Princess Cruises’ Stuart Allison reveals how he went from baggage handler to vice president of the cruise line’s Australia and NZ operations. Plus why wants to visit Alaska, soon.
1. How long have you been in the industry, what and where was your first job?
My career has literally been a case of working from the wharf up. Back in the late 1990s I had summer jobs during university as a baggage handler at the Dover cruise terminal and a call centre operator for P&O car ferries. After I graduated I joined what was P&O/Princess in London as a Yield Analyst.
What’s your most amazing travel experience (one of them anyway)?
Having worked in the cruise industry for 16 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy many amazing experiences. Sailing into Venice, sailing through the fjord to Kotor in Montenegro, crossing the Atlantic on Queen Mary 2, the maiden call to Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands on Pacific Princess, Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand. Too many to pick out just one… But crossing the English Channel and sighting the white cliffs of Dover is always a special moment.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Working as a baggage handler. My first time on a ship was below deck, having arrived at 5am to help off-load baggage, before portering guests to their transfers, many of whom were Americans and generous tippers!!
What’s the first ever country you travelled to? What was your experience like?
As a kid, being so close to the continent meant our annual family holiday was always to France or Spain. The port was a short drive from home and the thrill of travelling across the channel by ship was always a highlight for me and no doubt subliminally contributing to my future career aspirations!
What’s on your wish list of places to visit?
Having worked for the #1 cruise line to Alaska for so long, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t made it there yet. However, watching Brazil’s World Cup on TV and with the Olympics to follow, it’s certainly whet my appetite for visiting South America sometime soon.
Who was your biggest mentor/influence growing up?
I’m someone who is very results orientated. I suspect that came from my Mum’s influence as when I’d proudly return from school announcing 80% in a test, she’d always ask why I didn’t get 85 or 90%, pushing me to work harder the next time. My analytical obsession certainly came from my Dad, you should see his golf score database. Whilst I’ve never got close to his mental arithmetic, his methodological approach rubbed off on me and we don’t make decisions without the data to support it!
How has working in travel changed you?
I’ve certainly become much more customer orientated. I’ve come to realise that guest satisfaction and advocacy are even more critical to the success of our industry than I once appreciated. I’ve always loved data, but today I’m just as likely to be pouring over the responses from our end of cruise guest surveys as a revenue report.
What’s your biggest life achievement?
From a career perspective I joined the Australian cruise industry at a time when the market was pretty stagnant at 100k passengers per year. Since then over five million have cruised with the number of people cruising annually to top one million for the first time this year. It makes me proud to think that I’ve influenced that growth through the ships we’ve deployed and the itineraries we’ve developed specifically for this market. However in May I’m set to become a father for the first time so you’d better ask me that question again at the end of the year!
What’s one tip you always give to new cruisers?
Planning. After you book your cruise make sure you jump online have a look at your shore tour and onboard dining options. Some activities have limited spots or are really popular so make sure you book them early!
What’s your favourite cruise destination?
Cruising New Zealand, it’s such an awe-inspiring region.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
This is one of the most exciting and dynamic industries to work in. There are many unique facets to learn in this segment of the travel industry so be prepared to put in the hard yards. Partnerships are critical so make sure you nurture them. Be it the amazing travel agents who bring our products to life, right to the ground operators who help deliver the fantastic experiences in the ports we visit.
Have a question for Stuart on Princess Cruises or his travel experiences? Leave it below and we’ll get you the answer.
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