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 :: P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises is a British-American owned cruise line based at CarnivalHouse in Southampton, England, and operated by Carnival UK.

Originally a constituent of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, P&O Cruises is the oldest cruise line in the world, having operated the world's first passenger ships in the early 19th Century. It is the sister company of, and retains strong links with P&O Cruises Australia. P&O Cruises was de-merged from the P&O group in 2000, becoming a subsidiary of P&O Princess Cruises, which subsequently merged with Carnival Corporation in 2003, to form Carnival Corporation & plc. P&O Cruises currently operates seven cruise ships with a total passenger capacity of 14,970 and a 5% market share of all cruise lines worldwide. Its most recent vessel MS Adonia joined the fleet in May 2011.

P&O Cruises originates from 1822, with the formation of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which began life as a partnership between Brodie McGhie Willcox, a London ship broker, and Arthur Anderson, a sailor from the Shetland Isles. The company first operated a shipping line with routes between England and the Iberian Peninsula, adopting the name Peninsular Steam Navigation Company. In 1837, the company won a contract to deliver mail to the Peninsula, with its first mail ship, RMS Don Juan, departing from London on 1 September 1837. The ship collected mail from Falmouth four days later, however it hit rocks on the homeward bound leg of the trip. The company’s reputation survived only because all objects including mail were rescued.

In 1840, the company acquired a second contract to deliver mail to Alexandria, Egypt, via Gibraltar and Malta. The company was incorporated by Royal Charter the same year, becoming the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. At the time, the company had no ships available to use on the route, so agreed to merge with the Liverpool based Transatlantic Steamship Company, acquiring two ships, the 1,300-ton Great Liverpool and the newly built 1,600-ton Oriental.

P&O first introduced passenger services in 1844, advertising sea tours to destinations such as Gibraltar, Malta and Athens, sailing from Southampton. The forerunner of modern cruise holidays, these voyages were the first of their kind, and have led to P&O Cruises being recognised as the world's oldest cruise line. The company later introduced round trips to destinations such as Alexandria and Constantinople and underwent rapid expansion in the latter half of the 19th century, with its ships becoming larger and more luxurious. Notable ships of the era include the SS Ravenna built in 1880, which became the first ship to be built with a total steel superstructure, and the SS Valetta built in 1889, which was the first ship to use electric lights.

In 1904 the company advertised its first cruise on the 6,000-ton Vectis, a ship specially fitted out for the purpose of carrying 150 first-class passengers. Ten years later the company merged with the British India Steam Navigation Company, leaving the fleet with a total of 197 ships. In the same year the company had around two-thirds of its fleet relinquished for war service. However, the company was fortunate and only lost 17 ships in the First World War, with a further 68 lost in subsidiary companies. A major event in the company’s history took place in December 1918, when P&O purchased 51% of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which had been previously operating jointly with P&O on the Australian mail contract. During the 1920s, P&O and Orient Line took delivery of over 20 passenger liners, allowing them to expand their operations once again. Cruises began operating once again in 1925, when Ranchi’s maiden voyage was a cruise to Norway. During 1929, P&O offered 15 cruises, some aboard Viceroy of India, the company’s first turbo-electric ship.

The P&O Group left the Second World War with a loss of 156 ships including popular liners such as Viceroy of India, Cathay, Oronsay and Orcades. By the late 1940s commercial aviation was beginning to take hold of the industry so newer ships became larger and faster, allowing the sailing time to Australia to be cut from five to four weeks. In 1955 P&O and Orient Lines ordered what were to be their last passenger liners — the Canberra and Oriana. These fast ships bought the Australian run down another week to just three, with Oriana recording a top speed of just over 30 knots during trials.

During 1961, P&O bought out the remaining stake in Orient Lines and renamed its passenger operations as P&O-Orient Lines. The decreasing popularity of line voyages during the 1960s and 1970s meant that cruising became an important deployment for these ships in-between line voyages. In 1971 the company reorganised its 100 subsidiaries and 239 ships into several operating divisions, one of which was The Passenger Division which began with 13 ships.

The 1970s was a grim time for the passenger liner as many young liners were sold for scrap. Princess Cruises was acquired in 1974 which allowed the almost new Spirit of London to be transferred to the Princess fleet. This left Canberra and Oriana to serve the UK market on their own, with Arcadia deployed in Australia and Uganda offering educational cruises.

In 1977, P&O re-branded its passenger division, creating P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia. In February 1979 Kungsholm, a former Swedish American Line vessel, was acquired from Flagship Cruises and after a major refit was renamed Sea Princess. Operating out of Australia, she replaced Arcadia that was then sold to Taiwanese ship breakers. In spring 1982 Oriana replaced Sea Princess in Australia, leaving Sea Princess to be transferred to the UK. When Canberra returned from the Falklands War, Sea Princess was switched to the Princess fleet in 1986 leaving just the Canberra for the UK market. With Canberra's withdrawal becoming ever more imminent, P&O ordered its first new ship for the British market, the Oriana, with her being delivered in 1995. Canberra ran alongside her for two years until she was scrapped in 1997, replaced by Star Princess that was renamed Arcadia.

In April 2000 Aurora, a half-sister ship to Oriana entered service for P&O. Although externally Aurora is similar to her half-sister Oriana, internally she is much different. Aurora also has a larger Gross Tonnage partly due to the fact that she has an enclosed centre swimming pool.

Oceana (ex Ocean Princess), a sister ship of Sea Princess, transferred to P&O at the same time as Adonia, and remains in the P&O fleet. Another former Princess ship, Artemis, joined P&O in 2005, and left the fleet in 2011 and was replaced by the former Royal Princess and was renamed Adonia, she is even smaller than the Artemis at 30,000 gross tons and is the smallest in the fleet.
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P&O Cruises Vessels:

Vessel Name:MS Arcadia
Date Completed:4/1/2005
Where Built:Italy
Gross Tonnage:83781
Length:289.90 meters
Vessel Name:MV Adonia
Date Completed:3/1/2001
Where Built:France
Gross Tonnage:30277
Length:180.50 meters
Vessel Name:MV Aurora
Date Completed:1/1/2000
Where Built:Germany
Flag:United Kingdom
Gross Tonnage:76152
Length:270.00 meters
Vessel Name:MV Azura
Date Completed:4/1/2010
Where Built:Italy
Flag:United Kingdom
Gross Tonnage:115055
Length:290.00 meters
Vessel Name:MV Oceana
Date Completed:2/1/2000
Where Built:Italy
Flag:United Kingdom
Gross Tonnage:77499
Length:261.30 meters
Vessel Name:MV Oriana
Date Completed:4/1/1995
Where Built:Germany
Flag:United Kingdom
Gross Tonnage:69153
Length:260.00 meters
Vessel Name:MV Ventura
Date Completed:4/1/2008
Where Built:Italy
Gross Tonnage:116017
Length:291.40 meters