Meet the Hunky Cruise Director of Carnival's Hottest New Ship
"The biggest thing is guests want to know where I am, so when they book their next cruise, they want to make sure I'll be there," he tells PEOPLE
When Matt Mitcham was 21 years old, he followed his heart onto a cruise ship — and never got off.
“I was chasing a girl,” the veteran Carnival cruise director tells PEOPLE of why he hopped a flight from his native U.K. to Texas and boarded that fateful boat. “We met in Turkey. I said ‘I love you,’ and I thought she said ‘I love you too.’ She said, ‘elephant juice,’ I think.” He’d already landed a job alongside her on a Carnival ship, when things went south. “She broke up with me,” says the 33-year-old. “She didn’t break up with me in England before the flight. She broke up with me when we got off the flight.”
His love interest quit her job after a week, but Mitcham, who was just named as head of Carnival’s hottest new ship, Mardi Gras, stuck it out. “I stayed, and that was 12 years ago,” he says.
Now, he’s become a celebrity onboard and online (he has 40,000 Instagram followers), known for his consummate hosting skills and his six-pack abs.
His Instagram page, which is full of videos of his travels and shirtless selfies, started as a way to keep in touch with the guests who he says became his “family” on board. But the attention he received skyrocketed in a way he wasn’t expecting.
“The biggest thing is guests want to know where I am, so when they book their next cruise, they want to make sure I’ll be there,” he tells PEOPLE. “But also, when people get home, they can still be on vacation [through me]. I post a lot of stuff that’s happening on board. So when they’re back home on a Wednesday night doing nothing, they can relive the party again.”
“At first, I was like, ‘people don’t want to see this’ and now I think they really do,” he says. “How cool is it that now you can kind of know your crew in a new way. People are curious and want to know what my house looks like and where I go on vacation and things like that. I’m always super big on giving out my social media links [to guests] but I do it in a subtle way.”
Despite his new place in the spotlight at the helm of Mardi Gras, he maintains he’s a cruise director first and a pretty face second.
“My job is to be the face and voice of the ship,” says Mitcham, who also runs all of the on-board events including a Family Feud live show. “From the moment guests walk on to the moment they walk off, I am part of the family with them, making sure they know where to go, what to see, and what not to miss out on.”
In October 2020, he’ll set sail on Mardi Gras, which departs from Port Canaveral, Florida on seven-day Caribbean cruises. The completely revamped ship will feature the world’s first roller coaster at sea, along with Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken restaurant and Guy Fieri’s Guy’s Burger Joint.
Along with photos and videos from his sailings, Mitcham also shares many steamy pictures of himself showing off the abs he manages to maintain while on board the ship by eating healthy and working out every day.
“Eating clean makes me feel nice,” he says. “I feel better eating greens and meat and I don’t really eat too many carbs as a personal choice. It’s not a sacrifice. Of course, we have Guys Burgers and pizza and chocolate cake on board, but we also have salad bars and good proteins and barbecue joints where I can get good food.”
Mitcham supplements his diet with “lots of cardio” and ab workouts. “There is no excuse not to go to a gym on a cruise ship,” he says. “As a guest, I get you’re on vacation, but it’s literally maybe three decks above where you live. Even if it’s just for some morning cardio. I’m not a gym freak where I go like three hours everyday, but it’s part of my daily routine and it keeps me focused.”
Of course, just because he finds time to work out each day doesn’t mean Mitcham isn’t busy on board. During each of his six months stints on board (he spends the other six months of the year on vacation), he essentially acts as the cruise’s “hype man,” hosting everything from white parties to military appreciation events to Cat in the Hat book readings for children.
“I mean, they pay me to travel the world. And it sounds cheesy, but my favorite part of the job is making a difference in someone’s vacation,” he says. “You build this relationship with these guests over seven days, and you’re like a part of someone’s family by the end. That is my motivator — to make people smile.”