Starboard Cruise Services tapping former crew workers for exceptional shopper experience (2023)

Hiring in retail is challenging on its own in a traditional space such as a store or supermarket. But there are many more hurdles when it involves one of the more unique retail employment locations — the cruise ship.

Starboard Cruise Services tapping former crew workers for exceptional shopper experience (1)Provided by Starboard Cruise Services.

| by Judy Mottl — Editor, &

Hiring in retail is challenging on its own in a traditional space such as a store or supermarket.

But there are many more hurdles when it involves one of the more unique retail employment locations — the luxury stores and shops housed on a cruise ship.

After all, not everyone loves the water or being on a ship, not everyone wants to be away from home and not everyone seeks a workplace you can't literally leave for days and weeks.

So the quest to find knowledgeable retail talent is no easy hiring feat and neither is retaining that talent.

That's just one reason Starboard Cruise Services is partnering with Ship2Shore Employ, a recruitment and development company that is dedicated to connecting former cruise ship crew members with employment opportunities.

Partnership offers win-win-win

Starboard Cruise Services is an LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton company and a vacation retailer at sea. It operates retail destinations on more than 90 ships across 11 cruise line partners: Azamara, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Resort World Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Silversea, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Virgin Voyages, according to a press release. The company has been recognized for quality and innovation by the travel industry, winning numerous awards, including DFNI-Frontier Americas Travel Retailer of the Year, Asia/Pacific Cruise Retailer of the Year, Global Cruise Retailer of the Year and Exceptional Achievement by a Cruise Retailer.

In partnering with Ship2Shore, Starboard gets access to experienced cruise professionals who understand the cruise industry. That will drive a strong customer experience with travelers, according to the partners. The third "win" is that former crew members are given the opportunity to leverage skills and expertise while making contributions to the industry.

Starboard Cruise Services tapping former crew workers for exceptional shopper experience (2)The partnership came about through a longstanding professional relationship between Lisa Bauer, CEO and president at Starboard Cruise Services, and Barbara Cobas, founder and CEO of Ship2Shore Employ. The two worked at Royal Caribbean International back in 2007.

"The alignment of our core values, particularly the shared belief that people make the difference, made this collaboration a natural fit," Bauer said in an email interview. "Starboard's acknowledgment of the immense talent and unique skills that former crew members bring to the table further solidifies the partnership."

Ship2Shore Employ launched in March of this year.

"Partnering with a respected name like Starboard is an exciting milestone for us, and the collaboration is built on mutual trust and a shared commitment to excellence," Cobas said in an email interview, adding she is privileged to work with Bauer again.

"She is a dynamic leader whom I deeply admire. What makes this partnership special is the alignment of our core values. Both our companies share a strong commitment to integrity, a focus on the customer and empowering our team members. It felt like a natural choice to support their relationship with former crew members beyond the ships," she said.

Cobas has over 13 years of experience in the cruise industry and is a former crew member. She founded the company as she recognized an untapped opportunity to strengthen the cruise industry workforce by connecting companies to talented individuals seeking global employment.

"By tapping into the immense talent and expertise of former crew members, we contribute to their professional growth after ships, and continue to foster their valuable contributions to the cruise industry. This partnership marks a global change for cruise employment, bringing the ship to shore in a truly transformative way," said Cobas.

Jobs to fill

The first role Starboard is hiring for as part of the partnership is a traveling visual merchandiser — the role is aimed at maximizing merchandise presentation in Starboard's shops onboard cruise ships. The goal is delivering an exceptional shopping experience for cruise passengers given the expertise and creativity former crew members have in their skills arsenal.

Starboard is looking to hire one to two merchandisers in key regions to support its Europe market.

The role calls for skills that contribute to the curation of merchandise in impactful presentations, from windows to fixtures and is all about enticing guests to come into the store to shop, according to Bauer. The role member needs to have industry knowledge and be familiar with the cruise industry's nuances and dynamics — including guest preferences and behaviors.

"They need to have the ability to think outside the box and propose innovative and captivating ways to showcase products, considering the limited space available on cruise ships," she said, and be able to work in a dynamic and ever-changing environment, as cruise itineraries and passenger demographics may vary from one sailing to another.

Hiring for the specific role was an intentional choice, said Bauer, as elevating the presentation of merchandise in shops is a strategic priority. Given the shops are constantly on the move it is logical to leverage former crew members' expertise on working effectively onboard ships.

"Additionally, we see great value by identifying strong talent in regional hubs that could support ships as they pass through a particular port city. The hands-on nature of the role enables former crew members to leverage their creativity and industry expertise to arrange captivating displays that directly impact and enrich the cruise guest experience," said Bauer.

By employing former crew professionals, the cruise line can tap into a pool of talent.

"It minimizes the need for additional training, enabling seamless integration and an immediate positive impact on the onboard shopping experience," said Bauer.

The job itself is exciting, according to Cobas, as it allows a former crew member to expand their skill set and connect with brands and Starboard's standards to directly impact the customer experience.

"It builds upon their existing expertise, enabling them to create meaningful connections between brands and guests," she said.

In the job former crew members get the opportunity to work with former teams with support and training.

"This hands-on collaboration fosters a sense of camaraderie and a shared dedication to delivering exceptional guest experiences," Cobas added.

Retail experience is crucial

Providing an exceptional retail guest experience is a requirement these days in the competitive cruise ship industry as cruise retail has evolved into a "significant aspect" of the vacation experience, explained Bauer.

"As a division of LVMH, we've contributed to the shift from a transactional business to one focused on creating memorable vacation experiences for cruise guests, successfully crafting unforgettable memories through immersive storytelling and synchronized retail experiences," she said.

Cruises, she noted, have the ultimate captive audience and when guests are sailing on average for seven days there is plenty of time to browse shops more than once.

That's why retail programming has become a substantial piece of the guest experience. Starboard's Carnival Celebration offers the most expansion retail selection across its fleet, and Virgin Voyages offer high street shops prioritizing purpose-driven and luxury lifestyle retail, according to Bauer.

"Guests are very much engaged with onboard spending and treating themselves to a variety of things, destination mementos, jewelry, beauty, fashion accessories, apparel and more," she said.

Photo provided by Starboard Cruise Services.

Judy Mottl is editor of Retail Customer Experience and Food Truck Operator. She has decades of experience as a reporter, writer and editor covering technology and business for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews.


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