There is more pressure on the hotel department than ever before. With reduced ticket prices, the ships not only have to be mindful of spending, but have the job of making up the lost (ticket) revenue, while keeping passengers happy.There is more pressure on the hotel department than ever before. With reduced ticket prices, the ships not only have to be mindful of spending, but have the job of making up the lost (ticket) revenue, while keeping passengers happy.

“One thing we are not doing is to cheapen the product to save money, that is a short term solution, which will backfire,” commented Hans Hesselberg vice president of hotel operations at Costa Crociere.

Celebrity Cruises’ Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Lisa Lutoff-Perlo noted: “We are very successful in managing expenses and finding a few extra dollars. We look closely and strategically at expenses in ways guests will never see. They will never get off our ships saying we are cutting corners.

“Our priorities don’t really change because the priority is the guest. We are continually focused on the guest and that’s what drives my priorities. We look at everything, the metrics and ratings and constantly try to figure out how to do things better, differently and follow consumer trends.”

At Princess Cruises, Franz Rom, senior vice president of hotel operations, said: “Things can be done in a positive way for passengers; we’ve removed a lot of charges lately. We used to charge for high-end items like sushi, and now we’ve removed those charges. At the end we gained because traffic increased, passengers consumed more food, but now they are more likely to buy a glass of wine or other beverages, so we cover our food costs and make more money.”

Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president of hotel operations for Crystal Cruises, has this to say: “I don’t think the basics of running successful hotel operations have changed. It’s about focusing on the company culture, finding the right employees that fit that culture, communicating clearly and training for success while also ensuring you hold people accountable for results. Rewarding great performance is just as important as holding people accountable.”

MSC Cruises’ Corporate Hotel Manager Tim Skinner noted they have seen an increase of 200 to 250 percent in spending in the onboard shops in the last five years. “We’ve made shopping easier and a lot more attractive. We’re open when passengers want to shop, and we sell what they want to buy. We looked at the airports and what sells well, and modified our range accordingly.

Rom continued: “No matter how you look at it, when passengers go onboard they want a great meal, fantastic service, and then see a great show and have a good night’s sleep. It sounds easy but you can easily overcomplicate it. Those are the basic ingredients and if you can deliver all of them it’s a win-win situation. In our case we are trying not to get sucked in by the new hardware craze and stick to our core values. Those other companies are competing for headlines but I’m not sure how profitable it is or how popular it is with their clientele over time.”

Mazloum also said he wants a more uniform training program, as new products can leave professionals behind. “The hotel business has expanded all over the world. I have come to realize that many hospitality establishments have not been able to grow and develop their people at the same rate.”
 Meanwhile, Skinner would like to see a more global standard for cruise operators. “I’d like to see more standards in all the countries we visit. We go through the pain of different sanitation and food standards in many countries. There need to be universal guidelines.”

Looking forward, Hesselberg said: “I don’t think hotel operations will change much. The focus has to be the same at all levels. You have to search for the best solutions and raw materials to make the best product at the price you want it to be made at. And you satisfy your guest, if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter.”

Lutoff-Perlo also noted it wasn’t just about the hardware. “We have a cruise director that came from a competitor. Now he’s been here two years, and he was saying it’s one thing to put new hardware in the market, it’s another thing to make that new hardware come alive for the guest.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2009/2010