Of all the grievances outlined in last
weeks story about a class-action suit involving consumers, a travel
agency and Norwegian Cruise Line, what really jumped out at me were
passenger complaints that Pride of Aloha crew members were ignorant
about the use of finger bowls and were unable to pronounce the
names of wines.
That these offenses
were included in the suit may say something about the delicate
state of Americans sensibilities or their litigious nature.
Nonetheless, there they were, alongside more serious allegations
about sanitation and safety.
Just what happened
during those two early sailings of NCLs Pride of Aloha that led
passengers to keep such detailed lists of grievances? And what has
happened since then that passenger satisfaction scores have climbed
to put the ship on par with other NCL ships?
NCL President Colin
Veitch responded to my what-went-wrong, what-went-right questions
with answers that are related: Staffing levels and the
routes on the Pride of Aloha were inaugurated last summer, I was
among those wondering how service provided by an all-American crew
would differ from cruise ships with international staffs. When
early problems surfaced, it crossed my mind that
Americans-serving-Americans was the root difficulty.
problem was an unexpectedly high turnover rate, Veitch said. We had
anticipated high turnover and had even trained additional crew
before we launched. But after initial problems with high turnover,
we quickly got into a vicious downward cycle.
short-staffed, and the atmosphere onboard became difficult for the
remaining crew, who had to work longer hours and, frankly, suffer
abuse from passengers that no crew should have to suffer. So the
turnover rate increased even more.
Veitch said the
lines immediate goal became to reverse the spiral
crew-welfare activities considerably, like social events and more
time off. There was a lot of focus to make sure positive feedback
got back to the crew. And we set realistic targets for
NCL also focused
more on preparing prospective crew, increasing the shore-side
training time from one week to more than three. The line has also
worked with the crews union on training, customizing galleys and
even providing a replica of the inside of a cabin.
conversation, Veitch never pointed a finger of blame at his
The reality is that
the crew is the major asset, he said. Its a real pleasure to watch
the interaction between American passengers and the American crew.
The crew is now consistently the highest-scored aspect of the
passenger experience. All those naysayers who said Americans arent
service-oriented or wont work hard -- it isnt true.
Of course, Veitch
may not be out of the woods yet. He didnt mention whether the
extended training included what may be the most important lesson of
all to avoid future lawsuits: proper use of finger