A Q&A With Cunard's North American Director of Public Relations
By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
Published August 29, 2019.
I've had the pleasure of working with Jackie Chase, Cunard's North American Director of Public Relations, since I started writing about cruising. She is the consummate professional at what she does. Meet Jackie, and learn more her, her job and Cunard's storied history in this Q&A.
Q. How long have you been with Cunard and what attracted you to the opportunity?
A. I began my career in Public Relations in 1999, when I joined a boutique PR and Marketing agency in Los Angeles which specialized in hospitality clients, such as hotels, restaurants and destinations.
After five years there, I was ready to spread my wings and was keenly interested in joining a larger corporate culture. When I learned of the Cunard opportunity I jumped at it! Not only did the new position afford me a new learning in the hospitality industry – cruising – it also very organically resonated with my own interests and passions, being an Anglophile most of my life!
I accepted my current position with Cunard in 2004 and am excited to celebrate nearly 15 years with the company.
Q. Tell us about your role at Cunard, and what happens on a typical day at the office.
A. As the Director of Public Relations for Cunard in North America, I oversee PR in the US and Canada, working closely with our UK Head Office in Southampton, England, as well as my North America colleagues who reside with me in our regional office in California.
My day-to-day includes working with our wonderful Manager, Meryl Press, as well as our NYC-based Public Relations agency, MGA Media Group. Our small but mighty team work together to manage media relations, press FAM trips, film and photo shoots, special events, public relations for brand campaigns, social media communications and sponsorship relationships.
During my tenure, I have had the privilege to manage and collaborate on numerous special events in conjunction with the company’s fleet of three Queens - flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – including the Royal Naming Ceremonies for Queen Victoria (2007) and Queen Elizabeth (2011) - plus many high-profile Cunard Royal Rendezvous events (in which two or more Cunard ships are simultaneously in the same port) which have garnered international editorial and broadcast coverage.
In addition, I have worked with many celebrities who have sailed with us over the years, including singers Carly Simon, James Taylor, and Crosby, Stills & Nash; plus filmmaker Wes Anderson, actresses Tilda Swinton, Uma Thurman, Angela Bassett, and many other people from the worlds of entertainment, literature, politics, the arts and science.
Two of our most recently exciting initiatives have been working with 20th Century FOX to host the 2017 world premiere of “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman, aboard Queen Mary 2 in New York; and now, award winning film director Steven Soderbergh is filming a feature movie with Meryl Streep on our current Transatlantic Crossing. Always something afoot on a Cunard Crossings – you never know who will be on board!
Q. Cunard is widely known for its long and distinguished history as a cruise line. What in your view are the things guests experience on a Cunard cruise that stand the brand apart from other cruise lines?
A. I’ve always felt that whenever guests step foot onboard a Cunard ship, they instantly become a part of the fabric of the tapestry that is Cunard. No other ships can offer the excitement one feels when connecting to such a storied heritage, and yet experience the glamour and luxury that became widely coveted during “The Golden Age of Ocean Travel,” and which has defined Cunard’s style for almost two centuries. Renowned for impeccable service, “only on Cunard” experiences, and world class enrichment and cuisine, Cunard is truly distinctive in the cruise landscape.
During our nearly 180-year-history, Cunard has been known for innovations and many “firsts,” as the company began to build more and more ships in the 20th century. We were the first ships to have electricity, the first to have a library on board and the first to pioneer the world cruise, just to name a few.
Cunard has played pivotal roles in wartime, most notably during WWII, when the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were commissioned as troop ships, carrying approximately one million troops during the conflict. So significant was Cunard’s role that Winston Churchill credited the company with ending the War one year early due to the incredible efforts of these ships.
We are proud of our longstanding heritage, and the fact that ever since Haligonian (native of Halifax, Nova Scotia) Sir Samuel Cunard won the contract to deliver the Royal Mail in 1840, Cunard has been sailing the world’s oceans ever since, in war and in peace.
Q. As the cruise line associated with British royalty, you must have met and worked with hundreds of important people and celebrities over the years. Can you share some of the ones that are most memorable?
A. As I mentioned, I was very fortunate to attend two of our Royal Inaugural Ceremonies, the first in 2007 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Inaugural, with the ship’s godmother, The Duchess of Cornwall, along with the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles); and then again in 2010, when Queen Elizabeth was christened by Her Majesty The Queen. Very exciting indeed, although I did not personally meet them.
And yes, as I have described, Cunard continues to attract today’s luminaries, as we have done throughout our history.
Interestingly, we’ve noticed a trend of some celebrities sailing recently who have used the iconic Transatlantic crossing as a creative “muse” of sorts: Francis Ford Coppola continued working on his book, “The Godfather Diaries,” during his Crossing a few years ago: Film Director Wes Anderson sailed with his friends and frequent film collaborators actors Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Tilda Swinton in 2014, and wrote much of last year’s film, “Isle of Dogs” on that voyage; Worldwide singing sensation Ed Sheeran wrote a new album and filmed some footage of his Queen Mary 2 Crossing, which later appeared in his documentary; and jazz legend Herbie Hancock composed an entire new album during his Crossing.
I have been fortunate to meet a few of my personal favorites such as Sting, James Taylor, Broadway legend Patti Lupone and Carly Simon.
Q. There have been a number of historic moments and milestones during your tenure, including Cunard's 175th anniversary. Have there been one or two events for which you are most proud?
Our 175th Anniversary year was filled with much fanfare and celebration, organized by our Cunard colleagues around the world. Our North American team created events in Cunard’s three key “ancestral” cities: Halifax, Boston and New York, which was most gratifying. In Boston, we held our 175th event in the building that was the original and first US office for Cunard; in Halifax, a new building site was inaugurated that will bear the Samuel Cunard name; and in New York, Cunard was excited to ring the bell at the NYSE in celebration of our significant milestone; and later that evening, Queen Mary 2 was outfitted in lights for a spectacular light and music show in the harbor that concluded our 175th festivities.
Q. We had the pleasure of cruising on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton, and it remains one of our most memorable experiences at sea -- we even renewed our vows on that voyage. What drives the enduring popularity of a Transatlantic cruise?
A. The Transatlantic Crossing remains an unparalleled ocean travel experience and resonates with people on many levels, offering abundant possibilities: From connecting with various touch points in history, ie, those tracing the footsteps of their ancestors who emigrated to the US in the early part of the 20th century, to guests who embrace that the journey is the destination, with myriad opportunities for enrichment, like dressing up for gala evenings, dancing to a live orchestra, or to disconnecting at sea for seven days. The Crossing is truly a travel adventure which guests tailor to their own passions and sensibilities.
With such an international passenger base, our guests also love meeting people from all over the world. The Crossing is a wonderful way to connect with people that you might not ordinarily meet, and sharing this iconic ocean sailing is something special they have in common.
I think our guests love that the Crossing is filled with history, but in today’s hectic and demanding world, it also offers a rare disconnect from life - if that’s what a guest chooses - and entices people to connect with the majesty and wonder of the ocean for seven luxurious days.
Q. As ships continue to get bigger and flashier, Cunard stays true to the classic, old-school cruise experience. Are new generations discovering the pleasures that provides?
A. As younger people are relishing artisanal and authentic experiences, where craftsmanship and personalized treatment is key, Cunard can be a great match, as the line does offer experiences and activities steeped in traditions, but also with a modern day twist. Our Gin & Fizz bars offer more than 13,000 gin combinations and are always a hit onboard, and our classic Afternoon Tea never goes out of style, with guests from all ages eagerly look forward to imbibing more than once during a voyage.
I also think that our famed Princess Grill and Queens Grill accommodations hold a timeless appeal to our older and younger guests. This “enclave” aboard the ship offers dedicated restaurants for each Grills accommodation, a shared cocktail lounge, Concierge lounge, and sun terrace, providing even more personalized service and attention.
We learned through some research conducted a few years ago that people want more opportunities to dress up when they travel, and this of course is a Cunard hallmark with at least two Gala evenings offered per voyage, and three on Transatlantic Crossings. Even ballroom dancing to a live orchestra is a hit with guests of all ages - there is just nothing like dancing your way across the Atlantic!
Q. Look into your crystal ball and tell us what Cunard has planned for the future -- new ships, new features?
A. We are very excited about our new ship, which will debut in 2022. While that seems far away, our teams have been busy at work creating what will be the next Cunard experience. While I can’t divulge any real details right now, starting this fall, and over the coming months, we will be sharing more continuous news about the ship which will go on sale in May. The ship will be a true Cunarder, but will also have some fun and interesting innovations, which is perfectly in keeping with our heritage.
Q. When you aren't in the office, what are your favorite activities? Hobbies? What is your ideal vacation?
A. I love to read, see movies and truly enjoy discovering new restaurants at home and when I’m away.
I love travel - no surprise there - and have many trips on my personal bucket list including New Zealand, South Africa, an African safari and Asia, to name just a few. I love England and Italy and hope to spend longer lengths of time in each in the coming years. My husband and I have a wonderful dog, a West Highland Terrier named Ripley, and I am still hoping we can sail with him on -- what else --a Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing!