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Meet the team: Neil Oliver


Britannia’s Entertainment Manager Neil Oliver on his passion for dancing and providing the best on-board entertainment programmes

Neil Oliver and Emma Lee during the Strictly Come Dancing Themed Cruise fashion show

Neil and colleague Emma Lee please the audience during the Strictly Come Dancing Themed Cruise fashion show on Britannia

How long have you worked for P&O Cruises?
This July I will have been working for P&O Cruises for 25 years. Back in 1991, I was working with a Latin American dance partner, Paula Graves, when we received a call from P&O Cruises asking if we’d like to work on the ships as dance instructors, performing cabaret in the evening. We jumped at the chance. The first ship I worked on was Sea Princess, which later became Victoria. In 1995 I was offered the role of Entertainment Officer on Canberra and I’ve now been part of the Entertainment Team on every ship in the P&O Cruises fleet.


What does your job involve?
My main responsibility is to ensure that my team delivers the entertainment programme on board Britannia smoothly and efficiently. On a typical day, I check my emails first thing in the morning and then go on my rounds, visiting all of the entertainment venues. This is also a great opportunity for me to chat to guests around the ship. I’m usually back in the office around lunchtime to check in with the Assistant Entertainment Manager and take in any guest feedback or requests. Most evenings I host the theatre shows. The busiest days for me are usually the sea days, while port days provide a great opportunity to catch up on paperwork and planning future cruises.


You’re a popular Entertainment Manager. How do you ensure guests have the best holiday possible?
It’s important to interact with guests on ship and find out what they’re interested in. That way we can adapt future programmes to cater for different people’s needs from all age groups. I also work alongside our shoreside team to plan each programme according to the guests who have booked – we look at the time of year, type of cruise, age profile and how many children are on board. We also look at the ship’s location. For example, if we’re in the Caribbean we can plan more evening entertainment on deck, which is always really popular.


How does Britannia compare to the other ships you’ve worked on?
Although all our values are the same on each ship, the main difference is the sheer size of Britannia and the volume of guests. There’s so much choice on our flagship, there’s something for everyone. The Live Lounge has musicians that play everything from Motown to Rock and Pop and then turns into a nightclub in the evening, while the Crystal Room caters for our dance enthusiasts. Then there’s Brodie’s, a pub venue that has live music as well as quizzes and TV sporting events. There are so many other venues to choose from, too. The production shows on board Britannia are first class, and we have excellent cabaret artists and tribute acts.


We hear you’re something of a ballroom dancing expert. Can you tell us about this?
From the age of four I went to dance school with one of my sisters every Saturday, so I’ve been dancing since I was very young. I developed a passion for dancing and the entertainment business and became a professional dancer after leaving school. My dance partner and I travelled around performing in many shows – we won prestigious awards and got to the finals of some of the largest dance competitions in the country, which were held at amazing venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, The Tower Ballroom in Birmingham and Winter Gardens Blackpool.


So you must enjoy being involved with the Strictly Come Dancing Themed cruises?
The Strictly Come Dancing Themed Cruises are my favourite cruises, without a doubt. My dance partner Paula and I were on the original BBC Come Dancing series, so I loved the show from when it started. My knowledge of the Ballroom and Latin American dance world is a great asset for when I host the shows, too. I’m also a qualified dance teacher, choreographer and adjudicator, so it’s easy to see why I love these cruises so much!


What’s your favourite destination you’ve visited with P&O Cruises?
I really enjoy sailing into Venice. There’s nowhere like it, with its fabulous architecture and amazing history. But I have also been very fortunate to have sailed on a few Round World Cruises. They are incredible, and there’s nothing like sailing into Sydney Harbour in Australia, or Hong Kong – they’re special and exotic places.


What’s the most exciting thing you’ve been involved in with on-board entertainment this year?
Within the last year it would have to be when Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway came to Britannia. Not only was it great to be part of the planning process and logistics of getting the show on board in Barcelona, but meeting the cast was great – they were all brilliant.  


What do you love most about working at sea?
No two days are ever the same, I love that. Also, meeting lots of people from all walks of life and getting to travel round the world are huge perks too. I also love it when regulars come back to cruise with us – there are some guests who I have known for 20 years now and I enjoy seeing them again. They’ve seen how my career has progressed over the years.