Since Seabourn Odyssey entered service last summer, the team of guest service specialists working at Seabourn Square has consistently received high ratings from guests for outstanding service. This is due, in no small part, to Barbara Poelmans, Seabourn’s hotel operations coordinator and Seabourn Square manager. She is responsible for training all new guest service specialists hired to work in Seabourn Square on the new yachts, teaching them all of the policies and procedures needed to succeed in this role.
For those of you who haven’t sailed on Odyssey, the guest service specialists fulfill a role similar to a hotel concierge. They are responsible for managing and handling most guest inquiries – from answering questions about destinations and reserving shore excursions to settling onboard accounts and making open reservations for future Seabourn cruises. Guest service specialists need to be knowledgeable about nearly every facet of the yacht and the line, from the history and itineraries to the deck plan and company policies. The role is vital, and it is essential that the team is well-versed in ship operations and able to respond to guests in an effective and efficient manner.
When the concepts of Seabourn Square and guest service specialists were developed in 2008, Seabourn management knew they needed someone with an extensive background to define the role and create a training process. Barbara had gained a tremendous amount of shipboard experience during her 11-year career at Seabourn. She started out as a receptionist on Seabourn Spirit and over the years moved up the ranks, from crew purser to chief purser to tour manager. She was extremely knowledgeable of both shipboard and tour operations, and was the ideal candidate to create a training program for the new guest service specialists.
Barbara designed the training program to be interactive and fun, with a mix of written exams, hypothetical role-playing scenarios, and teambuilding sessions. Occasionally a situation arises during the training where the trainees can apply what they have learned. For example, earlier this month Barbara took the team to visit Seabourn Legend docked in Fort Lauderdale. That day, the pursers needed some last-minute assistance with embarkation, and without a moment’s hesitation, the team jumped right in and helped check in guests, gaining valuable hands-on experience of the embarkation process along the way. “It was completely unplanned but a terrific way for them to learn the ropes,” Barbara said.
Most importantly, she wants the trainees to succeed and feel comfortable in their positions. She instills confidence in the trainees and encourages them to “own” any situation that comes their way and feel empowered to find solutions on their own.
There is no doubt the training program is a valuable tool, particularly since Odyssey’s Seabourn Square staff has been receiving high guest ratings. Barbara also knows her program is successful when she boards Odyssey and observes the staff doing their job well. “It makes me extremely proud when the guest service specialists deliver the service they learned from the training program, and to see a guest walk away satisfied, with a smile.”