I am delighted to welcome this week on The Joy of Cruising Podcast,, Ken Byrne, known to his legion of fans who cruise on Carnival Cruise Line as The Singing Maître D’. I had the pleasure of writing about Ken in my new book, The Joy of Cruising Again, in a section call Ship Life, which was intended to provide a perspective of life onboard cruise ships through the eyes of current and former crew and staff.
Ken Byrne is a consummate professional within the hospitality industry. He started off in the hotel industry in Dublin, Ireland in 1975. He was serving a gentleman in the hotel where he worked who was recruiting waiters for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. He offered Ken a job. Ken started at Royal Caribbean in 1986 as a busboy on The Song of Norway. Given his skills and experience attained from his hospitality background, Ken quickly moved up to waiter, and then became head waiter on the Sun Viking. Ken also served on the Nordic Prince, Song of America, and Sovereign of the Seas—which was my wife and my first cruise in 1988. After Ken’s four years between Royal Caribbean and Premier Cruise Lines, The Big Red Boat, where he was a head waiter on Atlantic, Majestic, and Oceanic, he decided to go back to Ireland and the hotels. His respite from working on cruise ships was short-lived. He told me that after five months he got hungry for the sea. He was about to come back to Royal Caribbean when an opportunity arose to join Carnival instead. Carnival hired Ken in 1990 as a busboy, then waiter, then in 1994, he became maître d’ on his first new ship to take out, the Fascination.
The first time Ken sang in public was on the Carnival Triumph in 1997 when a couple was celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Ken recalls. ‘I was about to make the nightly announcement and was walking by their table with a microphone when the man grabbed my arm and said, ‘Hey Ken, you’re Irish. Sing us a song for our anniversary.’ Ken belted one out. The rest is history. Within a couple of weeks after his impromptu performance, Ken’s singing in the dining room—and even in the theater—became a regular fixture on Carnival for the ensuing 26 years and he became known as The Singing Maître D’..
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