The success of a cruise line rests on its personnel. Read any passenger review of a cruise and it will mention ship staff – how nothing was too much trouble for the cabin steward, for example. More worryingly though, it might report that staff did not live up to expectations.

As a cruise line manager, it is important to bear this in mind. Staff training must be taken seriously and nothing left to chance. Your reputation depends on it, and there are plenty of other cruise lines out there.

World Cruise Industry Review talked to two of the cruise industry’s major lines, Carnival and Regent Seven Seas, about their crew training programmes and policies.

Roberto Martinoli, executive vice-president of operations for Carnival Cruise Lines:

“I think we are the first cruise line to have training centres onboard the ship. Training programmes are quite diverse, with professional, safety, managerial, environmental and hospitality courses.

“To start with the basics, we have a language assessment for all of the crew – an English test. This is usually a formality, as real language problems would be screened out at the recruiting stage, but if there are problems we run language courses. We also run professional development courses for staff to improve their management and leadership skills. This is quite important on bigger cruise ships where there are a large number of crew. As some of the staff have risen from the lowest levels to what is effectively a management area, we feel we have to provide them with the skills to do their jobs more effectively. We think that by having our own training courses, we can give these people a better understanding of what we expect from them, and we can concentrate on the rules that we want followed properly.

“For new hires we do some training in the countries where we recruit. We also run what we call “carnival college” where, as part of our onboard training programme, we might put, for example, 15–20 trainee bartenders on a ship and give them on-thejob, hands-on training. This accelerates the training programme and introduces them to the ship and the way we do business. It also helps them develop skills, a rapport with passengers and confidence. We also send a lot of people on specific, professional courses that we cannot run on the vessel.

“For senior management, we have shore-side training. We try to put together people from ships with people from the office for four or five days in university. It is extremely helpful because people get to know each other and understand much better the problems others face.

“We find these courses extremely helpful, and I must say I go to all of them myself and enjoy them a lot. If you combine them with good managerial training, you create a win-win situation; you offer further education and also bring people together.’

Stephane Armengol, director of hotel operations for Regent Seven Seas Cruises:

“All our staff have to go through a comprehensive safety and environmental training course before they start work onboard ship. New hires will all go to a recognised training school in the country they are recruited from to learn the basics.

“One of the most important aspects of training for us is cultural training, which means staff must be able to understand and interact with the passengers in a comfortable and informed way. They must also learn what the “regent experience” means, as this is the basis of our cruise product.

“We also find it valuable to give small booster training sessions onboard the ship to groups of 60–90 crew members, on a weekly or sometimes daily basis for about 15–30 minutes, to recap on the ‘regent experience’ and deal with any problems. We find that training by supervisors for small groups onboard gives excellent and immediate results.

“I go to all of these courses myself, and I enjoy them a lot.”

“Regent Seven Seas is part of the Carlson Group, one of the largest hospitality companies in the world. It is based in Minneapolis, where the company’s Carlson University teaches management and hospitality staff. A lot of the courses run at this school have been adapted for managers and captains to improve their leadership and management skills. Communication is vital, so that every crew member understands the culture of the cruise line and who they are dealing with.

“Staff are trained to be in tune with what guests like and don’t like and act accordingly, so there is a consistency of service. Guest profiles are built up and stored in our central database. When they re-book, as over 50% do, their profile is sent to the ship one month prior to their boarding and all their requirements are then geared to the profile. This is an invaluable tool.”