Malcolm Cullen, a managing director at Sea Chefs, said that one of the main things that differentiate a luxury segment ship is the crew to passenger ratio.
“The luxury vessels have a very high crew to passenger ratio, it’s one of the defining things in the industry,” said Cullen, in the 2021 Luxury Market Report by Cruise Industry News.
Cullen oversees the Limassol office of Sea Chefs, a company which provides hotel management services like crewing, spa management, supply and logistics, newbuildings and reconstruction consulting, and hygiene and risk management.
Sea Chefs manages more than 70 ships with a high proportion of luxury products, both on the ocean and river vessels.
Another important thing is the interaction between the crew and guests.
“There are a number of things in teaching the crew to be attentive, to be joyful in what they do. People want to be served by happy people that they believe are happy in their work, have a smile on their face, and try and create an extraordinary atmosphere onboard,” he said.
Sea Chefs has an entire department in charge of crew recruitment, Cullen said. The process to hire a crew member for a luxury cruise ship is long and scrupulous.
“You need to get the right hospitality background, apprenticeships, and good quality management schools. The recruiters are highly-trained with good job-related knowledge for the positions that they’re hiring for. They test the knowledge of each crew member. With luxury products, you go into much more detail about their specific goals, whatever part of the hotel they’re from. No one’s hired without follow-up checks,” he said.
Before any crew member begins work, they undergo intensive brand training.
“A lot of time is invested in trying to get a loyal team that takes pride in what they do and (with) a sense of belonging and identifying with the employer,” Cullen said. “The crew are given intensive brand training as such to understand the ethos and the cause of these.”
Quality and Sustainability
Just like with the crew, any product delivery in the luxury cruise market – whether it’s china cups or vegetable sourcing – starts with quality.
“You know, the highest levels of china – these are discussed at length with the clients, deciding on brands and styles. Obviously, nowadays, you have multiple restaurants onboard vessels, so you use the opportunity to get the highest quality and to offer a range. You don’t go into every restaurant and find exactly the same set of china. It’s the same with cutlery, glassware, porcelain.”
He said that since the industry is constantly changing, sustainability has become a big factor in Sea Chefs’ operation. Alongside the cultural awareness, this had been arising not only with Sea Chefs’ clients but also with the guests, Cullen said.
“People nowadays are environmentally cultured, they do want to see that you are investing in local businesses in the places that they’re going, and they are really interested to see special products. And that takes a very good purchasing department,” said Cullen, adding that, according to forecasts, Sea Chefs’ purchasing would have been 200 million euros in 2020 – the pandemic has, of course, affected that.
The cuisine has been “the goal at all times” for Sea Chefs, according to Cullen.
“It’s cuisine instead of catering, creating exceptional dining concepts … It’s about getting the very best that’s out there and then also doing the research on what you can get locally, what you can get sustainability wise, how you can support local economies, and how you can find special items from smaller local farms, from small local developers, and so on,” Cullen said. “The local produce, the local purchasing, helping to reduce carbon emissions – it’s something that is on the tip of people’s tongues, and it’s still possible to develop a luxury product that can meet those criteria.”