Peter Shanks and A Blockbuster Video

June 20, 2008 -

John Heald

There are times when words are not necessary and this was just such an occasion. Peter Shanks and I stood……….sharing a special moment……….that needed no narration.

We both soaked up the everlasting memories of the Queen Elizabeth 2, The Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria, three special ladies…… together…………… final time.

I admit that as I had talked to Peter earlier that day I had not realized that he was such an important member of the Carnival UK group. This is probably due to the fact that he is as comfortable in the pub chatting about football and how difficult it is to get a decent pint of beer………. as he is in the board room.

It is this easy going disposition that he has been blessed with that has made him so popular and therefore someone I have been wanting to interview for a long time.

So, here is Peter Shanks……………in his own words.

1. Peter, we were all thrilled to read your insight on the Queen’s visit to her namesake and now we would like to know more about you. Can you tell us about your career so far?

I have always worked in travel. On leaving school I took a year out prior to going to University and spent 6 months in New York and 6 months in Los Angeles working for Laker Skytrain. It was an exciting time and gave me the ‘travel bug.’ Back in the UK I then worked in tour operating for Cosmos before going on to become Commercial Director of Thomas Cook and then managing director of Going Places which was the travel agent arm of the Airtours Group. I finally saw sense 5 years ago and joined the cruise sector with Cunard and Carnival UK.

2. What is your earliest memory of ships and cruising that made you realize, this is how you wanted to spend your life?

When I was working with Thomas Cook, I was invited on a 4-day cruise to the Bahamas out of Miami on the Carnival Ecstasy. I was amazed – I had no concept of just what variety and value cruising had to offer. I don’t think you were Cruise Director on the cruise I took (!) – but I returned to the UK as a huge ambassador for cruising and determined for Thomas Cook to become the biggest retailer of cruise in the UK – which they now are.

3. What does your job with Carnival Corporation entail?

I am Chief Commercial Officer for Carnival UK. We look after P+O Cruises, Cunard, Princess in the UK and our new younger brand for ‘cruise virgins’ – Ocean Village. I am responsible for Cunard worldwide and for the sales and marketing of Princess in the UK. It’s a great company to work for and we are seeing growth across all of our brands in the fast growing UK market.

Can you describe a normal working day in the life of Peter Shanks?

I always start the day with numbers – how many cruises did we sell yesterday, how are the prices holding up, how are our customer scores doing – what special offers do we need to introduce to make sure we are sailing full. I also check the webcams of the Cunard Fleet first thing – just to keep up to speed with where they are that day and always hope that seas are calm and the sun is shining wherever they are. I am trying to wean myself off emails – far too many of them these days. Then there is normally a trading or marketing update to attend or a programme planning session for next year. We are doing a lot of work on the design plans for Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth at the moment and that is very exciting. We are really proud of the new Queen Victoria, however the Cunard team never rest on their laurels so there are plenty of ideas on the go. I also spend quite a bit of time wandering round the office talking to the team – it is they who really deliver our success so it’s good to give them all the support they need. I also try to visit the Cunard ships if they are in Southampton. A cup of coffee with the Hotel Manager, a quick update with the Captain and a wander around the ship will keep you more up to speed than a million emails would.

4. I was fascinated by the Cunard museum onboard the Queen Victoria. Can you tell our readers some of the exhibits that can be found there?

It’s a real mixture of Cunard memorabilia over the years. The brand has a very famous past and there is so much interest. One of the fun parts of the museum covers the ‘Cunard Yanks.’ Many US soldiers developed a special relationship crossing the Atlantic during the World War II and that relationship has been very special ever since. There is an interactive part of the museum where you can listen to some of the famous US bands of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. There is also quite a bit of history on the building of the Cunard Liners over the years.

5. I stood with you in South Southampton and experienced the three Queens being together one last time. Can you describe your emotions as you witnessed this event?

