when they’re not working with us. So we’re now a worldwide global player and that’s not where the cruise industry started.
But in Quantum class particularly, we’ve actually gone out and come up with technology that isn’t even existing on land. So we’re really taking a new step. Quantum class is the first time I’ve been involved in producing entertainment that’s a first not just in the cruise industry but worldwide.
And then we’ve also got these robots. … You can manipulate video any way you want. But then if you can also manipulate the screen it’s playing on in three-dimensional space, you really can play with people’s minds. So that’s really exciting. And then if you put the two together, and then you get someone like Kristin Chenoweth as an entertainment advisor, who comes in and makes sure that we don’t forget the soul — because that’s a danger when you get very technological, you can become cold. But she’s an incredibly soulful performer, so her input to our program has been to keep it soulful and loving and human.
And then you get to 270, and I think it’s probably because of our chairman Richard Fain and how he embraces technology, he has made sure that we’re fully loaded. And so the technology actually is able to drive our creativity. And that’s the way it has been. When you look at six great big robot screens, you are very challenged by how you’re going to make those into something. So we went around the world and looked for producers and content creators that could partner up with us to make sure that we could deliver on the promise. But in this case ... the technology really asked us some questions.
But a cruise line — we build a community over the length of a cruise. ... Anytime we can drive the community together, that’s all activities are. They’re just an excuse to get people in the same room. You know what the activity is, that could be important. Sometimes we’ve got a humdinger of an activity; people get lost in it. But it’s really just about getting those people together to react together. And if you’re a really good activities staff person, by the end of that activity, you’ve taken yourself out and it’s a self-sustaining reaction. It’s really all about that, it’s about the community. That’s what a cruise has got that no one else has got. And that’s probably the thing that we’re most challenged to keep. And that’s what people like Kristin, for example, help us with, because they’re soulful. So it’s important that people shed a tear when they walk down the gangway at the end of a cruise. If they don’t, we’ve missed.
I’d like to make everyone feel better at Carnival that I sweat buckets. ... Our guests keep us honest, not other cruise lines.