‘Best Job Ever’
Royal Caribbean Bahamian Job Numbers Soar, 344 on Staff
By Diane Phillips
After nearly a decade in the hotel sector, Seville Smith was a rising star at a major resort in The Bahamas when an ad caught her eye. Royal Caribbean International was hosting a job fair in Nassau, kicking off a robust campaign aimed at hiring more Bahamians.
Smith thought of the possibilities of learning about different cultures and new opportunities, took a chance, applied and was instantly bounced up to the next round of interviews.
Less than two years later, the hospitality sector phenom who went from hotel to cruise is island office administrator for Perfect Day at Coco Cay, a demanding position that requires full-on team coordination to handle up to 5,000 guests a day when one of the larger Oasis-class ships calls on the destination in the Berry Islands.
Smith is one of 344 Bahamians employed by Royal Caribbean who have committed to hiring Bahamians as its recruiting priority – a strong statement for the cruise line that goes to 300 destinations around the world.
“Royal Caribbean has been an excellent partner. They meant what they said about hiring Bahamians and they are constantly trying to expedite the process while ensuring quality candidates are advised of opportunities and trained,” said Gadville McDonald, Executive Director of the National Training Agency (NTA) in Nassau the cruise line’s main partner in the hiring Bahamians process. Job fairs are held in cooperation with the NTA which also facilitates screening and training. “The commitment is real and their human resources department is in constant contact with us to make sure that we are doing all we can to promote the hire Bahamians campaign.”
Royal Caribbean also partnered with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation as a platinum sponsor, in part to build awareness of opportunities at the cruise line and to facilitate hiring. Job openings and application forms are available year-round through a link on the Chamber’s website.
According to Cindy Williams-Johnson, Senior Manager, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Global Talent Attraction, there is no slowdown in sight in the company’s pursuit of Bahamians.
“Our recruitment strategy is to continue our focus identifying Bahamian talent for both our private island destination and on ships,” she said. “We are continuing our partnership with the NTA, developing career pathing journeys and extending how we are branding our product in the talent marketplace.”
Williams-Johnson admits there is one challenge – keeping Bahamians onboard ships. Land-based Coco Cay is an employment magnet though more Bahamians are being onboarded for cruise positions.
Mention the challenge of getting people to leave the comfort of land and Seville Smith grins. Although she is eager to climb aboard and sail off to distant shores, learning more about other people and interacting with other cultures, she understands the desire to be close to family with feet planted on terra firma.
“Being here on Coco Cay is like being with family. They (Royal Caribbean) treat you like you are family,” says Smith, who graduated from CV Bethel and is a trained aquarist and scuba diver. “The warmth and care they give to their staff and the opportunities they give you for training – they live up to their word and their standards. The fact that a company cares so much is amazing. They show you the love, they are friendly, compassionate, committed. I’ve never been in a work environment like this before where they treat you so well and they care about you.”
Smith calls it “the best job ever.”
Four hundred staff members live on the island, rotating work schedules. They are able to choose the 240 days a year they want to work and which weeks they want off. Smith times her weeks off the island to coincide with family events or her son’s school schedule.
“Every week we have a set of people who go home to their families and come back afterward,” she said. “And when they come back, it’s like coming home to their second home, their Royal Caribbean family.”
That camaraderie, comfortable living quarters, a job that is lively and what Smith calls “awesome food” make being away from home easier than she expected.
“The living quarters are really comfortable, cozy and nice. I have my own room, my own bathroom, all the necessities, and even housekeeping service,” she said. “If anything ever goes wrong, engineering comes in and fixes it instantly. Everything is a phone call away. It’s like living in a hotel with awesome food and service.”
Says Russell Benford, Vice President, Government Relations, Americas, “It makes us feel really proud when team members are so enthusiastic about their position. You can build the fanciest ships in the world but if your guests are not treated well, they won’t return. It’s all about the experience and it takes interacting with people who love what they do to take a good experience and make it a great one.”
Royal Caribbean was voted one of America’s best employers for diversity by Forbes magazine again last year. The cruise company employs more than 75,000 people from over 120 countries.