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Leisure cruise industry: Sunny opportunities in leisure cruising

cruise industryA career in the multi-million dollar cruise industry, particularly in the culinary field, is a hot new option for catering professionals whose horizons were hitherto limited to five-star hotels.

Big bucks and more leisure time is what people are increasingly willing to spend. No wonder the fastest growing industries in the world are tourism, leisure, and entertainment. And latterly leisure cruising, which involves floating on the high seas on a luxury hotel with all the mod cons, has captured the imagination of a growing number of serious vacationers — including a large number in India — in a big way.

Consequently, the cruise ship industry has emerged as a growth area in the catering and hospitality industry. An average cruise ship accommodates about 2,500 passengers who are fed five meals or more a day. One cruise ship is the size of five standard-size hotels so their manpower requirements are growing astronomically. An estimated 45,000 Indians are recruited by global cruise companies annually and this number is all set to increase. Most openings are in hospitality, entertainment, and human resource management.

A career in the multi-million dollar cruise industry, particularly in the culinary field, is a hot new option for catering professionals whose horizons were hitherto limited to five-star hotels. Every year the cruise industry will recruit thousands of qualified hospitality professionals to work on board their ships. And as the competition between leisure cruise companies intensifies, there is pressure to innovate and keep up with the changing needs of vacationers. As a result new concepts are being introduced in food and beverages (F&B) such as speciality restaurants which require specific training. Many leisure cruise companies, therefore, send their staff to specialised training centres in different parts of the world. So if you have two or three years of work experience in a star hotel property, you could explore the option of working in a cruise liner, which is the fastest growing sector in the leisure industry.

And to provide deserving Indian candidates” a great opportunity to be recruited into the best leisure cruise companies, the Indus Institute of Advanced Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management located in Whitefield, Bangalore, was started in 1999 by the Mumbai-based Indus Hospitality Consulting Pvt. Ltd (IC&S).

The Indus Institutes four-week intensive course is designed to provide selected candidates with a comprehensive initiation into the exciting and challenging world of cruise catering with emphasis on Continental, French, and Italian cuisines. The course encompasses all aspects of training relevant to kitchen staff aboard a luxury liner and is supported and assisted by experts in both the Indian hotel and international cruise industries. In fact, senior management and F&B personnel from Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest cruise ship company in the world, visit the institute regularly to conduct guest lectures. The institute ensures its students receive the kind of training which will fully prepare them for a well-adjusted and rewarding career in the leisure cruise industry,” says Amarjeet Vidyarthi, the promoter-CEO of Indus Institute. A former merchant navy officer who served with the Shipping Corporation of India (1963–80) and Varun shipping (1980–96), Vidyarthi promoted Indus in 1997.

A batch of 25 students is admitted for the 30-day course and around 250 students graduate every year from the Indus Institute. To be eligible for admission, candidates must hold a degree/diploma from a recognised catering institute, have some practical experience of continental cuisine (preferably in a five-star hotel), and must speak English fluently. The tuition fees are a chastening Rs.25,000 for the intensive 30-day programme. But according to Vidyarthi, this is a justifiable investment for catering professionals as those who complete this course get a starting salary of Rs.25,000–30,000 per month as assistant cooks on one of the Carnival Cruise Lines ships. The career progression is fast. Within four years a recruit can progress to sous chef on a salary of US $3,000–4,000 (Rs.1.40–1.85 lakh) per month and then to chef de cuisine at US $4,500–5,000 (Rs.2.07–2.70 lakh) per month. Moreover, board, lodging, and uniforms are free. Many cruise companies also follow a pension plan for their employees whose remuneration is unmatched by the hotel industry. A job on a cruise ship, therefore, can be very rewarding on a long-term basis for a person who adapts to the culture of the employer company.

Apart from the high salaries, decent pension, and insurance schemes, the icing on the cake is that income is tax-free. Attractive perquisites include free accommodation, food and usage of leisure facilites. Added to this, one gets the opportunity to interact with people of various nationalities and backgrounds and to visit exotic locales around the world.

The first principal of the Indus Institute was the high profile Bakshish Dean, former chef of the Taj Mahal Hotels Zodiac Grill in Mumbai and Orient Express in New Delhi. Dean trained with cordon bleu chefs and worked aboard a cruise liner to make a detailed study of the F&B requirements of the cruise industry. There are tremendous opportunities as there is a 25 percent growth in the cruising industry with a new cruise ship out at sea every month. The demand for kitchen staff based in India and abroad is on the rise. Since theres so much demand for kitchen staff from the cruise industry, our catering institutes need to give proper career counselling to their students and concentrate on imparting better culinary skills. Jobs of bartenders, waiters, waitresses and other service staff are dominated by Filipinos, Poles, Russians, and Turks. Indians are strictly no-no for these jobs as they have a reputation for lacking charm and communication skills,” says Vidyarthi.

For the footloose and fancy-free, a career on a luxury cruise ship could be fun, adventurous, and very lucrative.

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