Tom Brady - Celebrity Cruises - Hotel Director

Tom Brady is New York City born and bred. Until almost three years ago he had never stepped foot on a cruise ship. Today he is responsible for the entire hotel operation side of one of the world's largest ships, the Celebrity Eclipse!

I sat down with him in his office recently and asked him how this all came about?

"I guess you could call it my mid-life crisis. Following my graduation from the University of Pennsylvania with a BSc in Hospitality Management, I was with Hyatt Hotels in the United States for almost twenty years. I worked as a Hotel Director and similar positions in Indianapolis, Richmond, San Francisco and Chicago, amongst others. A friend of mine who worked for Celebrity told me the cruise line was looking for hoteliers to keep up with their rapid growth. I decided to go for it."

As previously mentioned, Tom had never been to sea before and, as part of the hiring process, he spent a week on board Celebrity Equinox to see if they liked him and if he liked shipboard life.

The feelings were mutual and he joined his first ship, Celebrity Solstice, in April, 2011. Halfway through his second contract, this time on Celebrity Silhouette, he moved from associate to full Hotel Director. His next assignment was on the medium size Celebrity Century and he currently is HD on Celebrity Eclipse with eight managers reporting to him and a hotel crew of over 900.

I asked him about the differences between a land-based job and his seaborne duties.

"The first thing I noticed was the multiculturism of our staff. More than 50 nationalities are represented. Also you have to be very concise in everything you do. The numbers are bigger. For instance, every day we have to feed and care for almost 3,000 guests. I compare this to running a Wynne Hotel in Vegas.. the food venues, the accommodations and the entertainment. But the biggest adjustment I had to make was.. just being at sea. It is totally different to being land-based."

We talked about the international crew.

"It blows me away at how well we all get along so well together for months at a time. One of my Captains joked, maybe the UN should take a lesson on how we operate. Some of these crew members come from countries that are at war with each other but when they come on the ship.. everything is left at home. When a country represented on board has a celebration back home.. we have a celebration here just to make them feel special.

We have very nice areas where they can hang out.. bars.. a crew mess.. game rooms, a library, fitness centre and a movie theatre. Plus we'll do special events in some of the public areas when the passengers aren't around.. in the solarium, the theatre and such so, while you are tucked away in your beds, some of our people are out enjoying themselves."

Everywhere you go on the ship you will encounter crew members who, it would appear, truly enjoy their job. It might be a bridge officer, or the Captain himself, seated beside you in the Oceanview Cafe, the personable cleaning lady from Estonia who stops to say 'hello' or one of the dancers catching a quick break between shows.

"That is something that Celebrity really pushes. The eye contact, the 'meet and greet', the smile.. I mean.. we are here and to get our guests to come back we have to get that special connection with them." Tom says.Everywhere you go on the ship you will encounter crew members who, it would appear, truly enjoy their job. It might be a bridge officer, or the Captain himself, seated beside you in the Oceanview Cafe, the personable cleaning lady from Estonia who stops to say 'hello' or one of the dancers catching a quick break between shows.
Celebrity Eclipse Staff

Celebrity Eclipse Staff

And how does the ship handle the Special Needs passenger.. in addition to offering accessible cabins (which we suggest be booked well in advance)?

"There is Special Needs training and we all go through it. Although the main emphasis is on mobility, there is training on all types of special needs and we have to be certified every few years. There is different training for different areas but everyone receives it including sensitivity to our special needs guests."

"What we don't do, we can't do, is physically assist the special needs passenger. Our people are not trained for that and it brings up other issues. However, we'll do everything we can to make sure the guests have everything they need, whether they are in a special access cabin or regular stateroom. We hope that, if there is a problem, Guest Relations will have notified us and we have the problem taken care of immediately."
Scooter in Celebrity Eclipse Dining Room
Alfie gets Bob's scooter

As busy as Tom and his teams are during cruise days, the pressure is really cranked up when the ship reaches home port and one cruise ends as another begins. The goal is to have disembarkation finished by 9:30am and embarkation ready to begin at 11:00am. Simply put.. almost three thousand people off and almost three thousand people on over a eight hour period, luggage and all!

"The biggest concentration is getting the public areas ready so the embarking passengers have places to go while the rooms are being readied. Everything has to be cleaned and sanitized, restocked and made ready for the first boarding at 11:00. That also includes the pools, the decks, the lawn (Celebrity Eclipse has a lawn area on the top deck), the interior lounges, bars and cafes. We are also in constant communication with the pier for new check-ins (sometimes up to 200 people per cruise will just show up at the pier to buy any existing tickets). Then we start cleaning more than fourteen hundred staterooms to get them ready starting by 1:00pm. Meanwhile the kitchen staff is busy preparing food for the cafes so the arriving guests have something to eat since many have been travelling a long way to meet the ship. Down below the public decks, crews will have offloaded about ten thousand pieces of luggage starting after the ship was cleared by Customs and Immigration until mid morning when everything reverses and another ten thousand suitcases and bags come aboard, are sorted and sent to the room stewards for distribution to the cabins.

The ship is also provisioned at this time and enough food is brought on board to last the entire cruise. It is a relatively quick process for the shorter itineraries but much longer for one such as this transatlantic crossing."

Celebrity Eclipse Foyer
Another duty of the hotel director is to make sure the meals reflect the ship's area of operation. For Celebrity Eclipse this means sailing into the Caribbean from Port Everglades, Florida, during the winter months and from Southampton, England, during the summer months. The menus change as the ship sheds it's winter fare of mainly American and Caribbean foods in favor of the British palate.

"Café al Bacio, for instance, will now change. You will notice a lot more British cakes, British teas and English foods. We have to train our teams to British terminology.. that certain words and phrases have a completely different meaning. As an example, where an American or Canadian would order a filet, someone from the UK will ask for a sirloin."

To sum up Tom Brady's job in his own words,

"I'm not an expert in every area but part of my role is to determine if each one is performing at its peak. Be it the dining room, guest relations, entertainment, housekeeping.. every one of the eight areas that I am responsible for.. I want them running at their best."

Bob Rice
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