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Happy days: holiday fun in our children’s clubs

27/08/2017

P&O Cruises Youth Operations Manager Mark Price manages the youth departments and entertainment facilities for children and families across the fleet. We ask him how he and his teams give youngsters the time of their lives

Youngsters get creative in the children’s club

Youngsters get creative in the children’s club

Knowing how to create the best cruise holidays for children is in Youth Operations Manager Mark Price’s DNA. He grew up enjoying family holidays on board and got the cruising bug in the P&O Cruises children’s clubs. ‘I’ve been through the experience; seen it and lived it,’ says Mark. ‘I remember those great relationships with the staff, meeting the other children and sharing amazing experiences with them.’

 

At the age of 21, he started working for P&O Cruises in the children’s clubs across different ships. ‘I loved it so much that I was able to extend my contract by seven months,’ says Mark. ‘Eighteen years later, I’m still here.’

 

Safe and sound

Today, Mark is responsible for ensuring that all the ships in the fleet have everything they need to run a top-notch programme of events for all the family, finding the right entertainment and managing a huge range of activities for different age groups, while keeping everyone safe and sound. ‘As you can imagine, with childcare there are many rules and guidelines we must adhere to, which is a huge responsibility,’ says Mark. ‘I make sure that we’re up to date with any changes in health and safety legislation, that we have procedures and manuals in place for all our activities (from crazy bingo to making teddy bears’ ears) and, importantly, that I support our HR teams in finding the right people.’

 

Top-notch teams

Finding the right people and the right teams to run the programmes is paramount to the success of the children’s clubs. ‘Our Reef rangers are key to what we do – their passion and enthusiasm is just amazing. They really care about the children and want them to have the best holiday ever. The care that we provide is above and beyond that of any other cruise company. We invest in that and look for people who have the energy and enthusiasm needed to make sure the children are happy and engaged 24/7.

 

‘In addition to our permanent staff, we employ seasonal staff including primary, secondary and early years teachers during the high season. This level of experience and expertise makes a real difference.’

 

When children come into the clubs, they are amazed by the space, the facilities and the exciting activities programmes. ‘Equally important is the care and attention each child receives,’ says Mark. ‘Our Reef rangers help each child to settle in and feel comfortable. They help the shy ones and encourage them to join in at their own pace.’

 

Age-appropriate activities

In the clubs for older children, look out for the latest technology and on-trend games and activities. ‘This year, we’ve introduced interactive gaming tables,’ says Mark. ‘Plus we’re trialling Foot Pool on Azura (a bit like playing football on a pool table). We’re always looking for exciting new things. However, with teenagers, it’s about making them feel comfortable to laze around and get to know each other. You can have the most up-to-date equipment ever (and we do) and they’ll surprise you by just wanting to sit in the club and chat.’

 

Mark recalls how, as a teenager, he hated to miss out on the action. ‘I clearly remember being dragged around by Mum and Dad and saying, “Can I just go back to the club?” It’s funny to see that happen now. When we’re closed for breaks we’ll come back to find the youngsters knocking at the door because they want to get back in.’

 

For younger children, craft activities, dressing up, train sets and building blocks are always popular, while little ones particularly love themed activities that involve exploring the ship. ‘A favourite is Pirate Day,’ says Mark. ‘It could start with a treasure hunt, hunting the pirate who’s stolen the treasure and end up with an afternoon party during which they are thrown into the pool.’

 

Making memories

Mark says that the clubs’ success is down to their amazing atmosphere and energy. ‘It’s intense, very high energy, and you’re always on a high. The children make you like that. It’s great fun for everyone, and the appreciation (and chocolate) you get from children and families at the end is extremely rewarding.

 

‘I’ve seen a lot of children grow up on the ships,’ he says. ‘Families come back to the clubs year after year and it’s wonderful to see them. It’s such a privilege to see little ones turn into young adults. When they’re gutted to leave at the end of the cruise because they’ve had the best holiday in the world, we know we’ve got it right.’

 

For more information on family cruises, click here >

For younger children, crafts, dressing up, trains sets and building blocks are popular activities

For younger children, crafts, dressing up, trains sets and building blocks are popular activities

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