princessserverHave dining room services gone down hill, or does it just seem that way?  Did services suffer when gratuities became automatic?  I for one think that cruise ship dining room services are still several notches above average.  And yes, it may vary by cruise line, as the training does start from the top.  But, before you allow this aspect of a cruise affect your Cruise Experience, remember some of these factors:

Casual, schedule-free dining:  Did you choose the “old-school”, early/late seating, main dining room option?  It’s difficult for any server to get to know your dining and drinking habits when you have different servers, in different dining venues, at different times, each night.

While dining room talent is still excellent, cruise ships have grown in size and scope, and the number of ships per company seem to keep growing.  Fifteen to twenty years ago was a different story, and the top talent wasn’t spread as thinly as it is today.

Speaking of cruise ship size and scope, that alone makes it more challenging for the servers to perform perfectly, even if you sit with the same team every single night.  It’s simply more to do; more to remember; more to organize.  It is still incredible to think about how many people these teams serve every day.

The serving staff is multi-tasking more than ever before.  How often do you see your server from the dining room, during a different part of the day, at another dining venue…like the buffet?  Pretty often!  I realize we pay for our Cruise Experiences, but the servers are people too, and their duties are not easy!

I’m not making excuses for anybody…there are some servers that should be doing something else, somewhere else.  But there is no doubt that as dining options change, the services of today will always be different from the services and experiences of tomorrow.

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

-contributor Tore Berger

On a cruise, you might want to relax with your favorite cocktail, beer, or maybe a glass of wine. What to drink? What about the selection? Why don’t they have this or that?

Today, most commercialized industries are partnering with other industries. On a cruise ship, it is common to have an agreement with one or two (sometimes three) large beverage distributors.  You need your basic wines, a main beer supplier, and you definitely need your base of liquor.  Most cruise companies have an annual point of meeting, with a selection of employees from here and there, and go through potential deals, needs, news, and wishes. You can never satisfy everybody, but you need to satisfy the most.  “Pouring brands”, the ones you use the most, are usually one of the difficult issues. The Beer supplier, and what select brands they have, is another. Wine is probably the one which makes the most discussion (at the planning meetings).

Trends – The restaurant menus – Pricing – Menu help – and of course, logistics, are key factors. You can’t have it all, you need to deal the best purchase prices, and you need to find a fine balance between that and the guests’ expectations and wishes.

The better prices and deals, the better prices for the consumer, the guests…you!

Logistics of course is equaled to price. The more, the better. It’s like that in all business, in all trades, in all companies. Sorry that we don’t always have your favorite rum, beer, wine, or maybe liqueur. But choose a professional cruise company, and I promise you that the beverage employees will help you out with an alternative. Ask the bartenders for your favorite cocktail! Ask the Sommelier (Wine steward) for his/her choice. Use the crew and their professionalism with any question concerning beverage. We can’t have anything, but we surely will help you out as best we can.

“A day without a good drink, is like a life without laughter…”

Norway greets you: Tore Berger

Steven Cernak is chief executive and port director for Port Everglades, Florida, and recently wrote an article for a local South Florida newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, about how the global cruise industry has affected Port Everglades.

Port Everglades has won several awards for “Best Port to Depart From” on a Cruise (by the readers of Porthole Magazine).  In the hospitality industry, the customers are the number one consultants, so I’m sure this award means a lot to Broward County, Florida.  In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cernak, several members of his staff and touring the port’s operations. I have no doubts that under Steven Cernak’s leadership, Port Everglades will continue to thrive, and cruisers will typically experience a pain-free embarkation and debarkation process, and feel safe and secure throughout the entire process!

Here is the link to the article written by Mr. Cernak in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

READ HERE

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor Tore Berger:

Serving as a manager in the hospitality business is a profession with a daily, uprising learning curve.  While you were on a cruise, have you ever wondered, “where are the officers…and what are they doing?”  In the hospitality business, we have an expression: MBWA, “Management by Wandering Around.”

What is the most important job for an officer on board a cruise ship? Of course, there are the Deck officers doing the actual seaman job, getting the ship from port to port with navigating. The Engine crew have their busy days maintaining and running all of the technical details and machinery. The Hotel and Catering officers have their day filled with papers, system operating, crew talks, economic duties, etc etc. All in all, the ship’s officers are like the rest of the crew…they have a lot to do, and have busy and full days.

Even so, the officers are there to take care of YOU…the guests/passengers. Then the old hospitality phrase comes to life once again: Management by Wandering Around!  See Your guest! Talk with them! Listen! Hear them out! Use your knowledge for answering them! Use time amongst them!

All employees in the hospitality business have two bosses;

  1. The company, with its concepts and systems, and
  2. The guests.

Next time you are on a cruise somewhere around the world, use the officers and crew for what they are there for, YOU.

Questions, feedbacks, food talk, wine, seaman issues, port information. It`s not only the reception who are there for you, the entire ship with crew and officers are there primarily for your pleasure, and well being. Enjoy your next cruise, and remember an old saying from the country of Vikings and seamen:

“If you meet someone without a smile, give them yours…”

Greetings from the seas of Scandinavia: Tore Berger.

Between Facebook, LinkedIn and face-to-face conversations (yes, you read correctly), nearly 80% said they only give cruise lines one (1) “chance” before saying “they would never come back” after negative experiences.  It was a very informal question posed; I didn’t get into the food, the service, the entertainment or even the friendliness of the staff.  I kept it basic, and the answer, by a wide margin, was one.

With one person in particular, I followed up by asking if she would return to her FAVORITE restaurant after a bad experience.  I did not ask the same follow-up question with regards to her favorite cruise line.  But, I venture to guess that her answer would have been the same as the restaurant…”Yes.”  Tomorrow, I am going to pose the restaurant and cruise line follow-up questions, because now I am curious.

I realize the investments are not the same, and that is a HUGE factor.  Take even a date night at your favorite upscale steak-house, where the average bill for two will be around $120-$150.  If you had a bad steak one night, realizing typically good restaurants may have a bad night once in a while, you may be pissed, but you are more likely to return. Why? The $120-$150 investment is not as steep as a cruise vacation for two; or a trip to a hugely popular resort in Central Florida!  I have many thoughts as to why the number was nearly 80%, even for a “glass-half-full” type of guy like myself:

  • A bad night out didn’t cost you vacation time, or even one-day lost at work…but a cruise on the other hand will cost more money in addition to the vacay and work time, as well as potential travel expenses getting to the ship
  • If it is your FIRST cruise with a particular line, you have no basis for comparison…only hearsay from others
  • The cruiser may already have loyalty “points” built up with another line, therefore will not chance it again on the negative experience
  • The cruiser may have gone with a new line (for him/herself) with preconceived notions, so a nice time was NOT going to be had regardless.

I’m sure there are many more reasons.  But now, what about negative experiences on what is currently your FAVORITE cruise line?  After spending  money on airfare, the cruise itself, shore excursions and other on-board expenses, using vacation time and having to get caught up at work…would you again sail with your favorite cruise line after a negative experience?  With regards to this question, I’m sure people think about some of the items mentioned above, such as perks and loyalty programs as well as past positive experiences (heck, they just had a bad week…).

I would LOVE to have more of your thoughts here on the blog and on our Facebook page; especially from those who said they would only give a cruise line one chance!  Does this include your FAVORITE cruise line?

The Oasis of the Seas dwarfs everything as she exits from Port Everglades.

The Oasis of the Seas dwarfs everything as she exits from Port Everglades.

Did you know that at Double Occupancy, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships hold 5,400 passengers? How about 6,296 at MAXIMUM capacity?  Now, add 2,394 crew (as of July 2012) and we have a potential grand total of 8,690 people on board!  Currently, at a popular, large-scale community in South Florida (where I am part of the Management Team) the population hovers around 8,500, which also happens to be about a quarter of the city’s population!

Now, we all have different takes on what constitutes a good, great and/or outstanding cruise experience.  From my perspective, I had an outstanding experience on the Allure of the Seas in September of 2011.  A couple of minor issues, like watered down coffee and a very curt instructor on the surf rider, but nothing that took away from my experience.  My biggest concern heading in was the crowded feeling I was “sure to endure” on the Allure…but it never happened!

It never happened at the port (we were on board in ten minutes) and it never felt crowded on board.  The worst it ever got was during the flash mob class in the Promenade, but even then, Allure’s midsection was wide enough to get through if you chose.  Buffet Lines?  Never a problem, and I thought it was only because that there were SO MANY dining options that it spread everybody to different areas.  While this was true, there was another reason.

SHAPE RECOGNITION CAMERAS.  According to an article on “seasiteblog.com“, passengers never have to wait to be seated at ANY of the 24 dining areas, thanks to BIOMETRICS.  The Oasis-class ships employ shape-recognition cameras, all of which count and analyze foot traffic.  Then, this information is sent in, REAL-TIME, to some 300 interactive boards throughout the ship.

In addition, the showtime reservations, and scanning processes, for all of the shows (and certain activities) are extremely civilized, assuring everyone that there will be a seat available for them as long as they show up before the shows/events begin.  Then, crew will allow the stand-by line to enter, and fill the open seats.

DSC07652-200x150As a Senior Ops Exec in hospitality, one of the phrases which makes me cringe is “…this is the way we’ve always done it….”  A variation, “…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….”  Not exactly a great way to keep your organization, resort, property and cruise ship/cruise line recognized as a leader in your industry.  Keeping status quo may work for a little while, but you must always act as if you are playing CHESS, not CHECKERS.  You must think several moves ahead, and not one move at a time.  How will what you do today affect tomorrow?

Seems Crystal Cruises agrees, as they strive make their Cruise Customer Experience the best in the (luxury) industry.  Here is the article:

Spring 2013: Luxury: Crystal Mission: To Be Best