As a frequent cruiser, with over 100 sailings under my belt, I've always known that the ships captain is the boss. The top dog. The Master. And of course, that is absolutely true. The captain is… The Captain. He (or she) is responsible for the overall safety and well being of all guests and crew members onboard the vessel he (or she) is commanding.
But what I keep learning, over and over again, is the entire hotel operation and daily onboard ship experience - meaning everything you see and everything you do - is under the skillful eye of the ship's Hotel Director.
I was recently sailing to Bermuda aboard Celebrity Cruises "Summit" and had the opportunity to spend time with Darren Tiller, Hotel Director.
Born in England , Darren began his hotelier career at a young age helping his parents run a small hotel in Oxfordshire. He quickly became hooked and started with Trusthouse Forte Hotels before working in the Caribbean for Westin, Raffles and Sandals Resorts. After returning to the UK for his Masters Degree in Tourism and Hospitality he served as Hotel Operations at the world renown Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, London.
Q - How did you go from running land-based hotels to cruise ships?
A - A friend worked for Celebrity and kept telling me how much he liked living and working at sea - and that I should try it. So I did. I applied online and kept at it. I wasn't getting any responses (but would contact Celebrity at least once a week) and then after a month, I got "the call" and flew to Miami. During my last interview of the day I was told I had the job and within a few weeks became the Associate Hotel Director on Celebrity's "Constellation". That was in 2010 and it's gone by in a flash.
Q - Is it very different running a cruise ship compared to a land-based hotel?
A - Totally. It can be very challenging. On a ship you must be prepared for everything and anything and have access to all types of inventory - plus the constant changing of crew members, due to their individual contracts. You must be 110% organized and prepared. On land, if something is needed, you go down the street and buy it - not as easy on a ship.
Q - What are your top three responsibilities/priorities?
A - #1 - An excellent guest experience for all guests and throughout all departments on the ship. #2. - Making sure all crew is trained properly and giving them the tools to deliver excellence within their specific roles. #3. - A friendly and open culture for all crew members. A happy, confident and well-trained crew equals a happy cruise experience for everyone onboard a ship.
Q - Do you have any ports-of-call that are your favorites?
A - I do, but it's tough not finding something wonderful about all the places we visit. I really like Sydney, Australia ; Venice, Italy ; Alaska and like you Sandy, I think Bermuda is very special and always beautiful. I never get tired of sailing in and out of Bermuda.
Celebrity Cruises "Summit" will begin regularly scheduled sailings roundtrip from Bayonne, New Jersey to Bermuda May through September 2014. The only premium ship with regular service to Bermuda, Celebrity is a terrific choice for an upscale onboard experience with an emphasis on excellent dining , award-winning AquaSpa , attentive service and modern luxury. Be sure to ask your AAA cruise expert about all 2014 special promotions and AAA group sailings.