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All Hands on Deck!

A free-wheeling chat with Bosco Pires, Hotel Director of the Celebrity Millennium, yields glimpses of living life on the seven seas Bosco Pires, Hotel Director of the Celebrity Millennium, exudes the friendly charm of the boy-next-the-door. The young man from Mumbai admits that the efficient running of the ship, which has emerged fresh and gleaming after a major face-lift, rests on his shoulders (minus the marine aspect which is the Captain’s domain and engineering). And the classy, good-looking 91,000-ton Celebrity Millennium is much like a beautiful woman – she can be a demanding mistress.

Yet Bosco shows no signs of strain as we chat in his cabin on an at-sea day, with the moving landscape outside providing a soothing backdrop. With over 2,000 guests on board, 8 restaurants, 10 bars and lounges, a casino, shops and boutiques, a Theatre, library, iLounge etc, the Celebrity is like a floating city and Bosco, the mayor!

There’s a vast difference between running a hotel on terra firma and a ship that is known for its superb cuisine, cutting-edge design, slick Broadway-style entertainment and aims to provide “modern luxury.” After 15 years on the seven seas, working his way up from all the departments, he has realised that there are no cookie-cutter cruises and each voyage is different. On a ship that emphasizes style and service, the demography of guests has to be analysed as that would indicate food preferences which have to be taken into consideration as well as the nature of on-board entertainment. Plus, on a cruise, the weather is not under anyone’s control, seasons and destinations change, the health of passengers and sanitation are crucial too.

Yes, navigation is simpler than ever before and systems are in place. “Indeed planning and execution are the keys to a successful cruise,” says Bosco. Yet nothing seems to faze the hotel director who, throughout the day, is observing and interacting with guests, crew and his managers. He is up by 6.30 am when he walks around the ship, brainstorms with heads of department every day and looks into the minutest details… From maintaining a weather eye on the uber cool, innovative restaurants, the on-board entertainment to even sanitation and housekeeping.

In a floating hotel, sanitation is of utmost importance as passengers and crew are vulnerable. Not only are passengers encouraged to use hand sanitizers before entering a restaurant but the ship is fumigated at night when cruisers are asleep; susceptible areas like handrails are sanitized non-stop starting from the top of the ship and going all the way down. If a passenger is unwell, he or she is isolated in their stateroom and there is always a doctor on board. If necessary, the very ill passenger can be airlifted by helicopter and taken to a hospital on land.

The welfare of the crew, belonging to 63 nationalities, is crucial too, says Bosco, and it helps that at the end of a cruise, “we are like family. We support each other.” The crew is very often nomadic; some may be on leave and for each cruise, depending on where your ship is sailing, you may get a different set of people and that means aligning them to your vision. “That’s why we even have a dedicataed crew welfare specialist” who keeps up the morale of the crew.

When Bosco first joined the cruise industry, he had imagined that he would work for only two years. Married now with a Portuguese wife and a three-month old son, Bosco divides his time on shore between Portugal and Mumbai. Yes, sailing and its spin-offs have become an addiction; a throbbing in his blood. Seeing the world, meeting people from different cultures, understanding different world views… “It makes me feel young!” Most importantly, he says, sailing makes a person appreciate and respect Mother Nature more than one would on land. Especially when a ship is cruising on a vast seemingly trackless ocean which can appear to be capricious at the best of times.

The secret of his success, says Bosco, lies in being a good leader. “To face challenges, it’s important to keep your wits around you; lead, motivate, analyse and execute. Essentially, if you are a good person, it will all fall into place.”

By the end of our chat, we knew the reason behind that engaging smile – a shining, cheery optimism and a positive outlook.

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