Advice from five inspirational P&O Cruises women

From the on-board medical team to those responsible for guest experiences and entertainment, our female crew members take on new challenges and exciting projects every day, not to mention getting the opportunity to travel to some truly incredible places. In aid of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we asked five P&O Cruises crew members for an insight into their world on board and on shore and asked them to share their best piece of advice with us.

Dr Philna Dippenaar, Senior Doctor, Britannia

What's it like to work onboard a P&O Cruises ship?

I started working at P&O Cruises in 2017 as crew doctor. Being a doctor and helping people has always been my dream and I am also a true traveller at heart, so a career at sea was the perfect way to combine these passions. I have worked on several of the P&O Cruises ships and have made many friends from different nationalities and learnt lots over the years. It is my home away from home and has been an amazing experience. I have seen so many places across the world – more than I could ever have imagined! 

What's been your proudest career achievement?

Leading Britannia’s return to service after the operational pause. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and I am very proud to have been part of it. Work can be challenging in the current climate, but we all support each other and work together. There are a lot of opportunities to go ashore to explore places you have never been or just sit somewhere quiet and recharge the mind. I can see myself working at P&O Cruises for a long time still.

Marian Weldon, Shore Experiences Manager, Iona

What is it like to work on board a P&O Cruises ship?

Living and working on board a cruise ship is so much more than a job. It is a completely new and different way of life. The ship is like a family; a community of people from all over the world, coming together with one main focus – to give our guests the best holiday. I truly believe that I have the best job in the world. I know lots of people who worked at sea and then went back to land for a ‘proper life’ but found they couldn’t settle and came back to work on board. Travel just gets in your bones.

What advice would you give young women starting their careers

It’s ok not to have a life plan when you’re starting out. Life is short so don’t settle for a job that you’re not happy in.

Sarah Delooze, Youth Manager, Iona

What do you love the most about your job?

I am the youth manager on board, which means I spend most of my time in The Reef and Scene where all the fun happens. Working at sea isn’t just about seeing new places. It’s also about meeting the locals and trying to make a difference to the people and places we visit. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to visit some of the children’s homes across the Caribbean and to invite the children on board at Christmas time. I came to the role when I was looking to take a break from teaching and 16 years later, I’m still cruising. I guess I might like it!

What's your favourite P&O Cruises destination to visit and why?

Croatia has crystal-clear waters, breathtaking scenery and nature, and stunning towns and villages packed with history. Not to mention the delightful little cafés and restaurants where you can sit and watch the world go by. 

Kathryn Ramsdale, Director, Health Services

What's your favourite P&O Cruises destination to visit and why?

The sail-in to Sydney Harbour is spectacular – seeing the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance from the bow of the ship at dawn is unforgettable. 

Have you any advice for young women thinking about their careers?

Be patient, never stop learning, never give up and strive to be your best, not the best. Prior to working shoreside, I worked as a doctor and senior doctor on board. I am a qualified GP with background in anaesthetics, critical care and emergency medicine. I absolutely love to travel and explore new destinations and working at sea always appealed to me because of the combination of travel and practising medicine in remote and exciting environments. Maritime medicine requires a unique set of skills and I spent many years steering my career in different directions across the globe to ensure I was a suitable candidate.

Emma Alexander, Entertainment Manager, Iona

What's it like to work on board a P&O Cruises ship?

Every day is a new experience, and no two days are the same. I began my career with P&O Cruises in 2008 as an entertainment officer and over the past 14 years have worked my up through the ranks. I am currently the entertainment manager on Iona, overseeing the extensive entertainment programme on board. I manage a diverse and highly talented team which is very rewarding. Life at sea certainly has its challenges – especially if there is a change of itinerary or one of our performers is unable to join us – yet the show must go on!

What message do you have for young working women?

Nowadays anything is achievable with hard work, belief and perseverance. Find those who support you and prove those who don’t wrong.