Intro: Welcome to Crew: Life at sea podcast. Here we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out at sea a success, hear inspiring stories from the experienced crew, from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be Part of the crew life at sea, and let’s welcome your host, Raymond Crystal.
Ray: Hello and welcome to crew life at sea. The only place where you can find useful information, advice, insights and resources to help inspire you to take that next step in working on a cruise ship. And RDM, what is RDM? In reality, RDM means rooms division manager. What the hell is that? Do you just sit and allocate rooms? Hey, you go there; hey you go there. Well, today I have with me an RDM, a rooms division manager, and Berry is going to tell us exactly what this is. Hello Berry.
Berry: Hi Raymond.
Ray: How many years have you been at sea?
Berry: Well I’ve been sailing for 14 years.
Ray: Wow 14 years at sea, and you love it?
Berry: Well yes, otherwise I would not be here.
Ray: Wow you have 14 and I have 18, we’ve accumulated more than 30 years together. So let me ask you, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how did you get to this point in your life?
Berry: Well I started as an accountant, that is very surprising to find me in the hospitality business. What had happened, I was in a college reunion. I was sitting beside a girl who looked so fancy to me. She seemed like somebody who has that glamour, and so I thought to myself what does she do? And so I asked her, “what do you do?”, she said “I work on a cruise ship”, and from that night, that inspires me to be on board, and I did everything I could to be here. I was rejected 3 times.
Ray: You see, you persevere, try, try and try.
Berry: 3 times I was rejected, 3 times they said “no, you can’t be here, it’s not possible”, but here I am, 14 years of sailing.
Ray: I’m a very proud man. You know some people they give 1 or 2 shots then give up. Never give up. Wow, that’s excellent. So you’ve been 14 years at sea, what makes you keep coming back?
Berry: Well it’s the sea itself that makes me keep coming back, I love sailing. I love travelling first and foremost. This is a job that will let you travel for free, have board and lodging for free, it is hard work, you work hard but you play hard as well.
Ray: So what does a room division manager do on board? This is the question.
Berry: Well a rooms division manager is in charge of the rooms division department. It is a merge of F & B, and housekeeping. It is basically one of the biggest departments on board. I am in charge of the butlers, the sheet attendants, the 24 hours in-suite dining, the valet operation which literally means the guest laundry. I am in charge of the main laundry operation, I have a 24-hour operation, 7 days a week. I have one of the biggest departments, which includes many nationalities. I have managers as well who help me run the operation as well who report to me.
I have a laundry master, an in-suite captain, a room service supervisor, I have a butler manager who is in charge of the butlers. I have a housekeeping supervisor, which we call housekeeping number 1, he’s in charge of the crew area. Just the laundry is a huge operation already, as the laundry is in charge of the guests’ clothes, officer and crew clothes, table clothes and linens, napkins, beddings towels, and we have a huge crew accommodation which I’m in charge if as well.
Ray: So how do you schedule your days? Tell me about your day, it seems like you never sleep.
Berry: It’s all about time management. At the end of the day, you could be very busy, but if you try to manage your time, then everything just comes into line.
Ray: Can you tell me the process if someone wanted to work on board as a rooms division manager, how would this work?
Berry: A room division manager is a senior level position, so obviously they’re looking for someone who has a few years of management experience, and from there you learn things by doing a mid-management, and eventually they will take you like the room division manager if you have experience with the housekeeping operation, the butler service operation.
Ray: So it’s easier to get this type of job from within?
Berry: You can be promoted internally, but we also hire from outside. We had a rooms division manager who came here as a rooms division manager, but needless to say, they had massive experience, some of them are corporate housekeepers, F & B managers, then switch to housekeeping because you have to have a boating background otherwise you can’t run it.
Ray: So as a rooms division manager you must have lots of employees working under you, how do you schedule their duties and their day? How does it work with that?
Berry: Well the duties and responsibilities are already delegated upon their arrival. It is already set by the company. So once you come on board, if you have a butler, we will provide you with your job description, your time frame, scheduling and all. So you will already know that in advance, on your first day, even before you come on board. So you can adjust yourself accordingly to operations needs of the department. Even before they come on board they have a package which will say basically what the company’s expectations are, and you have to sign it to acknowledge that you are ready for the challenge. It will even include your job description, so you understand what you’re getting into.
Ray: Talking about understanding what you’re going to get into, have you had quite a few issues with the crew and people working under you, how do you go about this situation when you have problems with staff?
Berry: Well I never consider any problem a problem, I always take it as a challenge, never an issue. For me, if something happened, if something went wrong, I always look at it in a way where I don’t blame any of my team members, I just try to find the solution, that’s why I’m here. If I have an issue for example, for the guest, I try to find a solution for when I see them, that they have an option for them already, which will solve their problem, and most of the time all problems have solutions. I’ve never believed that there are a problem and no solution, there will always be a solution.
Ray: So what parts of your job are the most challenging?
Berry: The most difficult is a guest complaint obviously. I mean everything else can be managed, but with a guest complaint, you have to convince them not to be upset. You can always provide solutions. Give them an upgrade which we try as much as we can not have on board, but in a few cases we will have to, and obviously, we try our best to make our guests feel that we are the company they can come back to. We don’t make them leave the ship and finish the voyage without having that option or that feeling, we tried our best to accommodate them. That’s why we are very famous, and this is really what makes our brand.
Ray: So tell me a little bit more, how do you schedule your busy day?
