Marsha Lightbourne heads Coco Cay HR, calls it ‘the most amazing job’
Royal Caribbean International exceeds Bahamian job projections, more Bahamians in management
When Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley announced in late 2018 that the cruise line aimed to hire 200 more Bahamians for positions onboard its ships, management acted fast. They arranged job fairs, signed a contract with the National Training Agency to assist with screening and conducting soft skills training. They hoped to appeal to those with a sense of adventure and a craving for a different kind of hospitality profession with room to travel, grow and rise through the ranks.
Less than a year later, Royal Caribbean had exceeded its own goal with more than 300 Bahamians hired for onboard positions. And on CocoCay, the cruise line’s private island destination in the Berry Islands, Bahamians are filling increasing numbers of management posts. Among the most recent to earn the distinction – Marsha Lightbourne, a 10-year veteran of the hotel industry who is now responsible for human resources (HR) for a staff complement that accounts for more than 600 team members and even in the height of the COVID pandemic stood at more than 200.
“This is the most amazing job,” says Lightbourne. “Working on CocoCay is a very different experience from working all day enclosed in a hotel. I have an incredible team in HR that works to the highest standards and where we live on the cay, no matter how hard you work, you wake up every morning with the most amazing view in a beautiful pristine environment with lots of nature around you.”
Lightbourne joined Royal Caribbean as an HR manager, leaving her family for weeks at a time in Nassau and moving to CocoCay in October 2020. Less than three months later, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she got the surprise call – “Would she take over as head of HR?”
Despite suspension of cruising, some 200 staff members remained on the cay, doing maintenance, landscaping, upgrades, providing security and more. Even without cruise guests, the work was endless. For kitchen crew, that was still preparing 600 meals a day. COVID restrictions were rigid and strictly enforced. Anyone traveling to the cay, even with a negative PCR test result, had to quarantine in a hotel at nearby Great Harbour Cay, and be re-tested when quarantine ended. Nearly 100% of staff members were vaccinated as vaccines became available, greeting the opportunity to travel more easily with eagerness. Being on an island in the midst of a pandemic incurred a different kind of stress and Lightbourne found herself and her department creating team-building exercises, encouraged staff to talk more, to open up, share and befriend one another.
“We realized we would forever be changed by this pandemic crisis which we could either allow to drive us apart or choose to let it bring us together through the collective spirit of endurance. We chose the latter,” she said.
With the re-opening of the cay and cruise guests again making PerfectDay@CocoCay their favourite destination experience, staff complement is up to 442 and Lightbourne, who is calling it a “dream job” will soon be responsible for 600, more than half of whom will be Bahamian.
“Guests love our Bahamian culture which is what we sell,” she says, “and we Bahamians are able to make guests’ experiences more culturally relevant with our warmth, music and food, right down to the way we talk.”
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas has been calling on CocoCay once a week since it started homeporting in Nassau in June and is the number one ranked destination out of more than 125 ports of call in Royal Caribbean’s itinerary.
About Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International has been delivering innovation at sea for more than 50 years. Each successive class of ships is an architectural marvel featuring the latest technology and guest experiences for today’s adventurous traveler. The cruise line continues to revolutionize vacations with itineraries to more than 270 destinations in 72 countries on six continents, including Royal Caribbean’s private island destination in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, the first in the Perfect Day Island Collection. Royal Caribbean has also been voted “Best Cruise Line Overall” for 18 consecutive years in the Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards. For additional information, visit RoyalCaribbean.com.
About Royal Caribbean Group
Royal Caribbean Group is the operating business name for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Royal Caribbean Group is the owner and operator of three global cruise vacation brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises. Royal Caribbean Group is also a 50% owner of a joint venture that operates TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Together, our brands operate 58 ships with an additional 15 on order as of March 15, 2021. Learn more at www.royalcaribbeangroup.com or www.rclinvestor.com.