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Explorer of the Seas
A CONVERSATION
WITH
JORGE LYNCH

An interview with the Hotel Director
of Royal Caribbean International's
Explorer of the Seas.  

By Richard H. Wagner
ABOVE: Hotel Director Jorge
Lynch of EXPLORER OF THE
SEAS .  
BELOW: Part of the
hotel staff bid farewell to guests
on the last night of a cruise.
Jorge Lynch is the Hotel Director on Royal Caribbean
International’s
Explorer of the Seas.  After studying hotel
administration, Mr. Lynch worked as Guest Relations Manager at
the five star Resort and Conference Center in San Jose in his
native Costa Rica.  He rose through positions of increasing
responsibility at shoreside hotels, and in 1998, Lynch shifted to
Royal Caribbean starting as an Assistant Purser on Empress of
the Seas. “I worked in every single one of the positions in that
area, then I moved on to Food and Beverage, and then from there
to Associate Hotel Director.”   He has also” worked on almost all
the classes of ships at Royal Caribbean.”

“The cruising industry it is still in diapers.  We have so much
potential, so many people [who have not tried cruising].  I think
when it comes to customer service, when it comes to value, the
activities that you get on board the ship, the food that you get
aboard the ship, this is the best place for you to have a cruise
vacation or a vacation in general.  You come on a cruise for five,
six, seven, eight, nine days, you will have somebody to service
your room, you don’t have to worry about paying additional
hundred dollar meals, you don’t have to drive to watch a show - -
very good production shows on board the ships.  You have the
option to go to different countries in one vacation, enjoy the
different ports of call - - it is a unique experience.  It is a one of a
kind vacation.”  

“The quality of the product that we offer I think is very good. I
really do think it is very good and not just because I work for
Royal Caribbean.  People who cruise, will talk. If you do
something wrong, they will talk.  If you do something right, they
will talk.  Luckily for us, we have more people who think that
what we have done is right than wrong and the word spreads.
That is how we get a lot of new cruisers, first time cruisers.”

In addition, the percentage of repeat passengers “on this ship is
very high.  Right now, it is about 30 percent.  On the
Monarch of
the Seas
it was three percent, four percent, just to give you an
idea.  The shorter the cruise is, the less percentage of repeat
guests.  The longer the cruise is, the higher the percentage of
repeat guests.  This [five night] cruise we have 947 repeat guests.  
Plus, we have almost 300 plus diamond members and 14 diamond
plus members.  Diamond plus is people who have cruised on
Royal Caribbean more than 25 times.”

Royal Caribbean is in the process of reaching out to tap the
potential of new cruise markets.  Its ships are being deployed to
Europe, Asia and South America.  
Mariner of the Seas, one of
Explorer’s sister ships, is being deployed to the West Coast, thus
becoming the largest ship serving in the Pacific on a regular basis.
“You have to expand because the Caribbean is becoming
saturated.  Our ships are bigger so they can’t fit everywhere.  
[The number of  ports RCI can use is limited by] the size of the
ships. So, we have to start sourcing out.  Not going to normal,
common ports that cruise ships used to go to five or ten years
ago.  I think that is the reason why we went over to Europe and
Asia and to South America.”

However, such expansion requires more than just doing the same
thing in different ports. “What we try to do is cater to the market
that we are in.  So, going to Europe, you are going to see more
European ships with more European entertainment, more
European types of food.  We have a full department now and
their sole purpose is to ensure that we take care of the needs of
the Europeans, the Asians and the other people.  We are really
becoming an international fleet.”

To illustrate, when Royal Caribbean first deployed a ship to
England, “we were there but did not fully understand the market.  
Now, it is a completely different story.  Last year,
Navigator of
the Seas
did extremely well to the point where we decided to add
two more ships to Europe and that is why we are doing what we
are doing there.  There are plans to leave two Voyager class ships
over there year round.”  


The Hotel Department on
Explorer accounts for the largest
number of crew members, most of who have some contact with
the passengers.  Since how these people perform directly affects
the passengers’ cruise experience, motivating them to provide
good service is essential if a cruise line is going to succeed.  “I
believe if you have a happy crew, the crew will perform and you’
ll have happy guests.  If they produce, if they provide an
excellent service, then in the tradition, the guests will return it
and say thank you.”   

