From ships officer to Barbados rugby star
As England’s rugby team competes in the World Cup in New Zealand, P&O Cruises own rugby team, the Ventura Vikings, is getting set for its fourth season playing in the Caribbean.
The Vikings rugby team was established in 2008 by Ventura’s youth director, Mark Price (33), after he decided to do something about missing his rugby playing days at home.
The first season saw Mark taking a bag of old rugby shirts and boots sourced from his local rugby club, Tynedale in Northumberland, out to the Caribbean. His first major challenge was to convince 15 fellow crew members, almost exclusively football players, that rugby was the sport for them.
Mark explained the rules of the game to them as they travelled on the coach to their first match at the Barbados Rugby Club’s home ground, the prestigious Garrison Savannah.
Support for Ventura’s rugby team has increased over the following three seasons with players now consisting of crew and officers from all areas of the ship.
Success has been mixed with just five wins over the past three seasons, however the team members are not disheartened.
Mark, whose job involves overseeing the day to day running of all the children facilities on board said:
“We have made a lot of friends in Barbados and the game is bringing the crew together which is fantastic. Everyone who has been involved has really enjoyed the experience and while not every result went our way, we go from strength to strength with every match.
“Last season we only just lost against Barbados’ national team so we are really looking forward to getting back out to the Caribbean this winter and giving it another shot.”
Support for the team continues to grow, with banners displayed around the capital, Bridgetown, announcing the arrival of the “mighty Ventura Vikings all the way from the UK” every time the ship arrives in port.
The Vikings fourth season starts in November and runs until March 2012, while Ventura is in the Caribbean. Rugby matches are played on the ships turnaround days in Barbados.