Quantcast
PRINCESS CRUISES
CARIBBEAN
PRINCESS
OBSERVATIONS OF A  
HOTEL MANAGER

Part II of an Interview with James Deering, Passenger
Services Director on Caribbean Princess

By

Richard H. Wagner (Originally published in The Porthole,
World Ship Society Port of New York Branch, October 2008)
Passenger Services Director James Deering
James Deering has been a part of the cruise industry since
the 1970s.  Today he is the Passenger Services Director (i.
e., hotel manager) on CARIBBEAN PRINCESS, which will
be sailing from New York in the warmer months this year
and next.  Before coming to Princess Cruises, he worked for
many of the major lines including Holland America,
Norwegian Cruise Line, Star Cruises, Seabourn and Royal
Caribbean International, as well as some lines that are still
fondly remembered but which are no longer operating such
as Renaissance Cruises and Royal Viking Line. I recently
spoke with James about the work of the hotel manager on a
modern cruise ship.  

"Twenty years ago, we would come into port and I would go
ashore, have a nice lunch or dinner or go shopping for the
afternoon or go to the beach.  As long as we didn't run into
something or sink, things went pretty well. You'd get a telex
if something was really urgent."

Today, things are quite different.  "I can't leave the ship, not
that I mind. It has gotten to the point now where so many e-
mails are coming in that I can't leave the office for more than
an hour or two because if I take longer than that and come
back, I'll be overwhelmed, I'll never catch up again.  It is
hard to believe that 20 years ago we had no e-mails and we
managed to do it anyway.

"All the new safety regulations that didn't even exist a few
years ago force us into many more inspections, meetings and
reports and that sort of thing, which takes us more and more
away from the human touch and the interaction with
passengers into the nuts and bolts of the operation.  That is
the biggest change."

The change in the demands placed upon a hotel manager also
reflects the increased significance of a ship's hotel
department.  The hotel department has the responsibility of
turning the promise of a particular style of cruising
contained in the cruise line's brochure into reality.  This is
key because a cruise line's style is what distinguishes one
line from its competitors.  "In mass market cruising, there
are higher levels and lower levels but we are all in the mass
market realm.  The pricing is about the same.  The clientele,
even the nationality mix, is not so different.  At Princess, we
have a few more Brits on than we would see maybe at NCL;
on Holland America Line, maybe a few more Canadians, but
generally, the same people.  It is just the style of cruise line
that is a little different.  Each one of us has our strengths and
weaknesses.  Each one of us emphasizes one thing and not
another."

One area where the lines try to differentiate themselves is in
the style of dining.  Traditionally, each guest on a cruise has
had a specific table reserved for him or her in the main
dining room and a set time for dining.  Then NCL
implemented a system where in theory a guest can dine at
any time and wherever they want.  In response, Princess has
introduced "Personal Choice Dining," which gives
passengers the option of selecting either system. "In our
comment cards, we ask people do you prefer open dining or
fixed dining and the response is most of the year about 65
percent say that they want open dining.  We have three
dining rooms; two of them, 65 percent, are open dining
rooms.  So that works out perfectly, although it does not
work out perfectly every cruise because demographics
change.  One cruise, we might have 50 percent who want
fixed dining and then we are in trouble because only 30
percent of our dining is fixed."

The dining system affects not only the restaurants but also
the activities and entertainment.  "When you have only
traditional dining, all of the activities and entertainment are
governed by dining times.  So everything revolves around
the restaurant as far as activities go.  When you have mostly
open dining like you have at NCL, for example, then the
restaurant revolves around the activities.  At NCL, they can
adjust the shows and all of the other activities to assist the
restaurants if they get overloaded."  For example, if the
restaurants are too crowded at 7:30, "then you just have the
shows run a little late into that 7:30 area.  Those people
can't go [to the restaurants] at 7 or 7:30 because they are
still in the show.

