Holland America Line is managing staffing shortages

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Crew on the Zaandam when that ship re-entered service on May 12.
Crew on the Zaandam when that ship re-entered service on May 12. Photo Credit: Holland America Line

ABOARD THE ROTTERDAM -- Staffing shortages are causing Holland America Line to shuffle crew between ships, executives said during a Q&A with reporters on Sunday.

Crew members from ships with lower occupancy are being moved to ships with higher occupancy, senior vice president of guest experience Michael Smith said.

"We're able to juggle around with 11 ships. We have that luxury," Smith said. 

The galley is the most affected area. Staff shortages could occasionally lead to closing individual restaurants for an evening when reservations are low, Smith said. Otherwise, he said, hiring challenges have not bled into customer experiences. 

Smith made the comments during a seven-day roundtrip sailing from Amsterdam before the ship's official naming in Rotterdam on May 30. The crew-guest ratio is 1-to-2 on this sailing with 1,600 guests. The previous sailing carried just more than 2,000 guests for a ratio of 1-to-2.2. 

While the ratios appear favorable and above the normal 1-to-3 crew-to-guest ratio, Rotterdam hotel general manager Wessel Oorschot expects the ship to reach near-capacity as early as July. The ship's capacity is 2,680 passengers.

"Eventually, people want to go on vacation, and also you need to fill those [crew] gaps as well," Oorschot said. 
Holland America is in the middle of a "hiring spree" to replace crew members who found other work during the pandemic. The recruitment efforts are currently centered in Asia -- including India, Indonesia and the Philippines -- with plans to recruit next in Eastern Europe, Oorschot said.

Demand is there among people wanting to work on ships, but long wait times for visa appointments have hampered HAL's hiring efforts, Smith said, with some visa appointments requiring a six-month wait time.

Holland America isn't the only line struggling to fully staff its ships. Smith said some HAL ships have lent Carnival Cruise Line some of its dining service staff, as had Princess Cruises.

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