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The Service Dilemma; Under-trained Staff & Under-trained Cruisers

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Note : This blog post (below)  was written prior to the Costa Corcordia tragedy, and originally intended to run last week. I held it back a week because I felt I had to consider what, if any, hand the general topic of the blog could have had during the Concordia incident.

As the cruise industry has grown, and spread it’s ships throughout the word, it is my hypothesis that a new problem has shown up; lack of training.

On the “mass market contemporary” cruise lines, some cruise lines are even leaving the training of their service staff to outside contracted companies, followed by further training once they are on board in their working environments.

At the same time, other than the luxury lines, the cruise lines have cut back on the ratios of staff members to paying passnegers. Combining the factors of lack of advance training, with the larger numbers of passengers they are expected to service, in my view has led to drop in almost all levels of service. All of this further affected by the ever growing demand for staff to man the growing fleets.

It’s not that the service staff aren’t doing their utmost in an effort to please the passengers (and their employers), but it seems the processes are sort of set up to lead them to being unable to succeed in delivering a level of service once commonplace.

Add untrained passengers to the mix, and it rather naturally leads to some levels of dissatisfaction by everyone concerned.

I’m not suggesting passengers should be required to take classes to learn what is expected of them as a passenger, or what they should have a right to expect from their service staff as a passenger.

However, there are so many resources, like available for cruise passengers to familiarize themselves with cruising, ports of call they are going to visit, finances involved, dress, and shipboard activities. Yet, like cruising itself, where a small percentage of the population even goes on a cruise, the percentage of those who do cruise but do so with no effort to learn about what they are getting themselves into is also disproptionally high.

I’d guess the percentage of cruisers researching is similar to the percentage of people who cruise vs those who don’t. And, in some cases, those who take the time to “study” may end up at some sites, where the “experts” turn out to be vitriolic and annoyed by questions, or when their responses are questioned. The amount of misinformation passed around on some sites only adds to the problem; not dissimilar to when service staff aren’t trained properly.

It’s an odd phenomena, as the cruise lines have been doing quite an admirable job of designing and engineering gorgeous ship, filled with an ever growing list of amenties, as well as upgrading the entertainment and dining choices on their ships. Yet, as they improve in the areas they are directing their concentration to, they seem to slip in other areas; unable to keep the entire package to equal standards.

At least training service staff could be managed with much more dedicated training. I’m unsure of exactly how they go about training the passengers better, but certainly the travel agents should take that responsibility more seriously, rather than concentrating only on the sale.

That was the extent of the blog I had intended to publish last week.  Now with the Concordia event of Fri 13th I find I must add some thoughts in relation to the Costa Concordia incident.

I have to admit I do feel as if the situation of under-trained staff  (in all areas, not just service staff– which was the part of the equation I originally chose to address in the blog) does allow for the possibility that the cruise ship environment is perhaps not as safe as those of us in the industry wish to believe it is.

Perhaps those of us who are historically supportive of the cruise industry have minimized some of the previous safety “incidents” as anecdotal, which could have done as much disservice to the industry and our readers, as those who have historically been, and continue to be, overly critical , and sometimes sensationalistic, with their negative commentary of the industry.

In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, which certainly leaves a mightmarish image in our minds after viewing pictures and video of a modern cruise ship laying on her side, we should at least be considering and discussing what actions should be taken to improve the safety on board for both passengers and crew.

That thought leads me back to my premise in the original blog I wrote and delayed publishing; better training and much improved information sharing is essential for both crew and passengers!


– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from David Allen
Time February 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

As far as undertrained passengers, nowadays few read their paperwork as regards to required documentation. Every time we have a Hawaiian Islands cruise from San Diego, we have as many as 12-18 denied boardings. Guests only bring driver’s licenses because the cruise is only going to Hawaii. It is hearbreaking to tell them that they cannot go because they do not understand that they are leaving the US.

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