NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The world turned sideways for nearly everyone in the travel industry when COVID-19 rocked the economies of tourism-dependent destinations, but for those in the cruise industry, it has been especially hard. Despite that, one of Royal Caribbean’s senior managers revealed what she called the “silver lining in a year of reflection”.
Ginea Wilson, an 18-year veteran who serves as island manager for PerfectDay@CocoCay, spoke frankly about what the partial time-offs have meant, the changes in perspective and why she feels Royal Caribbean deserves to be recognized for the measures it has taken to strengthen training, especially in a personal sense of taking an even closer look at environmental stewardship.
“I think, like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about the past year,” said Wilson. “I am very eager to get back to work, but for the time I have gotten to spend with my family, I am very grateful. It’s something you didn’t expect, a silver lining — having a lot of quality time with family, to spend on self-development and a lot of opportunity for reflection.”
That time for reflection, along with staying in touch with vendors on Coco Cay, residents who depend on Royal Caribbean in the Berry Islands and colleagues at work, have made the mother of a six-year-old and now step-mother to another child more appreciative of the company where she started working fresh out of college.
“You begin to understand the sacrifice that Royal Caribbean is making by holding onto staff and making sure everything is ready when they are able to open up and operate once again,” said Wilson, a native of Grand Bahama and now Nassau resident when not on Coco Cay in the Berry Islands.
“It’s a huge human resources jigsaw puzzle because they are rotating staff from all over the world, bringing them in for weeks at a time, dealing with COVID tests before they get on a plane or into to a hotel, then getting them to the island, then we all quarantine for two weeks, so they have to accommodate all of that.”
But, she said, Royal Caribbean has used the two-week quarantine process effectively.
“A lot of people forget that these businesses are operating with zero revenue yet they are keeping as much staff on as possible on a rotating basis and using the quarantine time to strengthen our training in environmental stewardship — waste disposal, recycling, the importance of personal responsibility in preserving the environment,” she said.
Wilson said the training was intense, inspiring and especially effective because of the timing.
“When we are open and operating, the cruise industry is so busy with long hours and seven days a week… So, the quarantine allows us to really focus on the environment.”
She said the downtime has knitted friendships, bringing people closer together even if by phone and Zoom as they check on each other, help as they can and offer kindness and emotional support.
For Wilson, the combination of enhanced environmental sensitivity and periodic time off has culminated in something else — a new passion for backyard farming. She’s growing tomatoes, pineapples, bananas and limes in between helping daughter Toni with virtual learning.
“The only thing I failed at repeatedly was growing thyme,” she said.
Wilson is not alone in that, no matter how you spell it!