A CONVERSATION WITH HOTEL DIRECTOR
OF CARNIVAL LIBERTY
Richard H. Wagner
A CONVERSATION WITH HOTEL DIRECTOR
OF CARNIVAL LIBERTY
Richard H. Wagner
Fun Ship 2.0
Fun Ship 2.0 is a fleetwide revitalization program that is bringing many of the features and concepts introduced on Carnival Cruise Lines latest ships to the rest of the fleet. In 2011, Carnival Liberty was the first ship to undergo the Fun Ship 2.0 program and so has had the most experience with these changes.
“We have a lot of repeat guests, not only Carnival, but Liberty repeaters. They are pretty much wowed by the transformation,” reports Hotel Director Jose Pisa.
Several of the new facilities are located around the ship's main pool area on Lido Deck. These include the addition of two new bars - - the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar and the Red Frog Rum Bar. Liberty had poolside bars before but “they were hidden away and not so attractive. It is definitely a different atmosphere. [The new bars] give the feeling that you are in a resort in the Caribbean.”
Nearby are two new eateries. “We introduced the Blue Iguana Cantina where we serve breakfast and lunch with a TexMex flare.”
Also added was Guy's Burger Joint, which offers premium burgers designed by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. “It is very popular and the burgers are really delicious there.”
Moreover, both Guy's Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina are complimentary. “We did all these upgrades and guests still get them free. We did not put the burden on the guests.”
The ship's pizzeria by the aft pool was also upgraded. “We used to buy the pie, now we make it onboard. We went with thin crust. That is the original pizza, the way it is [made] in Napoli where pizza was born, so they say.”
Although Liberty was not the first ship to make this change, another addition to the open decks was the adults-only Serenity retreat with premium seating and its own bar and hot tubs. “The Serenity has also been well received by the guests. It is a nice place to relax.” There is no extra charge for the use of this area.
Several changes were also made to the public rooms along Promenade Deck. Beginning at the forward end, “we did the EA Sports Bar. It is a partnership with EA Sports.” Guests can watch sports events on video screens, keep track of scores and play sports video games developed by EA Sports for no additional charge.
“We upgraded the casino. We upgraded the gift shops - - all the displays and the lighting. Formalities became Cherry On The Top. We moved away from the rental of tuxedos. Now, it is more like a candy store.”
“We also started the Alchemy Bar, which has been very successful.” This bar is decorated to look like an old-fashioned pharmacy with the bar staff wearing white jackets like those worn by chemists. “It is like you go to a pharmacy and say I am feeling like this, what can you suggest? We can either suggest a cocktail or you can come to us and create your own and we will make it.”
On the other side of the Promenade is the Taste Bar, where, on formal nights, guests can get a small complimentary portion of various dishes. “We use the same counter that we used to use for the sushi bar. The idea is to give an idea of the different [food] outlets that we have onboard [the Carnival ships].”
Another addition that did not involve any physical changes to the ship was the implementation of the Punchliners Comedy Club in the Victoria Lounge. “Through our partnership with George Lopez, we introduced the Punchliners Comedy Club as part of the ship's makeover. It has been very well received. People like comedy, people like to laugh. On a seven day cruise, you get to see four comedians, which is pretty good. They have enough material that they do not have to repeat their shows. We have pretty nice comedians.”
Fun Ship 2.0 is an evolving program with concepts being added as time goes on. Since Liberty went through the Fun Ship 2.0 revitalization, Carnival has added some more concepts to Fun Ship 2.0 such as Playlist Productions and the Hasbro game shows (See article). For the moment, Liberty does not have these features. However, Mr. Pisa points out with a smile, “the next dry dock is three years away. I'm sure they must have plans already.”
A reputation for friendliness.
A cruise line can invest millions giving a ship new features and designing innovative concepts but it will all be for naught if the atmosphere onboard is cold and hostile. Consequently, friendliness and hospitality are top priorities on Carnival Liberty.
“We work hard on that because we think that is the basis for everything else. Friendliness and hospitality are the basis of guest satisfaction.”
To this end, Liberty has implemented an onboard training program called Carnival Service Values. The program “is facilitated by myself and the corporate training department. We have two trainers onboard under the H.R. director. This was started two years ago and has been very successful.”
“Every team member from the captain all the way to the bottom has to go through this program. When people come from vacation, we have also a refresher for everybody that joins the ship.”
“Every day we have the Carnival service value of the day. People know that this is our value of the day. At the pre-shift meetings, the supervisor talks a little bit about hospitality just to keep it fresh.”
“We also try to emphasize that no matter where you work [on the ship], you need to have hospitality skills. It is not just for the front of the house. They crisscross with out guests on gangways and in corridors so everybody has to be on the same page when it comes to hospitality and friendliness. So we have the same training for the back of the house.”
In addition to the training, Mr. Pisa and the management team encourage the crew to be friendly. “We are in the vacation business. People come here to have fun. You wake up in the morning with a bunch of people who all they want is to have fun. It is not like you wake up in the morning and have to go to work in a jail or a hospital where people are depressed. We are working in the vacation business - - it couldn't be any easier.”
While it is a simple matter to be friendly, it is also important for manager to recognize that working aboard a ship is a challenging way of life. “Life onboard is not easy. People leave their families and are here six, seven, eight, nine months. They have families and miss their wives, miss their kids. You live, sleep and work in the same place. You cannot disconnect except when you go off the ship for a couple of hours. Onboard, you don't disconnect. It is not easy.”
As a result, it is key to have an environment where everyone respects one another. “We have onboard 70 nationalities. Everybody lives together in peace and harmony - - a friendly atmosphere that just flows into the guest areas.”
Indeed, Carnival Liberty has a reputation for friendliness that is borne out by the surveys that guests are asked to fill out after each cruise. In Carnival's fleet of 23 ships, “we are number one for guest satisfaction and number one for friendliness and hospitality. It has been like that for awhile.”
“There is great satisfaction when you read the guest surveys and you share with your team members - - how they were thrilled by the way they were treated by the crew. You see all of these nice comments. It is a really good reward.”
Cruise ship interview - - Carnival Cruise Lines - - Carnival Liberty - - Hotel Director Jose Pisa