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Meet the team: Marian Weldon

28/11/2016

Arcadia’s Shore Excursions Manager Marian Weldon shares her passion for travelling and her top three recommended shore excursions

Arcadia’s Shore Excursions Manager Marian Weldon

Arcadia’s Shore Excursions Manager Marian Weldon is passionate about travelling

How long have you worked for P&O Cruises and which ships have you worked on?

I’ve been working for P&O Cruises as a Shore Excursions Manager for 20 years. I started on Victoria, and have now worked on every current ship in the fleet. I was very proud to have been the first Shore Excursions Manager on Britannia. As she is the largest cruise ship designed for the British market, it was certainly a career high to have been part of the set-up team for her launch and inaugural season.

I also had the chance to meet Her Majesty The Queen – after she had signed her photograph, which now hangs in the Atrium, Captain Paul Brown walked Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh past the Shore Excursions Desk and introduced the team. We curtseyed as she walked past; my team members, from the Czech Republic and Finland, were so excited.

I’m currently working on Arcadia, which is lovely. She is a warm and friendly ship, and has the best tours office in the fleet – there are two large windows giving you great sea views.

 

What does your job involve and what might you do in a typical day?

On sea days, we have the desk open all day as this is the prime opportunity for guests to come and see us to talk about the upcoming ports of call. With my colleagues, our key priority is to share our knowledge of the destinations to help guests decide what they might like to do and see in port. We book guests on an exciting range of tours as well as staying in touch with the agents at each port of call, keeping them updated as to how many buses and guides will be required, lunch arrangements and any other important information.

On port days you will find us in the coach park, helping guests find the right bus for their tour. We also accompany tours to monitor the quality and refresh our knowledge – it’s important that we’re always on top of what a destination has to offer so we can pass this information on to guests. We might also take a wander around and check out what there is to see and do if going ashore independently, as we also help advise guests who prefer independent exploration. The shore excursions desk is open as well, as guests often have questions about upcoming ports of call.

 

Have you always had a passion for travel?

Yes, since I was a child. At school my favourite subject was geography – I was fascinated by different cultures and the atlas was my favourite book. I would dream of exotic destinations as I found them on the map. They all seemed so far away then, but now I have been lucky enough to travel to so many places and experience them for myself.

I was a secretary until I was 24, but after a lovely holiday in Greece I decided that was the place I really wanted to be, so I got a job with a tour operator. I worked there for 11 years, spending my summers in the Greek islands and the winters in The Gambia, where I got to see a completely different way of life and met some lovely people.

 

Why would you recommend that guests go on a shore excursion?

For first-time visits to destinations, joining a half-day shore excursion is a great way to get to know a place in the company of a knowledgeable local guide. The guides familiarise guests with the lay of the land, so that they can spend the afternoon exploring further at their own leisure. Often the shore excursions we offer are exclusive to P&O Cruises guests, and some events can only be enjoyed on an organised tour, for example a piano recital at Grieg’s House in Bergen, or a Flamenco show at a traditional venue in Cadiz.

An organised tour is also excellent for guests who are travelling alone, as they can explore with other people and are in good company. Another benefit of a shore excursion is that if the bus gets delayed in traffic, the ship will always wait for you!

 

Do you get involved with the planning and organising of shore excursions?

Not so much with the planning, but while at the destinations we do research and try out new tour options and visit new venues, reporting our findings back to the Tour Planners at our head office for consideration for future tours. It’s very satisfying when guests say they have thoroughly enjoyed a tour that you have advised on and recommended.

Marian in Hvar, Croatia

Marian in Hvar, Croatia

How do you ensure that you have a sound knowledge of each destination where shore excursions are offered?

It’s really important that we get out on as many of the organised tours as possible. I try to go on a tour at every port of call on every cruise. When I have done all the tours, I keep an eye out for new ones and repeat the older ones again – venues and itineraries can change from year to year, so we have to keep up to date.

We also read lots of guidebooks to brush up on knowledge, and research any destinations that are unknown to us on the internet. Each ship also produces a report of every port, so we can pick up useful and practical information from these, too. When I’m on holiday, I make a conscious effort to pick up as much local knowledge as possible – it all comes in very handy.

 

In your opinion, which are the top three shore excursions to try?

I have been very lucky to go on many fantastic excursions, especially during World cruises. The most memorable I’ve been on include overland tours with P&O Cruises guests to Machu Picchu in Peru, Kyoto in Japan and Niagara Falls in Canada and the USA.

But the top three shore excursions that I’d recommend to guests are in St Petersburg, Antigua and Sydney. The Simply St Petersburg and the Splendour of St Petersburg shore excursions are both two-day tours that just about include all the major sights. As small group tours of just 16 guests, you get great service and information from your guide. In Antigua, the Nelson’s Dockyard shore excursion provides a historic and beautiful view of the island. You also get to see a lot of Antigua on the drive over to the dockyard. In Sydney, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb shore excursion is a unique, exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s very safe and is suitable for all ages, as long as you have a moderate level of mobility and are not afraid of heights.

 

What aspects of cruise life do you love?

I love the fact that each voyage takes us to difference places. Working on board is like being part of a large family and I have forged some long-lasting and valuable friendships over the last 20 years.

My favorite cruise destinations are the Eastern Mediterranean, the Greek islands and Istanbul – one of my favourite cities in the world. But I was surprised by how much I loved Kotor in Montenegro, too. It’s a stunning ancient walled city that is just delightful.

 

Do you have any tips for guests going on their first shore excursion?

Without a doubt, carefully read the shore excursion description and take heed of the levels of activity involved, as well as any essential information. If you’re visiting a port for the first time then I would very much recommend going along to the Port Presentations on board, as these will give lots of valuable information, and hints and tips from our teams who have the local knowledge. The timings of each talk are advertised in the ship’s daily newspaper, Horizon, which is delivered to your cabin and contains a full list of activities for that day.

 

What do you like doing during your time off?

I have a house on the island of Crete in Greece, so I love to spend time there. It’s surrounded by olive groves and is so peaceful. I also have a large family and lots of friends at home in Manchester, so I love spending time with them, too, as well as travelling to places I haven’t been to before.

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