Berry: My normal day starts at about 06:30 in the morning, and I go through room service first, I check my room service operation, then butler manager, check the laundry operation to see if it’s going well because soon the people will come to collect the bedding, the napkins from the restaurant, the utilities collect for the crew uniforms and officer uniforms, then I go up and make around in the public area, then go down and make a round in the crew area, then go back to the pantry and see if it is set, then go back to the office and check some emails and answer those that are urgent, and then at about 08:00.
I will have my first meeting with my night people to find out what had happened in the evening, so they will update me if the evening is quiet and what’s happening in the night, and after that there will be a utility meeting which will mainly tackle what is going to happen today and what are the delegated duties, and then things go on with my management meeting with the hotel director and other managers, then I do an inspection. It’s non-stop.
Ray: Do you get a chance to eat?
Berry: I do, I’m overweight. I try. My mom says I should not miss any
Ray: Can you tell me a bit about your accommodation space and your benefits?
Berry: I have a double size bed, I have single occupancy, I have a daily cleaner, I have mini bar benefits, I have dining benefits around the guest accommodation. I can dine with guests, that’s one of my privileges, I have laundry privileges, my personal clothes are not free of charge but I have an allocated amount which I can use, I have 14 days’ entitlement to bring my family on board per contract, so I can bring my kids on contract and bring my mom on board. I also have year-round medical insurance. For officers, you have 365 days of insurance with no restriction
Ray: So knowing what you know now, if you could change one thing in your life, what would it be and why?
Berry: That’s a very difficult question, if I could change something it would be my eating habits, I’m sorry to say that. But I used to be so slim, but all the good food on board makes it hard.
Ray: So let’s move on to the craziest part, imagine your toughest day you’ve ever experienced at sea, you can’t keep up, you just want to jump off, tell me about it and how did you handle it? Have you ever had something like this?
Berry: Yes, in 14 years yes. Lots of times I’ve felt I’ve had enough, I can’t work like this, I don’t want to do this, but what I do is I stop for a while and I thought about how blessed I am, to be able to travel for free, to work for such a prestigious company, to have such a glamorous job. I will say it’s glamorous because you will not be able to just travel like this when you are working on the land. Today you are in Hawaii, tomorrow you are in Japan, the next day you are in New York, what else could you ask for? So I thought about how blessed I am, and whenever I wanted to give up, I stopped and breathed and looked at my payslip and I moved on.
Ray: So the big question I ask every single guest I have on my show, tell me the most shocking thing you have ever experienced, seen or encountered in your 14 years at sea?
Berry: Oh no, this is funny, but maybe this is also parental guidance. I had seen a naked couple making out in front of me without stopping, like yeah you go ahead and do whatever you want, I was a butler then, and I had to deliver a coffee order for 16:00 pm, and when it says standing order, you go there and deliver it without the guests asking you, as it needs to be delivered every day at a particular time at 16:00 pm. So I rang the bell and said good afternoon it’s Berry your butler, but nobody answered.
I have to wait for 10 seconds as per company protocol, and then I rang again, so obviously I knew why they can’t answer, they’re busy, then I opened the door and said Mr and Mrs Smith this is Berry your butler, may I come in? I have your coffee. Oh come in, that’s fine, put it on the desk. And when I opened it, they were making out live in front of me as if nothing is really happening, nothing bizarre is happening, they just said put it there, thank you very much.
So I didn’t know what to do, I tried not to look, but you know at the side of your eyes you are looking. You try to the runway as fast as you can but however, it makes me very worried, because what if they complain about me and say I didn’t knock and I went there with the tray, but they didn’t anyway, so that’s the most shocking.
Ray: So has to work at sea changed your life? And in what way?
Berry: In so many ways. First of all, I didn’t expect the financial aspect of the job, but once you get to work on board, you realise why people keep on working on board. The salary is tax-free, the food is free, the accommodation is free, you travel the world for free. You know you will be able to see the 7 continents od the world if you stay long enough, and apart from that this is my bread and butter, and I have been able to provide for my family like I never imagined I could, so that’s how great it is.
Ray: So if somebody wanted to work as an RDM in this industry, what is the way to do this?
Berry: Obviously before you get into a management position, it will only mean that you have been through rank and file, meaning you’ve been this, you’ve been that, eventually you become a manager. And if you really want to be a rooms division manager, it goes without saying you have to have a housekeeping background, an F & B background, and management experience and very strong guest relation experience. And from there you can be a rooms division manager.
Ray: Do you get to enjoy any of the ports?
Berry: I get to enjoy all the ports.
Ray: Which are your favourite?
Berry: My favourite is Antarctica. After 8 years of sailing, I thought I had seen the best places in the world. On top of my list would be Santorini in Greece, Venice, you know I felt like I was entering into an artwork. I loved the Baltic in Russia, however, after 8 years of sailing I had the chance to step into Antarctic water, I thought it was the best place in the world. It is a place dedicated for science, it’s immaculate, it’s very clean, no one owns it, no one lives there, it’s at the bottom of the world if you see the bottom of the world what else do you want? I mean if you have seen the bottom of the world, you are one of the very few chosen ones. And before you reach Antarctica you’ll pass South Georgia which has 500 000 penguins of all species in front of you. So that’s amazing.
Ray: Well Berry I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being on my show, and I just want you guys all out there to know, this job seems like a good job, hard work but it seems worth it and if you really want to get on board and see naked people and lots of penguins, please do speak to us and we will help you get a job as an RDM in some way. Berry thank you so much and God bless you.
Berry: Thank you, Raymond and god, bless you all.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Crew life at sea podcast. Want any of your questions answered? Send us an email at [email protected]. Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea.