In 2021, Azamara is embracing the new. After all, we have a new ship, the Azamara Onward, we’re kicking off new experiences like Destination Celebration, and we have a new appreciation for the world around us. And it doesn’t stop there. 2021 is also bringing about new opportunities for the Azamara family — including Tanya Roberts, who we’re excited to announce will be taking on the role of Cruise Director Associate aboard the Azamara Pursuit this October! Tanya, an award-winning lyric soprano and entertainer, has performed more than 75 roles worldwide — from contemporary musical theatre to Baroque opera! Recently, we spoke with her about performing, how the last year brought about new challenges (and opportunities!), and what she’s looking forward to most about once again exploring the world with Azamara. Here are some highlights of that conversation.
Hi Tanya, thanks for chatting with us today. Could you start by telling our readers a bit of yourself?
Hi! I’m Tanya Roberts, a Canadian-American actor, soprano, and now Cruise Director/Cruise Director Associate for Azamara! I joined the Azamara family back in 2018 as a member of the Opera Production Cast on the Journey and the Quest, returned to both ships in 2019 for a few stints as a Cruise Director Associate (or Assistant Cruise Director at that time), and look forward to returning to my ship family in October 2021 on the Pursuit! Absolutely elated!
What did you enjoy most about your previous position, and do you have a favorite memory from it?
I have so many wonderful memories from my previous contracts with Azamara that it’s almost impossible to narrow them down! How does one even begin to extract what brought the most joy from visiting 35 countries, making life-long friends from around the world, and performing for thousands of appreciative guests?! I shall make an attempt nonetheless!
Being in the first opera cast at sea ever was an absolute honor and privilege. I completely reveled performing in our opera and theatre revues and as Micaëla in an abridged version of the opera Carmen. As a Cruise Director Associate, I had so much fun building and debuting my first solo show for Azamara, “Hostess with the Mostess”. I got to sing everything from opera to musical theatre to pop and jazz with the musical support of an incredible team of musicians from around the world. I also have memories very near and dear to my heart of creating some magical performances with my Cruise Directors, namely singing “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera with Eric De Gray, “Me” from Beauty & The Beast with Ernest Marchain, and “We Are Family” with Amanda Poulson.
In your new role as Cruise Director Associate / Relief Cruise Director, what are you most looking forward to?
The magical element that keeps me coming back to ships time and time again is the community. There is a very special community that you automatically become a part of when you step foot on a ship, regardless of whether you are vacationing on the ship or working on it. There is an immediate bond with those around you that I’ve never found on land. My heart just fills with so much gratitude and joy when I think of returning to Azamara and rejoining my community of guests, officers, and crew, catching up with old friends, and making many new ones!
How do you plan to make this position unique to you?
One of the most unique elements I bring to the position is my background in opera! I’m really looking forward to building a new solo show that will bring the best of opera, classic musical theatre, and jazz to the Cabaret Lounge and diversify the entertainment offerings we have onboard!
I also bring everything I’ve assimilated from all of the incredible Cruise Directors at Azamara I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years: Eric De Gray, who was my first Cruise Director and held my hand as I fell in love with ships; Ernest Marchain, who has taught me so much about leadership and efficiency and getting things DONE; Amanda Poulson, who has been such a source of inspiration and who believed in my ability to be a Cruise Director long before I did; Danny Turner, whose wit and charm (and hopefully that delightful English accent) have rubbed off on me; and Stephen Millett, who is such a role model for leading with kindness and empathy.
When did you know that you wanted to work in the cruise industry?
I fell in love with cruising at a very young age while vacationing with my family. My mother, who was born in Canada, spent a lot of time on ships during her youth, shuttling between homes in Toronto and South America due to her father’s job. She passed on that love of the high seas to my sister and me, and I knew very early on that I wanted to work in the cruise industry in some form at some point in my life. One of the main reasons I sing is to see the world in a meaningful way. When I graduated from university, performing on cruise ships seemed like the ideal union of travel and getting paid to perform; however, cruise ship production casts are traditionally made up of singers with a background in pop music, which is not my forte, coming from the opera world. Many years went by until the unicorn of an opportunity to be part of an opera cast on a cruise ship came along. I am forever grateful to Azamara and MCO Productions for bringing me into the fold!
Do you have a favorite onboard activity, performance, or event? What made it so special?
Even though I’ve only been active with Azamara between 2018 and 2019, I have a wealth of incredible memories of onboard activities, performances, and events! One favorite that comes to mind is singing outside from one of the upper decks as our guests returned to the ship after an AzAmazing Evening in New Zealand. Brilliantly conceived of by Amanda Poulson, I sang a collection of favorite arias, sending their beautiful tones out over the port, letting them reverberate overhead as our guests returned home. If I may say so myself, it was a magical nightcap to an otherworldly evening!
Do you have any guest interactions or stories that made an impact on your career? May you share that experience with us?
Cruise after cruise, I am reminded of how small our world is from interactions with our amazing guests. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised, but I also couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve met guests onboard who have seen me perform on land, be it at an opera festival in the middle of Ohio, a theatre in Vienna, or on the streets of New York with Cirque du Soleil! I love how the paths of the cruise ship community cross and intermingle on land and at sea!
During this year ashore, what have you been doing to keep busy?
I’ve had QUITE the pandemic! When it struck, my husband, Ned, and I were living in Manhattan. Ned is also a singer, and we had months of performance work lined up that suddenly evaporated in a matter of days. Without any work, we could no longer afford our New York apartment and had to completely shift gears. We decided that we would use this rare opportunity for a complete change of scenery, desiring to move somewhere with a much cheaper cost of living than New York. Perhaps a location where we could learn a new language, certainly a place where we could collect unemployment insurance and bonus points if it was on or near water. Our plan immediately became clear: we would move to Puerto Rico! We had never been, mind you, but quickly fell in love with the island and its inhabitants! It ended up being the perfect place to ride out the pandemic - y aprendimos un poco de español!
Although there was plenty of time spent on the beach, my husband and I are consummate workaholics and kept PLENTY busy! We both took advantage of our performer union benefits for free education (thank you, AGMA and AEA!) and went back to school online to pursue business degrees! I opted for a focus on Hotel & Event Management, specifically with cruise ship administration in mind. As a singer, suddenly all of my performing went virtual, and I responded to the industry’s need for digital content creators by creating my own business, Tanya Roberts Creative, a boutique video editing and graphic design studio for performing artists and performing arts organizations!
What have you missed most about traveling?
One of the things I love most about traveling is how it forces me not to take anything for granted. I miss being whipped out of my seat of complacency and being thrust into new and stimulating situations. There’s a wonderful quote from Mark Twain that I think beautifully captures the power and necessity of travel for our growth as humans: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” In a world replete with a lot of division right now, I think a return to travel is as necessary as ever.
Once safe, where do you want to travel first?
Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I plan to travel to Honduras in June to reunite with my little sister! I haven’t seen her since the beginning of the pandemic. Although we both grew up in Canada, neither of us lives there anymore. We traded Canadian winters for the endless pursuit of summer on ships, in my case, and the gorgeous shores of Roatán in the case of my sister. I’m so excited to dance with her on the beach, visit the sloth sanctuary, eat ALL THE THINGS, and plunge into the depths of Roatán’s remarkable reef!
Is there somewhere Azamara travels that you think is underrated? What makes it so remarkable?
One of my favorite things to do in port is go hiking. Azamara travels to some remarkable locations that are not necessarily on the radar as tourist hot spots but exude a breathtaking natural beauty. One of the first places that comes to mind is Kotor, Montenegro. Not only does it have a remarkably well-preserved medieval old town — complete with cobbled streets and narrow lanes — but also some of the most stunning views I’ve seen in the Adriatic. I highly recommend hiking the challenging but very rewarding Ladder of Kotor for sweeping views over the Bay of Kotor!
Congratulations on your new role, Tanya, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We’re looking forward to setting sail with you this October aboard the Pursuit, and can’t wait to see you shine in your new role. Be sure to stay up to date on all things Azamara by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.