“The attention to detail and establishing a core product to make sure we have an execution that is as close to perfect as possible is one of our strong points,” said Jason Hale, hotel director aboard Holland America Line’s Rotterdam. “We don’t overstretch ourselves by trying to do something that may look like a good idea but fails to be perfect.”
In 2016, the ship started out sourcing Dutch passengers sailing from Rotterdam, and then moved to Canada/New England and sourced mainly American guests for a brief fall foliage season.
“Different demand, different expectations,” said Hale, who hails from Holland.
“My number one priority is guest satisfaction, being the external guests paying to be onboard and our internal guests who are our crew, staff and officers,” Hale said.
“I try to support my staff and management team; they are the ones who make the magic happen. If I can support them with getting resources then they are better in executing their job,” he continued, in an interview aboard with Cruise Industry News.
And he helps the nautical side save fuel. “That’s the good thing nowadays,” Hale said. “It’s a lot more of a team effort in how we can help one another. It’s an aspect of fuel savings, or even using water and switching off lights. Then we can help the workload on the engines and they can run more efficiently.”
Moving to Holland America
Hale had a maze of a route to his current post aboard the Rotterdam. With a passion for cooking, he set out on a culinary career.
“You go to trade school and do your apprentice program. You become a kitchen boy at 13 working on Saturdays and Sundays and by 15 I was finished with trade school and went to work,” he recalled. “I worked in mom-and-pop stores, Michelin-star restaurants and everything in between.”
Eventually he said he had seen everything there was to see in Holland.
“Next thing you know you’re on a cruise ship in Piraeus,” Hale added. That was 1993 and with Renaissance Cruises as a second cook aboard. He moved up, making the rank of first cook and also working for Crystal.
A few years later, he returned to shore with a management role at McDonald’s.
“I got involved in management and it interested me enough to continue in it. But I was done with being stuck ashore,” Hale continued.
Holland America hired him, but there were no management positions open.
“So I said ‘Get me back in the kitchen aboard and I will work my way up.’ In 1998 I was back onboard as a chef de partie and have ever since worked my way up.”
Hale made the grade of hotel director in 2011 in a relief role on the Zaandam, moving up from culinary operations manager. In 2016, he received his permanent assignment as a hotel director.
“Everything is possible if you commit,” Hale said.
The role of hotel director has become more administrative over the years with reporting requirements and an increased regulatory environment.
“The amount of time you have face-to-face with the guests has become less,” Hale said. “There are only so many hours in the day. It used to be you didn’t care how many hours you worked. These days you have to be careful because of MLC 2006; you have to work within regulations and respect rest hours.”
Spending time working various posts, Hale has had the opportunity to work with multiple hotel directors, all of whom he said he learned from, whether it was a positive or negative experience.
“You should not be afraid to let people make a mistake as long as they learn from it and adapt what they’ve learned to the next situation,” Hale advised, adding that common sense was a key skill.
He pointed to Asian ports such as Hong Kong as some of his favorites.
“I also like Europe because of its old colonial-style cruising and people are lined up along the waterways waving to the ships.”
Working four months on and two off, Hale said the company had sent him to management training courses at Cornell University.
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2016/2017