MHA Virtual Event Brings Cruise Industry Together

The Marine Hotel Association (MHA) hosted its 36th annual Conference and Trade Show on April 22 using an innovative virtual platform to bring cruise industry executives and vendors together with a key focus on procurement and restarting operations.

The upbeat one-day event included a panel discussion and meet the industry forum, both with question and answer time. There was also a virtual trade show and two keynote addresses.

Vendors were able to meet with procurement officials from cruise lines as well as other cruise executives in an easy online format for the one-day event. 

Key Highlights

Procurement

“It’s the first time we are going to sail with different load factors,” said Vina Jumpp, associate vice president, global hotel, food and beverage procurement at Royal Caribbean Group.

Jumpp is dealing with a number of issues procuring supplies and food her ships coming back to service, starting with completely new homeports and  making sure the ships are well stocked with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“Costs have gone up 50 percent,” she said, also saying availability and lead times are an issue.

Logistics will also be complicated to start with new homeports, and she noted rising protein prices. 

Handling procurement and other items for a number of cruise brands, Alia Abou Assali had 150 containers to track down and bring home in March 2020 as vice president of purchasing and logistics at The Apollo Group.

They were eventually brought back and now the effort is on the staggered start up for the company’s various cruise clients.

“In terms of supply chain, the biggest challenge now is the uncertainty in the short-term,” said Assali. “Things are very uncertain in terms of specific timelines and consumption.”

Virgin 

Frank Weber, senior vice president of hotel operations for Virgin Voyages, said he had been working across the industry and was in regular touch with his counterparts at what would normally be rival cruise lines.

“It has brought the industry together,” he noted. “There has been a lot of things we have learned from one another.

When Virgin does sail this summer, the goal is to create as much of a normal experience as possible

“As cruise operators the ships are a fully controllable environment. We know who is coming and going,”

Better Quality

“We will have buffets but you will see changes,” said Michelle Solorzano, senior director, F&B supply chain, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “They will be full-service buffets meaning our crew will serve all guests and seat all guests.”

Solorzano said the company would not sacrifice quality.

“In many cases we are increasing quality,” she said. “When our guests come back onboard we want to provide that wow factor. We want the experience to be better than it was before.”

Vaccinations

Added Bruce Tschampel, vice president of hotel operations at Lindblad Expeditions: “Vaccinations are really critical to our restart.”

One advantage for Lindblad will be its two U.S.-flagged ships back in operation in Alaska this summer, with its American crew having easy access to the fast-moving vaccination program in the U.S.

At Saga Cruises, the company will require vaccinations aboard, is now including “bubble” shore excursions in the ticket price, and will have both its new ships sailing this summer, according to Horst Pint, director of hotel operations. 

Grab and Go

Starting up with limited capacity, Windstar will adjust its buffet with no self-service, said Peter Tobler, director, hotel operations.

“In addition to that we will have a lot more grab and go foods,” he noted, adding that it will mostly be made onboard.

“We are considering looking at (purchasing) prepackaged food, but the criteria and expectations are pretty high.”

>>Read a comprehensive recap of the MHA virtual event in the summer edition of Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine, due out July 2021.

 

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