In Holidays, Travel & Adventure, Your Stories

After an amazing 41 years at sea Anthony Pollendine has seen many changes in the cruising world. Starting out first of all as a bellboy working in the elevators, he’s worked his way up from cadet to steward to barman to first pursor, and now holds the very important job of Hotel General Manager on the Sea Princess.

We were lucky to catch up with Tony the other day to find out a bit more about his life and work.Princess Cruises 01

Meet Tony Pollendine

Tony is from Frenton on Sea, a small seaside town in East Anglia in England and he supports Chelsea football team – don’t hold that against him 😉 He’s friendly and helpful and welcomed us with open arms into his office on Deck 5 for a chat.

How did it all start?

After serving in the Merchant Navy Tony joined P & O, which was then part of the Princess Cruise line, and worked on the Canberra from 1975 to 1982, after which he was employed on the Oriana until 1984. Since then he’s worked on the Diamond, Saphire and Sea Princess.

Being a Hotel General Manager at sea is very different to working on land, and when we met up with Tony, he had a wealth of interesting stories to share with us.

Changes over the years

We also asked Tony about some of the changes he’s seen during his long career at sea, and he told us that one of the biggest differences is the cruising demographic.

“We’ve definitely reached out to a wider variety of people over the years. When I first started cruising the general consensus was that only moneyed people could cruise, but now due to the size of ships these days, and the way cruise line companies are structured it’s become affordable for many more people.”

“Ships like Oriana and Canberra were considered iconic in their day and carried around 1700 passengers but they only offered bars and restaurants back then. These days the food has changed tremendously, there’s a lot more variety and wine lists have improved – there’s anytime dining including, specialty restaurants and a pizzeria – in 1975 Pizza was hardly heard of. I was a bar tender until 1990 and we only served very basic cocktails like Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri, but now there are so many to choose from.”

Working on New Ship Builds

Tony’s been involved in some new ship builds, and we asked him what sort of work that involves?

“The new ship build I worked on took place in Japan, and I enjoyed living there. I was employed on the fit out for the Golden Princess. I had to be there a month before the ship launched. Everywhere and everything had to be inspected to make sure the specs were met. From the cabins to crew accommodation, from the store rooms to the lounges. It was similar to doing a snag list for a new home. I was part of a team who checked everything was working, that drawers open and shut, that all the cutlery was intact, etc etc. There was a huge list to check off and I had to sign off on it, and take ownership.”

Quite a responsibility!

“Yes, you don’t want a ship worth around 380 million dollars falling apart on it’s first voyage! The whole new build team do a tremendous amount of work even before a ship sails.”

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With Tony for a steakhouse specialty dinner on board Sea Princess.

Security on board

Lifestyle Fifty readers have been asking some interesting questions about cruising and one has been about security. So we asked Tony about the security travelling by ship from country to country.

“We have a security officer who has a team working under him who are on duty 24/7 and a Staff Captain who is in charge of security overall.

On the way on and off the ship passengers have to present their ship boarding cards which are magnetised, and everyone has to ‘ding’ these on the way off and on the ship. All passengers have to put their bags through X-Ray machines to be security checked whenever they get back on the ship too.

Although passengers don’t see it, the ship is also prepared for its passage going through pirate waters. We have night security watchmen on duty, high pressure hosepipes are rigged, and there’s a RAD a sonar which let’s off a siren which causes excruciating pain and pierces the eardrums of any would be attackers.”

What made you go to sea?

“In school we had a careers day and the teacher asked me what I wanted to do. I’d worked in kitchens since I was 12 because my father was a chef, but I didn’t want to be a chef. So the careers teacher said, well why don’t you go to sea?

I then had an interview with the Merchant Navy which I passed, went to the training centre in Kent, did 4 weeks firefighting and sea survival and then completed 6 weeks of basic catering training – bed making, silver service, bar service, a bit of cooking – the next minute I was packing my bags and off to sea working as a Bellboy.

I was horrified when I first walked on the Canberra. I was met at the gangway by an able seaman and escorted to an 8 berth cabin. There were 7 cabins each of 8 berths and one communal bathroom. You were given your uniform and off you went. My first job was in the elevators, 8 hours a day – it had it’s ups and downs.”

What other jobs have you done?

“I’ve worked in the officer’s bar and in the bureau as a Bellboy. I’ve been a waiter, assistant stateroom steward serving afternoon tea, then I went worked up to Bar Manager – I actually enjoyed that job probably the best of all – I enjoyed meeting the passengers and I was in charge of a team of 60 – 70 people.

But now I love my job as Hotel General Manager and have a great team.”

What’s the best thing about a life at sea?

“The main thing about a life at sea is the interaction you have with passengers and the fun you can have with your team. Once you’ve done a few years cruising you’ve seen a lot of ports, so it becomes more about the team and the people you meet – who are a breed in their own right. There’s a great camaraderie, and my best friends are the people I’ve met at sea. We are a huge family, and although we move from ship to ship and perhaps don’t see each other often, we do keep in contact.”

Favourite Ports

“Many moons ago, when I first started world cruising I’d say Hong Kong and Sydney where we stopped over for several days. I also like Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua, but I have a great fondness for Australia.”

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Sea Princess

Tips for First Time Cruisers

“Make sure you read the information that you’re sent in the Cruise Personalizer prior to the cruise, then when you get on board you’re prepared for things like currency and visas.”

“Likewise, read up early about the shore excursions and book them because the most popular can see out quickly.”

Lifestyle Fifty readers have also asked about Solo Travelling

“A significant number of people travel alone these days and Sea Princess caters for them in many ways – we have special ongoing events for solo travellers, meetings, get togethers and dancing to name a few things on offer. Cabins however are double occupancy and there is a single supplement for single occupancy.”

At War

In 1982 the Canberra was commandeered as a troop carrier in the Falklands War.

“We came back from a world cruise and the Ministry of Defence started measuring us up first as a hospital ship then as a troop carrier, and twice we had to go into a dangerous area known as ‘bomb alley’.

Emotional Time

“Arriving back in Southampton after the war was one of the most moving memories I’ve ever had. Sailing into the Solent there were so many people lined up around the coast – there were tugs leading us in – and people on the quay singing Land of Hope and Glory. It was incredible.”

Amusing story

“During the Falklands war we used to have air raid drills on the Canberra. There was yellow alert and red alert which meant ‘Watch out they’re coming for you.’ I was on Deck One working in the laundry one day, and word was out that submarines were around us. Then there was a yellow alert submarine warning. Well, I dropped the linen and legged it upstairs to an upper deck so fast that other crew members said they’d never seen me move so fast in my life!”

Thanks Tony for sharing some wonderful stories about your life at sea!

If you’d like to find out more about Princess Cruises and and maybe meet up with Tony one day, you can discover more about world cruising here: Princess Cruises (of whom I am a guest but all opinions are my own)

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Showing 2 comments
  • Kathy Marris

    What an interesting character. I can’t imagine working on a cruise ship for all those years. Surely it must have a downside. I think I would miss my homeland, family and childhood friends too much. Tony must really like ships and being at sea. They really do a marvellous job.

    • Johanna

      I think a career at sea is something that gets in your blood, Kathy. And yes, the crew do a marvellous job – you never would know if they’re down or homesick.

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