There is something magical about the Cunard brand and its link to history. I have been lucky enough to witness some special moments over the last five years. The launch of Queen Mary 2 in Southampton by Her Majesty the Queen, I was up on the top deck as Queen Mary 2 sailed into New York for the first time as the sun came up in 2004 and I stood with you as our Three Queens met in Southampton. The best moment for me at that event (apart form standing next to you, of course), was as Queen Mary 2 sailed very close past QE2, all of our crew on both ships were cheering and shouting messages across to each other. There really is something awesome about Cunard – every one of your bloggers simply has to sail across the Atlantic on Queen Mary 2. I defy anybody who says they do not have a tear in their eye as the ship either leaves or arrives in New York. Every customer who does it is making history – really making history – as one of the millions of people seeking the adventure of crossing the Atlantic. I was really struck by the note you made on your blog when you arrived to see Queen Mary 2 for the first time in Southampton in April. You were stunned, you could not believe it, as you entered the terminal you saw what you described as normal people – not Lords and Ladies, not just the exclusive few (although we do have some very special guests) but “real people.” Every single one of your Carnival Bloggers has to make the journey – it is surprisingly affordable and will give you enough dinner party conversation material to last a lifetime!
And I will let those that don’t already know into a secret – it’s always best to sail from Southampton to New York rather that the other way round. That way you get five 25-hour days (real value for money!) and you get to experience the dawn arrival into New York.

6. The future looks very bright for the cruise industry in the U.K. What do you think has happened to make this so?

As most of your bloggers will know – the real success lies in the value and quality of cruising. The UK is a market which for many years has been a ‘package holiday’ market – one or two weeks in a hotel in Spain or Greece – or what I call a ‘Flop and Drop’ holiday. Now customers are becoming more adventurous – they want to see and do more and they want better value. That is what cruising delivers. Cruising is growing by around 10 percent each year in the UK market. Of course – our next big excitement is you bringing and naming Carnival Splendor in the UK. Well done for choosing Myleene Klass as your Godmother. Firstly – she is gorgeous – and secondly she is the “face of Marks and Spencer advertising” in the UK – so please do look after her for us and I think you will see lots of interest and press coverage.

7. I know you also had dinner with a select group of people who had sailed for the entire world cruise on the Queen Victoria. What sort of people are these and can you share any of there stories with us?

The first thing that strikes me about Cunard guests is how loyal they are. On the world cruise we have many very interesting guests from a very diverse range of backgrounds around the world. It is a unique experience, as the voyage nears an end, to see groups of Japanese mixing with Australians, mixing with Americans, Europeans and of course British is a wonderful experience – all toasting each other over a glass of chilled champagne and I know they will keep in touch with each other for years to come as they share the special memories that a world cruise on Cunard brings you. I would not want to share any of their stories as they are all private people – but they have some wonderful stories to tell with many of them having been on over 20 consecutive world cruises with the QE2. The one thing they all have in common is a very special relationship with the crew of the ship.

8. Carnival Corporation now has a huge operation in the UK and I wondered if you could help me by listing the ships within the Corporation who sail out of Great Britain and are there any ports you hope one day our ships will call at within the UK… hometown Southend on Sea for example.

P+O Cruises Fleet is made up of Artemis, Oceana, Aurora, Oriana, Arcadia and newly launched Ventura. P+O Cruises is absolutely “Britain’s Favorite Cruise Line.” Artemis is doing her first “Round Britain” cruise in 2009, but I am sorry to say John she is not going to Southend on Sea. I think if you live in Southend on Sea, my advice would be to go to sea if you want to experience a ship – just as you have.

Our Ocean Village fleet has two ships- Ocean Village and Ocean Village Two. (You can tell that in naming the second ship we did not see the need to pay some expensive marketing consultants to come up with the name!)