"The difficulty arises when you have a situation like we
have where a substantial number of the people have fixed
dining so their activities must revolve around the dining
time.  But then another substantial group has open dining
which means the opposite.  We have to cater to both."
Hundreds of employees work for the Passenger Services
Director in the ship's hotel operation.  "We have a few
training schools on shore but not very many.  So we go to the
agencies and say we need people who have this sort of
experience and this sort of background.  In most cases, we
require that the people have a certain level of expertise
when they get on board. Then they come up with a pool of
people and we vet the final ones.

“We have corporate trainers who are on here.  We do
training constantly, as much as we can bearing in mind that
the crew are working anywhere from 11 to 13 hours a day
already.  There is never enough training time.  Plus, these
days more and more safety training is required first."
Like many of the major lines, Princess has gone over to a
system where a gratuities charge is added to each guest's
onboard account, replacing the traditional system of handing
the waiter and the steward tips at the end of the cruise.  
Seemingly, such a system reduces the incentive for a waiter
or steward to provide good service.   "Back at the beginning
of the 20th century, the shipping lines decided that they
would rather have the passengers pay the salaries of the
crew than the cruise line directly.  I have been told that J.P.
Morgan started all this when he bought the White Star Line.
He could keep his operating costs down by paying the crew
next to nothing and forcing them to work for tips.   Also, if a
crew member did a good job, he'd make lots of tips and
would stay. If he did a lousy job, he'd get nothing and he
would starve and he would leave.  It was a very incentive-
based idea.

"What most people don't realize is that since the 1970’s, the
tips have been pooled.  Everybody thought that at the end of
the cruise when they gave the envelope with the money
inside to a waiter he kept it.  But, at the end of the cruise,
[the maitre d' hotel would have all the waiters put their
envelopes on one of the dining room tables and the money
would be distributed].

"In the old days it was the head of the department who held
all the money and handed it out. It wasn't entirely fair
because if he was related to you or he liked you more than
the others, you got a little bit more.  Today, it is more even.
The money is pooled primarily with the purser and given out
along with the salaries.

"There is a new element to it now.   If a guest wants to
remove the tips or reduce them, we always say, 'No
problem, but would you mind telling us why, because if it is
a service issue, we want to deal with it.'  The people who
want to remove the tips or reduce them are very vocal about
it and very specific.  There aren't many, but the report on
those people goes to the heads of departments.  When they
have their briefings, they bring up the fellows who got all
the complaints and had all the money removed from the
pool. Now you have peer pressure because you have 150
waiters in the room and five guys have to stand up and
explain to the other 145 why they are all losing money
because these guys screwed up.  They also have to sleep in
the same cabins with these people and do a lot of other
things with them and their lives are a lot more miserable
because people complained about them.  So, in some ways
there is more incentive than there ever was."

Princess also has employee motivation programs. "Each
month I give away about $5,000 cash to any number of
employees who are chosen due to guest comments [and the
You Make A Difference cards filled out by passengers and
other crew members to point out an outstanding employee
performance].  Then the ones who get the greatest number of
positive comments actually get a day off, which to them is
worth far more than money.  That is priceless."
CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY PDF VERSION OF THE ARTICLE
For more from James Deering click below

Deering interview on Crown Princess

Deering interview on Caribbean Princess (part I).
CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 1

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 2

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS  TOUR 3

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 4

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 5

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 6

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 7

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 8
Cruise Ship - Caribbean Princess - Cruise Ship Inside Interview - James Deering - page 2
BEYONDSHIPS HOME

CRUISE SHIP CENTRAL

CRUISE SHIP INDEX

CRUISE DESTINATIONS

CRUISE LINKS

PRINCESS CRUISES PAGE

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS PROFILE

CORAL PRINCESS PROFILE

CROWN PRINCESS PROFILE

DAWN PRINCESS PROFILE

EMERALD PRINCESS PROFILE

GRAND PRINCESS PROFILE

ISLAND PRINCESS PROFILE

OCEAN PRINCESS PROFILE

REGAL PRINCESS PROFILE

ROYAL PRINCESS PROFILE

RUBY PRINCESS PROFILE

SEA PRINCESS PROFILE