Interview With P&O Cruises Aurora Second Officer

Let me introduce you all to Gareth, currently a Second Officer on board P&O Cruises, Aurora.

I first met Gareth in November 2011 on board Oceana, well, I’m saying met; he was hurrying from one end of the ship to the other and gave a quick “hello” as he went past. I am assuming he was late for his shift, that or his dinner!? This is your chance to defend yourself Gareth!

I was making my way towards the Aft Mooring Station as far as I can remember in preparation for departure!  We always have a pre-departure brief on the bridge and then as soon as that is finished we’re pretty much ready to go.  Hands to stations!

Ok, Gareth. (I still say he was late for his dinner! “laughs”) 😉

I wanted to add a little twist to the typical blog posts and also bring you some short interviews with those that are behind the scenes sailing us around the world. You can never beat content from those that are really “in the know” so to speak.

So let’s get started!

We know you are on board Aurora but, where in the world are you as you answer these questions?

We are presently making a South-Westerly course across the North Sea towards our next port of call, Zeebrugge.  It’s a beautiful evening; sunny, not a cloud in the sky and a few ships in the distance.  It always makes for the 8-12 watchkeepers an enjoyable watch; I often tell people I have the best ‘office’ in the world and it sure is that.  Not many people on land know what my job entails but I know I have one of the most desirable and rewarding jobs there is – whisking 2,000 passengers away from their normality of life in the UK to see the delights of the world.  The Baltic was the destination this cruise.

How long does a typical contract last and how do you manage to balance home life with sea life?

I usually work about 3 months at a time with 6 weeks to 2 months leave in between.  You definitely need that time at home to relax, recharge your batteries, go on your own holiday (my parents often joke that I’m always on holiday!), get the house and garden back into shape and most importantly see friends and family.

Balancing sea life and home life can be tricky, however after 7 years at sea you get used to it, so do your family and friends.  I have a fantastic fiancee who also works at sea, so it’s great to have an understanding of each others careers.  We have the whole of my next leave together at home so it’s not as difficult as one may think.

Was a career at sea something you originally set out to pursue?

Honest answer? No!  My boyhood dream was to be an airline pilot.  In the days where you could go and see the Captain on the flight deck I would be there every time I went away on holiday.  Unfortunately the airline industry took a big hit with the tragic events of 9/11 which coincided with the time I left college looking for a future career so unfortunately that dream was never fulfilled.  3 years later and I started my cadetship with P&O Cruises and since then I have never looked back.  Would I change what I have now for being an airline pilot?  No.  I get to see the world, meet new people, have a good quality of life and make people happy.  We never get excited about flying when we go on our travels, we’re more interested about getting from A to B, however with a cruise it is part of the experience.

Give us an idea of a typical working day for you?

No two days are the same!   As a watchkeeper I either work the 12-4 watch or the 8-12 watch.  The 8-12 watch would see me working from 8am until midday on the bridge, possibly 2-3 hours of non-watchkeeping work in the afternoon and then 8pm until midnight.  Some days I may work 12 hours, other days I may work just 8 hours and then go ashore and see what the passengers see.  We don’t have days off, otherwise the ship wouldn’t go anywhere!

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you whilst at sea?

The strangest moment was on Aurora back in 2009 where we were cruising around the North Cape and Spitsbergen.  Being on the midnight to 4am watch with the sun still shining in the sky was very strange indeed; I was wearing my sunglasses the whole watch the sun was so bright!

What is the silliest thing a passenger has ever said to you?

Very rarely do I get silly questions; it may seem silly to me as there may be an obvious answer, but to a passenger they ask because it’s not always obvious to them!  I do remember though once when a passenger asked me how I get to and from work each day at a formal night, to which a gentlemen proceeded to explain that the crew are transferred by helicopter home and then are returned in the morning!  It amazes me to this day how anyone would believe that however they seemed content with the answer and myself and the gentleman had a good laugh about it later.  I did have to explain to them that we had accommodation onboard the next opportunity that we met; it would have been a very cruel joke otherwise!

Do you prefer smaller ships or larger ships?

I must admit that I do prefer the larger ships.  They have so much more to offer in the way of amenities, dining options, entertainment venues and I love the atmosphere with the larger amount of crew onboard.  However our smaller ships also have their plus points; Aurora is the most beautiful cruise ship afloat without a doubt and the tiny Adonia can reach those idyllic ‘pathfinder’ ports where the bigger ships cannot go.  We have ships for everyone in our fleet; large ships, small ships, family friendly, adults only, ships for Caribbean cruises, Baltic cruises and World cruises.  I do love the Aurora though, such a splendid looking ship and she sails the high seas effortlessly.

Which ship is your favourite so far?

Do I have to tell you?  I must say Azura is my favourite ship as I was on her from newbuild leaving the shipyard and enjoyed working on her over a span of a year and a half, leaving with many fond memories.  As I said before she has a lot to offer to our passengers, modern but still keeping the P&O traditions and the bridge was a dream to work on.  I do get told by a few people that our bigger ships are too big; however putting it into perspective they are only 20 meters longer than the Aurora and 4 metres wider.  The larger public passenger spaces absorb the greater numbers with ease; looking at the ship you would say they are a lot bigger but onboard it’s really hard to tell.

I take it one day you would like to be captain yes?

Why not?  Of course it is my ambition in life to be a Captain; however one has to walk before he can run!  I am young and have time on my side and in time maybe one day I shall get there.  We have a great future ahead at P&O Cruises and I see myself being part of that.

A massive thank you to Gareth for agreeing to be part of the blog and I hope you all enjoyed it!

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Author: Danielle

Trying to explore each and every inch of this wonderful planet via cruise ship.

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