For the Princess Cruises brand we support all of the 17 ships in their fleet, but we focus on Sea Princess which is pretty much now dedicated to the UK market and for 2009 we will have Grand Princess dedicated to the UK market in the summer. Princess is proving very popular in the UK for two reasons. Firstly – the excellent service onboard, many of our UK guests really like the Princess “American style service.” Secondly – the real strength of destinations. Princess go pretty much everywhere you could go – for example the Alaska and Exotic Far East destinations are a real hit with our customers.

And lastly – but not least – we have the Cunard Fleet, QE2, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and joining us in 2010 the new Queen Elizabeth. Quite simply – the most famous ocean liners in the world.

9. You must have heard many amusing stories from within the industry. Is there one you can share with us?

We had a British customer on one of the early Laker Skytrain flights from London to San Francisico. In those days the Laker DC10’s had to make a fuel stop in Bangor, Maine, with customers getting off, clearing customs and then re-boarding to fly-on to San Francisco. This particular British customer had rather too much to drink. He went through customs, and then rather than re-boarding the plane checked into the airport hotel at Bangor airport. The amusing bit came the next morning when he got up, dressed in his best (but probably embarrassing) holiday clothes came down to reception and asked for a taxi to take him down to the Golden Gate Bridge. Still – the good news was it made the press with some lovely PR for Laker – but not such good PR for the Brits knowledge of Geography.

10. Time to tell us a few of your favorite things.

Fill in the blanks please

Favorite Port: Easy – sailing into New York as the sun comes up – nothing beats it.

Favourite Ship: Queen Mary 2

Favourite lounge or bar on a ship: I like the aft pool bar on Crown or Emerald Princess with a Coors Light as you leave port.

Favourite time of year to cruise: Anytime – so long as it is calm

Favourite movie actor: John Belushi

Favourite movie actress: Helen Mirren

Favourite movie: Animal House

Favourite super hero: Margaret Thatcher

Favourite music to sit on deck and listen to on your I pod while sailing out of Southampton on a Trans Atlantic: Cold Play

Please join me in thanking Peter for this brilliant interview. I should also tell you that Peter is a regular blog reader and has written to me many times to say how much he enjoys the daily laughs and how impressed he is that you have all formed this special on line community of friendship. Isn’t it great that someone with such a high standing as Peter reads our thingy every day.

Thanks mate.

It is because of Peter that I am able to provide you with a link to something very, very special.

When I finally stop working onboard ships I will no doubt be asked what I miss most…………….no need to pause on that one………….answer………the crew.

The men and women who work onboard a ship are a very special group of people. They serve, they entertain, they cook, clean, navigate and repair, all the while they do so away from the ones who love them …………………for months on end.

A ship is at the end of the day just an iron box. It will be dressed in finery and cloaked with gadgets and festooned with luxury. Then along come the crew…………and turn that ship into their home and then……………. your home.

Imagine then being a crewmember on the oldest and most famous Ocean Liner company in the world. Imagine being part of a company that has played host to Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies, Stars and Starlets. A uniform that says “I work for Cunard ………… no ……………….not I work…………I am………………Cunard.”

Then, you get with all your shipmates and you realize that the “I”…………….has been replaced by “We”………………………………and now that pride, that sense of service and tradition is best described as ………………..”We are Cunard.”

I saw this video a few days ago. It was meant for internal use only, however after viewing it; I knew that anyone whose life includes a true passion for ships and appreciation of what it means to work at sea needed to view it as well. It shows better than anything I have seen before just how special being a crew member can be…………its not forced …………its not scripted……………its just men and women sharing their love …………….the same love you as a passenger have…………….a love of the sea, ships and vacations onboard them.

I think this video is brilliant. Utterly, stunningly, jaw droppingly brilliant……………if you agree tell your friends……… it on the boards at Cruise Critic……..Cruise Mates……….Cruise Tom……………I want everyone to see this video……………It’s called “We are Cunard “………….and that’s exactly what they are.

The link has been temporarily removed.

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John, Heidi and thousands of crew from all over the world

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.