Matt Henry starred as Lola in the West End transfer of Kinky Boots, winning the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Credit: AG Studios

Star on board: Matt Henry MBE

Author: Kaye Holland

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Fresh from wowing the audience at the 2023 Wave Awards, Matt Henry MBE, spoke to World of Cruising about his career to date and why a Caribbean cruise is on his bucket list

How did your collaboration with Cunard come about?
I first partnered with Cunard as part of their ‘London Theatre at Sea’ initiative. I had the best time showcasing my Olivier Award-winning performance from the West End version of Kinky Boots.

Was that your first cruise experience?

Yes, that was the first time I’d ever been on a cruise. I was called by Julian Byrd, who was the head of Souls Theatre, to come on board and to present a segment of my career and talk about all of the things I've done, which was very exciting. It was a transatlantic cruise from New York to Southampton and the sea days allowed us proper time to all bond as creatives and artists.

What do you love most about cruise travel?
That you get time to relax! There’s WiFi onboard but I didn't use the internet at all. I had a proper digital detox which was lovely.

What would be your ideal cruise destination and why?
Somewhere warm so probably the Caribbean, and a Caribbean cruise would be a great way to see several of the islands. I’ve been to several of the Caribbean islands – Jamaica, St Lucia, Trinidad, Barbados, the Grenadines… so I’ve done a lot but there’s still so much more to see.

The Caribbean is one of the world's most popular cruise destinations. Credit: Shutterstock

Who do you cruise with?
I’m fortunate in that I have always been allowed to bring a plus one. In December, I am going back onboard for a show called The Kings of the Boardwalk. And I'm taking my sister, who has just finished her degree, with me.

Aside from your sister, who will be your ideal travelling companion – dead or alive – and why?

Whitney Huston. I would have given anything to have had the opportunity to sing with Whitney. Or Luther Vandross – he was another iconic singer.

What’s your top travel tip?
Get your steps in so that you can enjoy the food. I didn't realise until my first cruise that there's such a culture of everyone walking around outside on the deck. I was like ‘Oh, this is a thing’. So I’d have breakfast and go and do my morning walk.

What do you like to eat and drink at sea?
I’m very strict. I think if you try to eat before a performance, that's too close. And, of course, the adrenaline is pumping too. So I try to eat a big meal in the morning, and then smaller meals throughout the rest of the day. So then by five o'clock, I’m done – that's it for the rest of the day.

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Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met at sea?
The news presenter, Jon Snow. I was sailing around the Grenadines and I met him ashore. He was with his wife, Precious, and they were both so friendly and invited us to hang out and have dinner. It was an amazing experience.

Which destinations are still on your bucket-list and why?

Asia is definitely on my radar – I’ve never been so I would love to visit and experience this region.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an entertainer?

No. I started singing in church and my mother wanted me to be a social worker. So I studied sociology. It wasn’t until I got to university that I found out about musical theatre. I joined a society, absolutely loved it and learned so much in those three years. And then I decided to go and train in a couple of musical theatre schools. After this, I worked on myself with professional teachers. And the rest is history.

Singer and actor, Matt Henry MBE, performed at this year's Wave Awards – dubbed the Oscar's of the cruise industry. Credit: AG Studios

What has been your career highlight to date?
It has to be Kinky Boots. I won ‘Best actor in a musical’ at the Olivier awards for my role as drag queen Lola in Kinky Boots. Receiving my MBE in 2017 for services to the theatre is also up there.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
I hope that I am still doing what I am doing because, the older you get, the roles become less and less… For now though, I am looking forward to debuting a new show I have been working in with four guys who I worked with on The Drifters Girl.

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About Kaye Holland

Kaye is a London-based wordsmith who has written for a range of publications including The Times, The Independent, The I, Culture Trip, The Sun, and ABTA among others. In June 2022, Kaye joined the Real Response Media where she looks – together with Lucy Abbott – after the World of Cruising website. Want to get in touch? Kaye can be reached at: [email protected]