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Carnival

HOTEL DIRECTOR
STEWART HOWARD
TALKS ABOUT
CARNIVAL
TRIUMPH

by Richard H. Wagner
Stewart Howard was born in Scotland but grew up in Manchester, England.  
After studying at hotel school, he worked in hotels in the The Netherlands and
in Australia.  Upon returning to England; he managed a wine bar.  A friend
suggested that he try working on ships and so he successfully applied for a
management trainee position in the Food and Beverage Department on
Carnival Sensation in 1993.  Since then he has held management positions of
increasing seniority not only in Food and Beverage but in Housekeeping (i.e.
accommodations) and in training.  He was promoted to Hotel Director in 2008.

The Hotel Director on a ship has responsibility for most of the aspects of a
cruise that directly affect passengers - - food, accommodations, entertainment
etc.  Accordingly, I began by asking Mr. Howard, why someone should select
Carnival Triumph for his or her vacation.

“It is a great ship.  We have a fantastic team on here.  What has been good
about this ship is that a lot of people on the ship have been on the ship for a
long time - - two, three, four years.  We are very proud of the team that we
have on here.  I look at the ratings of hospitality and friendliness compared to
other [Carnival] ships and we are one of the best in the fleet.  That is why I
would tell them to come here because of the fantastic service that we can give.”

“Carnival, I would say, as opposed to the other cruise lines, we offer great
value for money.  You look at what we are able to offer with the food and the
services, I don’t think you are going to get that anywhere else.”

“We are trying to make sure that we do everything we can to keep the guests
that we have happy, to make sure that they come back.  To give you a good
yardstick about how successful we are, is that some 50 percent of our guests
have cruised with us before.  So, we must be doing something right.”

Triumph has been in service for ten years, yet still remains very popular.  
“Generally, every drydock, we upgrade the ship to keep it competitive.  The
ship was in drydock in September and we did a lot of upgrades. We built 14
balconies.  Those cabins that already had balconies installed were all upgraded
- -  350 balconies were upgraded.  The carpets were done.  The Jacuzzis in the
gym were ripped out and replaced with a spinning room. [A giant outdoor LCD
movie screen costing] $1.7 million was added in the last drydock in September.

“Another thing that we did in the drydock was refurbish the [children’s]
playrooms. We introduced the Club O2 and the Circle C.  Basically, it divides
things up into different age groups where as before it just used to be under
Camp Carnival.”

The physical changes to the ship reflect changes in the market.  As the cruising
public has become more sophisticated, Carnival’s style of cruising has
changed.  “We still do a lot of the marketing around that it is a fun vacation.  
But it is much more than that now.  You look at the menus, you look at the
destinations, you look at the shows - - there is a lot to choose from.  We like to
think that we do it a little more fast pace and we do have an element of fun in
there with the entertainment that we offer.  We are trying to be the industry
leader in what we do.”

“It has become more family orientated.”  Dividing the children’s program into
Camp Carnival, Circle C and Club O2 allows Triumph to “target teenagers, the
younger kids and in between the teenagers and the younger kids. We have a
different room, a different theme for each of those and different counselors
specifically trained to look after and entertain those children.  They have their
own areas, they have their own schedules.   It is a big part of our business now
and we do a lot of our marketing is aimed at the families with kids.  [At the
same time] we try to manage [the children’s program] so it has the least impact
on people who have come away perhaps to get away from children.”

Carnival has “a lot more homeports than we used to have.  We pretty much
have homeports all around the coasts of the USA now.  We have just added
Baltimore.  Down in Florida, we have Tampa, Canaveral, Miami, Jacksonville,
Forth Lauderdale, and then we have New Orleans, Galveston, Los Angles, and
this ship did a cruise from Charleston and a cruise from Norfolk [in the course
of repositioning from Miami to New York].  It helps us in a lot of ways.  It
means that people do not have to fly to take a cruise.  They can just drive to
one of the homeports.”

