Cruising is big business, with the number of people enjoying luxury travel at sea rising by over a million each of the last five years, states CLIA reports. Students of Glion’s Master’s in International Hospitality Business recently went ‘backstage’ on a cruise ship to discover the art of creating successful cruising experiences for themselves. An experience like this is crucial for providing you with the exposure needed to develop attributes industry leaders are in search of. Student Marjorie Denis-Delobel gives us her perspective on the highlights of the trip and what was gained personally and collectively from the experience

I’m Marjorie and I was among a group of Master’s students that embarked on a field trip to remember: touring the Mediterranean onboard one of Europe’s most impressive cruise ships, the MSC Grandiosa!

We were all very excited to begin the journey and embrace the various experiences as we visited some of the world’s most gorgeous cities whilst being truly immersed in this unique area of luxury hospitality.

Day 1: Departure to Rome

Most people are asleep at 3:30 AM, but all the MSc students in Hospitality Business are wide awake before catching a flight to Rome to board MSC Cruises’ newest member of their fleet, the impressive MSC Grandiosa. Before reaching the ship, we took a coach journey to a port located in the commune of Civitavecchia, just west of Rome where this incredible journey really started!

The sound of seagulls greeted us all as we finally caught sight of the ship’s large silhouette, which dominated the port’s skyline. MSC Grandiosa is a cruise liner at the cutting-edge of innovation, particularly regarding environmental friendliness. The ship entered service in October 2019 and has since been a standard-bearer in sea travel. More than 6000 passengers are managed on-board by over 1700 staff, relying on great communication and coordination right from checking in.

Once everyone was safely boarded, we were free to see our rooms and explore the many amenities on-board. The main Galleria promenade was a hit with its stylish boutiques and restaurants open during the day and turning into a dancefloor after sunset. The Sky Lounge and the open-air Attic Bar were also perfect places to enjoy a drink and socialise, as students did on many occasions!

A ship of this size with so many passengers represents many challenges for staff, mainly finding a way of delivering class-leading levels of service with great efficiency each day. This field trip was a great opportunity to experience those challenges from a customer’s point of view. Our main objective was to identify where the issues and opportunities existed in the cruise line industry, touching on key topics including the effectiveness of the boarding process at ports and driving millennial interest to take cruises.

Day 2: On to Palermo

The Sicilian capital was our first stop, beginning with a sightseeing tour that captured the bustling atmosphere and beautiful architecture covering various time periods. After a short stroll along Mondello Beach, we sampled the culinary delights of the region including traditional fried rice balls known as Arancina Bomba and Cannoli pastries, served with a local sweet aperitif. We were all back on-board by 4:30 PM and continued our tour towards Malta!

Day 3: Valetta & Malta

The time spent in Palermo was packed with many highlights and the surprises continued with an early start on day 3 for a meeting with Lior Bebera, General Manager of InterContinental and Holiday Inn Express Malta. We took a visit to the InterContinental and had lunch with the management team, providing the opportunity to discuss some of the future trends facing the IHG Group in a wider context. Lior Bebera also manages the largest conference space across all of IHG’s European operations, and major renovations were undertaken to better meet the needs of customers now and for the future. Lior was also keen to discuss the value of people within the hospitality industry, and how managing human factors effectively is crucial to achieving the objectives of the business. After a productive day of learning and networking, we returned to the ship and enjoyed a festive drink!

Day 4: At Sea

The fourth day was spent for the journey from Malta to Barcelona, during which we were invited to a Q&A session with Giuseppe Maresca, Cruise Director onboard MSC Grandiosa. The session allowed us to gain more understanding of what is really required to satisfy over 6000 passengers, and the multi-managerial skills required to excel within the Cruise Director role.

Day 5: Barcelona

We reached the Port of Barcelona just after 9 AM. This was a free day to spend at leisure and spent much of it on the sprawling tree-lined streets of La Rambla. There was so much to experience but La Boquera market was definitely memorable. The sights and sounds at Barceloneta Beach were outstanding. We finished the day enjoying tapas at El Nacional, putting the perfect finishing touch on a day where we enjoyed being immersed into the city’s rich culture.

Days 6 & 7: Marseille and Genoa

The end of the trip was fast approaching, but there was still enough time to take in the sights at two of Europe’s most attractive cities. On our stop in Marseille, we enjoyed a great bus city tour, allowing us all to really soak in the city’s most notable attractions, including the Old Port and Notre-Dame de la Garde. The following day was spent celebrating a successful trip in the city of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. We really liked the classic charm of the Old City which included a stop at the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo. We also visited the Piazza De Ferrari at the heart of the city and saw the much-heralded fountain which is surrounded by magnificent architecture.

Day 8: Return to London

After a week which gave us the opportunity to discover a new travel model and rewarded us with so much cultural experience, we will definitely look back fondly on everything gained from the experience. Thanks to Glion, Master’s students from London and Switzerland forged unforgettable memories and further strengthened the Glion spirit! The strong international position of Glion made it possible for us to take this trip and have in-depth conversations with senior people from some of the world’s most established brands.

During this field trip, I discovered one more travel model, the cruise line industry one. On top of enjoying this trip with my classmates, I broadened my understanding of the Hospitality sector. Thanks to this experience I understood what the current challenges and opportunities of the cruise line industry are. In the future, it would help me to start my professional career by being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the hospitality field and to use mines in order to make my own contribution.

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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