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Meet the team: James Mealey


P&O Cruises Creative Marketing Executive James Mealey explains why joining a shore excursion is the best way to experience a port of call

James in Rio de Janeiro at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain

James at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

How long have you worked for P&O Cruises?
I’ve been with P&O Cruises since 2007. I vividly remember seeing the job advert and thinking it was my dream job. I started at the company in the Shore Excursions department shortly before the launch of Ventura, so it was an exciting time to join. Eight years on, I can safely say it’s still an exciting place to work. 


What is your role and what does it involve?
I’m based at head office in Southampton, and I’ve just recently joined a new team, having been part of the Shore Excursions department for eight years. I’m now Creative Marketing Executive, involved in raising awareness of the fantastic experiences available on board, such as the spa, art galleries, shops and on-board photography. However, my primary focus is still shore excursions, and highlighting all the amazing experiences guests can have ashore during their holiday.


There are many aspects to my job. One day I might be arranging a film shoot in a destination, the next working alongside video editors to put the finishing touches to a film, or writing and proofing copy for a brochure or social media post. It’s a diverse role that allows me to combine a range of creative skills with my love of travel.

What is the benefit for guests going on a shore excursion offered by P&O Cruises?
For me personally, it’s all about the local guides. Never underestimate how much more you’ll take away from a destination when you’re exploring with a local. You’ll find out how they feel about their city, what daily life is like, what the local dish is, which local football team you should support. They can really help to paint a picture of the destination you’re visiting for the day.


What’s your favourite shore excursion you’ve been on?
Ask anyone – I still talk about the shore excursion to the Briksdal Glacier in Olden, Norway that I did in May 2012. It sounds like a cliché, but pictures and videos simply cannot do it justice. We hiked for 45 minutes though some of the most idyllic scenery, passing waterfalls, trickling streams, snow-capped mountains and wildflowers, arriving at the Briksdal Glacier itself, which is extremely impressive. But what sticks with me the most was the eerie feeling of stillness at the glacier. Surrounded by mountains, it’s like standing in an empty auditorium.  

Do you ever get to go on board the ships?

Yes, to oversee film shoots with a production team. We often take advantage of the ships being in Southampton on a turnaround day to jump on board and capture some footage. Occasionally we’ll travel on board to film for a few days too, which usually means long days and a lot of logistics to consider, but it’s all great fun.

James in Norway en route to the Briksdal Glacier

James in Norway en route to the Briksdal Glacier

Did you always want to work in the travel industry?

Travel has really become a passion for me during my time at P&O Cruises, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had some incredible holidays in the last couple of years, including Brazil and Japan. I try and travel in my spare time as much as possible, and it’s great to be able to feed my travel experiences back into my job.


What is it about cruising that you enjoy?
I love the thrill of waking up to a different view almost every morning. When you really think about it, it’s such a rare scenario to wake up in the morning and not have the faintest idea what it looks like outside your window. There are so many wonderful, unexpected, unplanned moments during a cruise holiday that linger with you long afterwards: a blazing sunset out in the ocean; new food experiences at dinnertime; spotting a pod of dolphins out at sea.  


What’s the best cruise destination you’ve been to with P&O Cruises?
Norway is incredible. It’s so close to Britain, but it’s like another planet. In summer, it never really gets dark so you can sip a cocktail on board at midnight, in the daylight. It’s so surreal. One of the most memorable moments for me was in Geiranger. It was a glorious June morning: t-shirt and sunglasses weather. We hopped on our shore excursion coach, and an hour later we found ourselves ankle deep in snow at the top of Mount Dalsnibba. My tip for anyone going to Norway is to take plenty of shore excursions. Some of the most incredible scenery on the planet is just a coach or boat ride away from the port.

What’s your favourite port of call?
I like cities that have a bit of an edge to them as I love photography, street art and exploring buzzing places. I’ve been to Barcelona a number of times and have come to the conclusion that it’s the perfect port of call. There’s nothing that city doesn’t offer.

I also love Lisbon for its famous yellow trams rattling around tight bends, and Nice on the Cote d’Azur (which can be visited on a shore excursion from Monte Carlo). On a sunny day the sea around Nice is illuminated with stunning shades of turquoise and blue. Last summer I visited Rio de Janeiro on holiday, which I’m still pinching myself about to be honest. The 360-degree city views from the very top of Sugar Loaf Mountain leave you speechless. You’re so high up, that planes are coming in to land below you.