“In the last few years with the new bigger ships that were built in Italy, we
have started to do European cruises in the summer months.  We did stop the
European cruises for this past summer because of the economy.  We pulled the
ships over here and it was a very good decision.  People were not flying to
Europe to take vacations.  The dollar was very weak so people were just
staying put.”

Because the market is constantly evolving, Carnival Triumph must continue to
change.  “We are going to go to the more relaxed dining style.  We are
scheduled to do it next year in 2010.  It will be the upper level on the Paris.  I’
m sure there will be a demand for it because it gives people more freedom.  It
is more relaxed, people can eat when they want.  If they want to go have a
table for two, they can have a table for two. We have to be flexible to change.  
We have to try these things.”

At the same time, Carnival strives to maintain traditions that are unique to
cruising.  For example, the Carnival ships maintain the tradition of having a
Captain’s table in the main dining rooms on formal nights.  With the
introduction of the flexible dining option, the ship will have “to re-configure
some of the tables in the dining room.  One of the things [this requires is to]
move the captain’s table from the London Dining Room to the Paris Dining
Room, so hopefully there are still plans to keep it.  The only difficulty is that
we can’t offer it every cruise.  It depends on the [passenger head] count and
whether the maitre d’ needs to use the table.  That takes priority.  If it is
available, I usually send an e-mail to the captain and he decides who he is
going to invite, whether he wants to use it at all.   Sometimes he will say no, he
just wants to eat downstairs.  Usually, if it is available, he will take advantage
of it.”

After several years of doing seven-day Caribbean cruises from Miami, in 2009,
Triumph re-position to do a series of four and five-day cruises from New York
to Canada and New England.  This resulted in a number of changes for the
ship.  “They are shorter cruises so everything is a lot more intense.  Everything
is much quicker, everything is much faster paced.  When you are on a seven
day, the middle of the cruise is always quite relaxing.  All the guests get off the
ship and the ship is empty which is great for getting maintenance done.  But
here, I can see that we are not going to have that opportunity.”

“With the weather being colder, people are not lying out on the deck.  It is
more of a busy ship.  People are in the casino, drinking in the bars, in the gift
shops, up in the spa - - everywhere is busy.”  

“What I’ve been told about the New York crowd is that they are a little more
demanding.  They want everything now and plus you are going to get that
because it is a shorter cruise as well.  So, when I have held my meetings, I have
asked people to be a little bit more patient because there are going to be more
demands than you would have on a South coast trip.”

Considering that his experience includes both land-based hotels and cruise
ships, I asked Mr. Howard to contrast the two. “Everything is much faster on a
ship.  We are just doing four days now.  When we get into New York, we
disembark over 3,000 guests.  Clean the ship, turn it around.  Within half an
hour of the last guest getting off, the next 3,000 start to come on.  Whereas in a
hotel, it is more of a continual process so it is going to be at a slower pace.”

“The one thing that I really noticed when I first came to ships was how much
cleaner and how much we are held to higher standards of hygiene than a
restaurant or a hotel.  You walk in the galleys, you could eat the food off the
floor.  The United States Public Health and now that we are going up to
Canada, the Canadian Public Health, we are always ready for these inspections
and so the ships are very, very clean and that is another big difference.”

“If you look at what you get for your money in a hotel and what you get on a
ship, I don’t think there is any comparison, which is especially important in this
economic market.”  
CLICK HERE FOR A PDF VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE
CARNIVAL TRIUMPH TOUR 1

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH TOUR 2

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH TOUR 3

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH TOUR 4

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH  TOUR 5

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH  TOUR 6

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH  TOUR 7

CAPTAIN INTERVIEW

HOTEL DIRECTOR INTERVIEW

CRUISE DIRECTOR INTERVIEW
Click here to return to the Carnival
Triumph Profile Page.

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Carnival Valor

Carnival Victory
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