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I mentioned in the last post that we were due to be joined for dinner by Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O, and this did indeed happen. She spends some time on each ship at regular intervals, to meet passengers, crew and officers and by chance joined Ventura during this cruise. She flew into Gibraltar earlier in the day and is sailing back to Southampton, so she’ll spend three nights and two full days on Ventura. She’ll be with a different group of passengers for each dinner, and our table was chosen, pretty much at random, for her first dinner. We were all very pleased.

The meal went well, and conversation flowed easily. She’s obviously done this sort of thing many times, and she introduced herself (‘Carol’) and quickly put us all at our ease. She also arranged for a couple of bottles of wine for us all, which was good of her and, I suspect, helped ease things; although I did see that she drank very little.

Conversation was very general – this wasn’t the occasion to attempt to cross-examine her on pernickety points. She asked us all about our previous cruising experience, of course, and about our future plans. She seemed interested when I mentioned our Solstice cruise, and our views of that ship, especially as compared with Ventura. It turns out that she has been on Solstice – she said that the main figures in the industry get to visit each others’ ships – so she knew the layout of Solstice. She’d asked if anyone had eaten in the speciality restaurants on board Ventura and I’d replied that we’d decided that we weren’t ‘fine diners’, after our less-than-satisfactory meal in Muranos. She said that she’d eaten there, and I got the feeling that she agreed with me about the ‘cast of thousands’ approach to service in the speciality restaurants on american ships.

She did ask if there was anything that we were unhappy about, and the general view was that the one thing that was upsetting people was the ‘sun lounger hog’ problem, which has been very visible this cruise. At 9 o’clock yesterday morning Val and I were having an after-breakfast cup of tea out on the Terrace Bar, and we counted twenty loungers already ‘reserved’ with towels and bags and all unoccupied. Jimmy and Anita have been especially bothered by this problem, as getting out onto the deck in Jimmy’s case (in the wheel chair) requires easy access, but so many of the loungers are a) reserved, b) empty, and c) positioned at odd angles, which causes them especial problems. Carol apologised for this, and there was a bit of a discussion as to what could be done about it. Our feeling was that the problem has to be addressed by the crew, perhaps with strong messages about it. Someone pointed out that in the theatre there are explicit statements that ‘the only way to reserve a seat is to sit in it!’; perhaps a similar message about loungers would a) reduce the problem, and b) allow the crew to remove towels, etc, without worrying about possible confrontations.

One other topic was raised, and that was that the overwhelming majority of passengers on cruises are white; there are very few passengers from either a Caribbean or asian ethnic background. This isn’t a Ventura or even a P&O issue, it’s general: even on Celebrity there are very few african-americans. Carol replied that she recognised the issue. although by chance as she had come aboard she had seen several non-white passengers. However, she also said that it had been an issue from her time with Cunard. One thing she had done during that time, after a comment by a passenger of Caribbean origin, was to get some pictures of non-white passengers into the brochure, so perhaps a similar approach will be taken for P&O.

All in all meeting her was a good experience. I was conscious that she was very much ‘at work’, and her manner was both sociable and business-like. It was a good experience.

One Response to “Ventura 2010 – Dinner with Carol Marlow”

  1. […] nature on it as a ‘reservation’ marker. Later on the same cruise we got the opportunity to mention it to Carol Marlowe when she shared our table. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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