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Introducing our new Senior Vice President, Paul Ludlow

30/08/2016

View from the top: meet P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlow

P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlow

 

Can you tell us about your career to date?

I joined the business 16 years ago in the sales team. Following that, I was appointed Managing Director for Princess Cruises, where I set up the dedicated UK business and teams responsible for revenue management, sales, marketing, reservations and customer relations.

 

It was also a great honour to lead the team that launched Royal Princess in Southampton, christened by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, in June 2013. It was her first ship naming and her last engagement before she had HRH Prince George. It was a very proud moment.

 

Why did you make the move from Princess Cruises to P&O Cruises?

I led a great team at Princess Cruises – together we really heightened the profile of the company in this country and increased the number of guests from the UK and Europe. But when the opportunity arose to run the P&O Cruises business it was, as they say, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

 

P&O Cruises is a company with such a rich heritage, but one that still has momentum and a forward-thinking outlook. Next year, we celebrate 180 years of P&O history – we’ll soon be announcing details of exactly how we intend to mark the occasion.

 

P&O Cruises is British through and through, and recognises that British guests want the security of a sprinkling of home while they’re away. Personal service tailored to the savviness of today’s travellers is also key.

 

I like to quote two examples that really encapsulate that philosophy. First, gin and tonic is still the best-selling drink on board, but we have over 20 different artisan gins and speciality tonics. Similarly, afternoon tea is a great British tradition but we have reimagined scones and cakes with the creations of the extraordinary Master Pâtissier Eric Lanlard. It’s familiarity with a contemporary touch.

 

Has your role changed in the last year?

My role has evolved to incorporate our guest experience team so that our department covers the entire end-to-end guest experience. I have responsibility for all sales, marketing and the execution of the hotel operation. Put more simply, that means how and to whom we sell our holidays, as well as the actual experience our guests have on board.

 

We have seen huge changes on the ships. Not just an increase in the size of our fleet, but also moving with the times to keep up with current British tastes and the desire for new trends in food, entertainment and activities, both on board and in the ports we visit. We’ve launched larger family-friendly ships and provided more dining options, from casual ‘grab and go’ counters for people on the move to fine dining and molecular gastronomy menus, some of which are created by award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs. We also now offer more experiential learning while on board with our celebrity chefs and classes in The Cookery Club on Britannia, as well as state-of-the-art entertainment and shows (more news on that in the autumn).

 

I am determined, though, that we still retain British traditions such as afternoon tea, a turn-down service every evening and traditional deck games on board. For us, change and evolution is important to attract newcomers and appeal to those who have never considered a cruise holiday before. There is still huge potential with families, younger couples and multigenerational groups.

 

What are your key priorities?

I have one very clear and defined priority: to ensure that our teams, both on shore and on ship, work collaboratively to give an end-to-end experience for our guests that exceeds their expectations. Many companies talk about this but very few actually do it. I want the whole process, from the minute someone thinks about taking a cruise holiday with P&O Cruises, to the booking process – whether that is with us or with an expert travel agent – to the anticipation and research of what they will do on board, then to their actual holiday, to be flawless. That’s my aim. It involves everyone pulling together and putting our guests at the heart of every single thing we do. It involves all of our staff. As an example: those who design the dishes for the restaurants, those who test the recipes, those who print and design the menus, those who cook the food on board, those who serve it to our guests and of course, the guests who then choose and enjoy those dishes. It really is as detailed as that. I want to get it right, every single time and at every single stage.

P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlow

 

What do you think are the key challenges?

I work with great people and together our key challenge is actually a simple one. It is communicating the great value for money that a cruise holiday represents and how it can be any holiday you want. It may be a special event or celebration, a family holiday with the children or simply time for a much-needed break. People who say they don’t like cruising are often the ones who have never tried it.

 

Our short cruises are ideal for those looking for a city break weekend away or who want to try a cruise for the first time. The Caribbean is a heavenly escape from the gloom of the winter weather in the UK, and the Med is an ideal summer holiday for everyone in the family, from a toddler who just wants to splash in the pool to exhausted parents who need some time together away from everyday routine.

 

There is nothing like opening the curtains in the morning to see the breathtaking scenery of the Fjords or a wander around the markets in the Baltic cities. For those with more time, our longer cruises and our two- or three-week cruises make a perfect grown-up gap year holiday, visiting the bucket list cities from the safety and comfort of our ships. Even for the most jaded traveller there is always something new to discover, whether it is the Arctic Circle, the Northern Lights, the sights of San Francisco or the islands of the South Pacific. All meals, entertainment and accommodation are included, as are the children’s clubs, films and shows.

 

Cruising has one of the highest repeat businesses of any holiday, but communicating the reasons for that to newcomers is my daily challenge. Shows such as Battlechefs and the live broadcast of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway from Britannia, which was shown back in April, certainly help – they showcased the ship to over eight million households, many of whom may not have considered a cruise holiday before.

What do you do in your spare time and how do you relax?

I was brought up on the Isle of Wight and still live there. It really is a magical place to escape from stress and routine. Each evening as I get on the ferry I feel my pressures disappear, and as I breathe the sea air I feel myself relax. Even in the winter it really is a tonic. I’m passionate about keeping fit and do CrossFit four times a week. I also do a couple of fitness sessions at the weekend, as well as a long cliff walk with my mother’s dog.

 

Oddly for someone who lives on an island, I don’t really like fish or seafood – but I do love eating out. I have friends and family all over the UK so I often try out new restaurants and bars. I’m always monitoring service standards and looking at new trends in dining and presentation and how menus incorporate local ingredients. I have a little black book and scribble down ideas and inspiration during the meal. I’m sure people must think I’m a restaurant reviewer!

 

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do?

Oh that’s easy, I would pass new legislation for three-day weekends.

 

Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

I know most people would choose celebrities, politicians or world leaders, but I would definitely choose my family and friends. I have close friends from different stages of my life and career and I just don’t see enough of them. To have them all round one table for a night of good food and wine would be my dream evening. Even better if I could have one of our Food Heroes </foodheroes/> cook for us as well!

 

How often do you travel?

I travel on our ships for work very frequently, often planned but also sometimes unannounced. I like to see it all through the eyes of our guests and also talk to the senior officers and crew to talk through any issues they may have, see what is working well and how we can be even better across all aspects of the company. I also travel on board for holidays with my family.

 

I never tire of views of the sea, whether on holiday, looking out of my office window or even from my front door...

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