3 Lessons From A Cruise Ship Somewhere In the Pacific Ocean

The world completely changed while I was on a cruise in South America. So I’m writing this article from the Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship. After being denied docking at the Port of San Antonio, Chile on March 15th, we’re now on route to the Port of San Diego where we expect to arrive March 30th. 

We’re a healthy ship (no COVID-19) and there seems to be a positive collective outlook on board.   

It’s a strange time to be sure. The world is uncertain and no one knows how it will play out, but we hope for peaceful waters and calm seas in the days ahead (literally and figuratively).  

While so much is out of our control, the one thing that’s always in our control is our mindset. As much as possible, I’m choosing to stay curious and remain optimistic. This shifts me out of worry and opens me up to learn and grow. And wow, am I ever learning a lot! I’m witnessing remarkable communication, branding, and leadership lessons on the ship. These three lessons are both timely and timeless.  

Lesson 1: You can’t over communicate 

The plan changed. Everyone was asked to prepare to disembark the ship in San Antonio, Chile. Then the ship was denied entry. Negotiations continued with the authorities for two days. Ship wide communication wasn’t great the first day; understandable, as the Captain and crew scrambled to keep up. Among passengers, speculation was alive and well (nature abhors a vacuum) and the tension of uncertainty was palpable. 

But by day two, we were receiving regular updates from the Captain Leo through messages broadcast directly to our rooms and around the ship. We knew when the next update would be and if there was no news, that would be communicated too. When there was breaking news, we’d get the message immediately, even if it was at midnight.  

As some of us shift into leading remote teams during uncertain times, frequent communication  becomes essential. It calms the waters and builds trust and unity. Remember you don’t have to have the answers, you just need to connect. 

How open and frequent is your communication to staff?  

How, if at all, can you level up your communication? 

Lesson 2: The measure of a brand is when it’s tested  

As paying guests for the first two weeks of this cruise, we expected Celebrity’s high level of service — a great experience and friendly staff who go above and beyond to ensure an exceptional experience.  

Then the world changed. We’re no longer paying customers as we have no choice but to remain on the ship until we dock in San Diego. There’s no revenue upside. Only financial loss for the company and the crew on board (no collective tips). A number of crew members, looking forward to returning home after months of being away from their families, continue to work. Despite the situation, the high service level hasn’t changed one iota. The crew remain positive, professional and extremely supportive. Celebrity has provided free wifi, has opened the bars to passengers, and is doing its utmost to deliver a great brand experience. This is the measure of a strong brand and an engaged workforce. Will I choose Celebrity in the future? Without a doubt.  

How is your brand being tested?  

What steps can you take to ensure your brand weathers the storm, stays true, and builds loyalty?  

Lesson 3: Leaders set the tone  

Captain Leo is in the spot light. There are over 3,000 passenger and crew members relying on his leadership during this strange and unprecedented time. We’re assured by his daily messages and have gotten to know him as a Captain, father, and human. By being visible and communicative, Captain Leo has won the hearts, minds, and trust of the people on this ship.  

How can you find creative ways to personally connect with your team?  

How, if at all, can honesty and vulnerability play a role in your leadership? 

Closing thoughts 

Many passengers on board make it a habit to recognize and thank the individuals taking such good care of us. It’s heartwarming to see the support and empathy for the crew. Personnel tell me Celebrity does a good job of taking care of the crew so the crew can do a good job taking care of its passengers. 

Who’s on your crew? Who are your passengers?  

How can an expression of gratitude help them today?  

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