Hotel Director Mark Maeling has worked in the hospitality industry for 26 years, 17 of those years on cruise ships. Three years ago, he brought his talents to Norwegian Cruise Line where he has served on Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Getaway ,Norwegian Sun and most recently, Norwegian Gem.
“A ship has a character, it has a soul. You can feel it if you go from ship to ship. You feel it when you step aboard the ship. Every ship has a different sense. I can say that because I have worked on 42 different ships. Every ship is like a living object for me.”
“[Norwegian Gem] has a great soul and atmosphere throughout the entire ship, which is basically given by the crew, which is our biggest asset. Our guests truly appreciate the efforts of the crew members on a day-to-day basis to generate a once in a lifetime cruise experience every day.”
Mr. Maeling's observations about the Gem are confirmed by the feedback surveys that are completed by the guests who sail on the Norwegian ships. “We just got scored number one in seven out of 11 categories. In two categories, we are number two and in one category, we are number three. It is not the company which rated us, the guest did.”
The ship is well positioned in the market, with great potentials.”
So what makes the Gem so attractive?
“The Norwegian Gem was always a very successful ship. It is a beautiful lady, in good shape.” Indeed, in 2015, Norwegian Gem emerged from a refit with a new, more sophisticated décor in her public areas.
“The guests really enjoy the ship's size. We are kind of in the middle.” In other words, not too small, not too large.
“The pace of the cruise is completely different. It is not as everything is a rush or everything is very slow. It is like a curve. In the morning, it starts a little slower; people relax and [at lunchtime] really enjoy our barbecues that we have by the pools. Then you go through the afternoon to the cocktail hour. The day starts building up to the night and the shows and then it slows down again. It is like a curve that you see throughout the day. It gives something to everybody.”
“This ship gives a lot of different options and values. You have activity areas; you have quiet areas so you can choose what you want to do at any given time. If you want to be entertained, you can be. If you do not want to be entertained, just read a book somewhere you may choose to relax. Many guests like Deck 7; they chill by the window, look out or read a book. It is a very quiet area there, even though there are guest passing by
We [also] have very large open deck spaces, great capacities which comfort our guest.”
Still, Gem's greatest strength lies in the service provided by the crew. “We try to be attentive to the guest's needs and to meet their individual expectations. I think we as a company can be very proud that our crew is so into it. We genuinely produce a great hospitality service.”
The crew is motivated by a number of factors. First, Norwegian provides training both before a crew member joins a ship and while he or she is aboard ship. “I think the crew members recognize that the company invests so much in them that they do their share and produce a service that is just outstanding.”
Second, there is opportunity. “The company is growing very fast, very quickly and we are promoting from within.” Furthermore, there is the opportunity to change jobs. “It does not necessarily mean that if you start as a galley utility, you will work your entire life as a galley utility. We evaluate their background and say yes, this Team member started as a galley utility but he has [potential] and he has the educational background. As such, we motivate our teams, to develop for other positions and support them where we can."
“I think all of this together gives a good crew environment. If you take care of the crew, they have the ability to take care of our guests.”
Investing in Gem
As noted earlier, in late 2015 Norwegian performed an extensive revitalization of Gem's public areas giving the ship a new look. Norwegian is now undertaking a corresponding revitalization of the cabins while Gem is in operation.
“We are upgrading all our cabins. All the soft goods inside the cabins are going to be fully exchanged - - the carpet, the curtains, the throw pillows, the artwork will be completely exchanged. The color scheme of the cabin changes completely. It gives a very warm atmosphere and it makes it seem wider. It gives a new impression.”
“The exchange process does not have any impact on the guests. It takes around one hour to one hour to change the entire cabin. We communicate first to the guest so they can decide if they want to do the cabin upgrade or not. If they decide to do the cabin upgrade, [a mutually convenient time is arranged]. The new Cabin design generate for all guest a new “Wow”
I think that is a good thing because you are in a constant process of delivering something new, which keeps things interesting especially for our repeat guests.”
Behind the scenes, investments are being made in upgrading systems and technology. “A lot of things that will increase the experience either by speeding up the service or by the visual impact.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Gem - Hotel Director 2017