“If we as managers give the crew the tools to do their job, if we
as managers give them the opportunity to voice their concerns
and address their concerns, if we give them a very good
environment, a living environment for them to enjoy not only a
work environment but their off time, then (1) the crew is happy,
(2) there are no concerns and people and people are liberated.”

“I believe strongly that the crew should have the same quality of
life or close to the same quality of life they have at home on
board a ship.  The same facilities you have as a guest, they have
as the crew.  Just as you have it upstairs, they have it downstairs.  
They have a disco, they have a bar, a library, an Internet café,
they have two dining rooms, they have pools - - they have it all.”

“We source them from different countries.  We have people from
69 different nationalities on the ship.  We try to source the best
employees that we can.  It is a huge task.  Right now, we are
sourcing from Asia, we are sourcing from the Philippines, South
Africa,  Indonesia, Canada,  Central America and the
Caribbean.”  

“We train on board the ship. Every new employee goes through a
training process for 16 days.  They are trained in everything.  Not
only their job but also safety, security, crowd control, emergency
duties - - it is all being trained on the ship.”

The crew on
Explorer appears to be very motivated to serve.  
Indeed, in the main dining room the waiters seems as anxious to
please the guests who come to breakfast and lunch as they do the
guests they see every night at dinner.  However, since breakfast
and lunch are open seating, a given waiter is unlikely to ever see
again the guests he serves at those meals much less receive a tip
from them.  “At the end of the day, it is one team.  That is how
we look at it.  Yes, the person who you are serving at night will
not be the same person that you are serving at breakfast and
lunch.  However, if you provide a negative experience for that
person [at breakfast], that negative experience [is going to affect]
his view of the cruise vacation and that negative experience can
affect someone who is providing a high quality experience at
dinner.   Your colleague is going to suffer based upon what you
do here at breakfast.  We need to be one team.  We should make
sure that the same quality of service that we provide for dinner is
the same one we provide for lunch and breakfast.    Because what
happens is if you are happy for breakfast and you are happy for
dinner and you are happy with your stateroom attendant, you are
happy with the cruise.  If on top of that, the entertainment is high
quality entertainment, we have you.   It has to be a full circle
operation that works perfectly.”

“When you have ten good ones and one bad one, that bad one
tends to come out and then that bad one has a choice - - either
get with the program or get out of the program completely.  For
everything to work the way we want it, everything has to be in
sync. If you have one crew person within that chain who is not in
sync, it will jeopardize other things, it jeopardizes everything.  
That is something we ask every crew member to understand.”

“We focus a lot on friendliness.  Guests feel that they can talk to
anyone and they will get information.  We tell the crew to say
good morning, good afternoon and good night - - just be friendly.  
That takes you a long way.”

Notions of how to behave differ between the many nationalities
that comprise Explorer’s crew and may differ from those of the
passengers.  For example, in the Philippines, “you don’t smile,
you bow. Bowing is a sign of respect.  But then you come to the
American culture - - they are not used to bowing, they prefer you
to say good morning or good evening.  So, we create standards
and we work towards everyone believing in our standards.”

“We have something we call “GOLD” - - Greet and smile, Own
the problem,  Look the part, and Deliver well.  If you ask any
crew member what our standards are, he or she are going to say
GOLD.  From the moment you join the ship, we sort of brainwash
you.  Everything that you do, everything that you say, everything
around your work, even in your off time is GOLD.  It becomes a
pattern and you believe in it.”

“Once they start believing in it, it becomes easier.  The beauty of
it is if you have 700 crew telling you good morning, even if you
are not used to saying good morning, at some point you yourself
will start saying good morning because 700 other crew have said
it to you. You may pass one or two days just passing by without
saying anything but on the third day, you will reply, on the fourth
day, you will reply, the fifth day it will become natural, on the
sixth day you’re starting to say good morning to someone who
never says it and the same thing happens to that other person.  
The first, second day they might not.  The third day, they will.  
The fourth day, they will and the fifth day it becomes natural.  It
is amazing how it works but it does work.”
Executive Chef Joachim Moeller
giving a cooking demonstration.
The reception desk on Explorer.
A towel animal created by the room
steward watches the in-cabin
television.
A display of champagnes in the ship's
Champagne Bar.
The ice shows are very popular on
Explorer.
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