One of the least understood Carnival Cruise Line jobs is the role of hotel director. The title doesn't seem to make sense on a cruise ship, so we asked this key member of the Carnival Legend staff, Erik Speekenbrink, to explain.
Q: Can you outline your main responsibilities and your typical day?
The hotel director, along with the hotel department, controls the largest part of the ship. I always smile when I introduce myself as the hotel director because people feel the need to say, "My room is great".
The housekeeping manager is the person directly responsible for the 1,100 rooms and all the public areas. The hotel director has 11 or 12 departments who report to him or her. In a nutshell, every guest-facing department, as well as certain crew areas, fall under the hotel director. Of course, there are many managers, assistant managers and supervisors who are there to oversee their specific operation. Together with the captain and the chief engineer, the hotel director forms the top layer of the senior leadership onboard the ship.
There is no typical day, but the activities of any day are determined by where we are -- at sea, in port or in our homeport. And then there is a combination of operational and strategic discussions with the communications crew and guests and with our shoreside offices in both Miami and Sydney.
Q: How long have you been with Carnival? Is it helpful to have a background in land-based hotels?
I have been with Carnival for about four and a half years and I am one of the first land-based general managers recruited for the position of hotel director. The cruise industry and hospitality industry are moving closer and closer and having shore-based experience is very beneficial. The best part of my job is managing challenges, interacting with people and coaching others.
Q: Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend have 930 to 1,030 crew. How many of these staff are working in the hotel division?
More than 730 team members.
Q: How many staff are dedicated to making Carnival Legend's 1,062 cabins shipshape? What time do cabins need to be ready on the first day of a cruise?
There are 155 team members who work in the housekeeping department. Of course, there are many more who are involved in making sure everything is shipshape including technical departments such as the electrical department, plumbing and HVA. When the ship is in Sydney or Melbourne, which we call the 'homeport', the staterooms are ready by 1.30 pm. During the cruise the guests are able to specify when they would like their room serviced -- either in the morning or in the afternoon -- and they can even ask to have it serviced twice per day. Most guests are happy with a service once a day.
Q: Who looks after room set-up and decorations for suite guests and VIPs?
The housekeeping department and the onboard retail department look after and arrange for cabin decorations. Most occasions can be catered for through our reservations offices, always bearing in mind that any decoration must be fully compliant with our safety standards.
Q: What's the most popular item on the room service menu?
Have a guess. Pizza.
Q: Are there particular challenges over the school holiday period?
The ship always sails with a full complement of crew. There are some seasonal adjustments but in holiday time it really is about just being busier. Our Camp Ocean kids club is split in to three different age bands; Penguins (aged two to five), Stingrays (aged six to eight) and Sharks (aged nine to 11), and with almost 50 activities at any one time across the ship, school holidays are very well catered for. Circle C (aged 12 to 14 ) and Club O2 (aged 15 to 17) provide entertainment and opportunities for the teens to make friends, too.
Q: Does Carnival have any special touches that are specific to the cruise line?
It is hard to explain until you sail with Carnival, but our special 'extra touch' really is the crew. We are like a family and that really translates to the experience onboard the ship. Those who sail the first time may be attracted by features like Green Thunder, the fastest and steepest waterslide at sea, or the 24/7 pizza and ice-cream or playing putt-putt out on the deck. But what really creates magical memories and guests coming back again and again is our amazing crew.
Q: How do you unwind when it's time to socialise?
Probably by not socialising. When my long day comes to an end, whenever that may be, I like to withdraw to my room, possibly call my wife and share my day with her. I then like to read and listen to some music. I touch base with my children regularly, but I speak with my wife every day.
Q: What would you like to see in the future for Carnival Cruise Line in Australia?
I would like to see it continue to grow, have two ships permanently based here and see some of the other ports around Australia develop so they can become the homeport for another Carnival ship.