Vision of the Seas is a relatively small ship by today's standards. (She is in fact larger than such legendary ships as Titanic, QE2 and the SS. United States). Yet, even though she is 15 years old, guests return to her again and again.
“Our friendliness, our personalized service, our visibility, I strongly believe is what guests admire and like very much. That is why they keep coming back to us.”
The tone of the ship is set at the top. Captain Srecko Ban is a very visible leader. He is not one of those captains who is only seen at receptions and whose sole contact with the guests is as a disembodied voice coming over the public address system at noon. Rather, he can often be seen in the public areas talking with individual guests and participating in activities such as the officers versus guests pool volleyball game. Indeed, during a the cruise that I was on, he was drafted into participating in a line dance class which he happened to pass by during a walk around the ship's public areas.
“In the hospitality business, people expect to see the senior officers - - basically, the management - - around. Seeing us around on the floor creates a better vibe and sends a message to the guests. It gives a personal touch.”
“I have been approached by many, many guests who have never sailed with me before and after a few days, they book another cruise. They keep booking cruises and coming back because this is something new to them, especially if they are coming from bigger ships and if they did not sail with a captain who is as outgoing as I am. This ship, this vibe, our visibility, our engagement creates a special touch. They like it and they want to come back.”
“I think we can all do better here and we have to really engage more. It is really part of the job, one of the key elements apart from safe navigation and the safety of all aboard. Engagement on the floor is a key factor.”
Being out and about is not just a public relations move. “It is a great opportunity to support the crew, to support all the hard work that is going on. It is a very hectic operation, working long hours every day, long contracts - - some of them six to eight months. A nice word, support, recognition goes a long way.”
“You have to engage, you cannot disengage yourself from the floor and the operation and manage by sending e-mails.” Out on the floor, “I see positives and negatives and I can work on both. I can see where there is room for improvement. If [the crew] do not deliver as much as they should, I can correct it right away.”
“I try to spend as much time on the floor as I can. I think it works very well from both a crew perspective and a guest perspective. It is also my personality. I am very outgoing. I like meeting people, spending time with people.”
Sailing the Vision
Vision has a better than average top speed. “We can go 24 knots.” While her itineraries generally do not require her to maintain such speeds, the ability to go faster gives her flexibility and can be useful in emergencies.
Vision was the last Royal Caribbean ship to be built with a conventional propulsion system. She has two propeller shafts and two rudders. All of the subsequent Royal Caribbean ships have replaced these with azipods. “Newer ships are much easier to handle.”
In an azipod system, the propeller is on the front of a structure that can be turned 360 degrees. As a result, the ship's entire propulsion power can be used to move the ship in any direction. This comes in especially helpful when maneuvering a ship next to or away from a pier where wind or current can push a ship into the pier.
“If you fail or misjudge or you start losing the ship, you always have enough power. Apply more power, you are fine.”
With a traditional system, the ship's main propulsion power cannot be channeled so directly. “Here, you really have to understand the [ship's] limits and the risks and make good assessments before conducting any maneuver because if you start losing the ship, it is too late. You don't have that power, there is nothing left.”
The New Vision
In September 2013, Vision is scheduled to undergo a major revitalization, costing some $50 million dollars. However, the focus will not be on changing the ship's navigational or mechanical properties. “Some software upgrades, one additional electronic chart station, some improvement on the radars but not really much. No major changes, it will mainly focus on the hotel.”
“I think [Vision] has been well kept over the years. She could go on anywhere between 40 and 60 years easily.”
“She is still in good shape but we are lacking venues that are common around the industry. Nowadays you really have to have a specialty restaurant onboard. It is not enough to have the dining room and the Windjammer. Those days are gone. On any ship you go on there are specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants [planned for Vision] are going to be well-received by the guests.”
“I look forward to the ship being revitalized. I think it is a good investment. It is going to be nice.”
Cruise ship interview - - Royal Caribbean - Vision of the Seas - Captain Sprecko Ban