Cruising out of COVID-19

Lecturer Hugh Scott is familiar with change. During his 18 year career with Alcatel-Lucent (formerly Lucent Technologies), Scott served in a variety of transformative roles for the company. And while he brings a great deal of experience to the classroom, he also has been able to bring a great deal of experience from his contacts as well. On Thursday, April 16th, invited Richard Garafola to speak to his Operations Management graduate course via Visual Huddle.

Richard Garafola serves as director of workplace solutions for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. In this role, Garafola oversees and manages all building operations, maintenance and support services and amenities for eight buildings comprising of 1.5 million square feet including Class A entertainment training and housing as well as logistics warehouse and operations facilities. In addition, Garafola supports new construction and modernization programs across facilities and provides a suite of employee services to those locations including food services, transportation services and more.

During his discussion, he described the multi-tiered supply chain at Royal Carribbean. Garafola discussed in detail employee services and work space on shore as well as the full lifespan of the ships themselves and the provisions required to support cruise operations. Many may not know, but the largest cruise ships routinely turnaround in port within a span of only 5-6 hours, during which time a well-choreographed operation of stages to disembark more than 10,000 passengers and crew, offload any remaining waste and recyclables, clean each vacated space along the way and then restock the ship for another journey including 600,000 pounds of food and other provisions. This process is similar to turning around a small city roughly the size of Doraville, GA in only a few hours.

Garafola also discussed the complex global environment. Like most cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, while they do have operations in the United States, are not incorporated in the United States and are not eligible for additional funding and assistance through the CARES Act. Ongoing contractual obligations have been quite complex and with a multi-national base of employees and contractors, some have been unable to return home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as they prepare for a phased re-start, Garafola stated that they have begun to work with various suppliers to balance inventories and prepare again to ramp up their supply chain efforts. They expect customers to notice a stark difference in their cleaning and sanitization efforts as part of their operations so they can again feel safe going somewhere like Royal Caribbean’s private island – CocoCay – in the Bahamas.

“It’s always an honor to have someone of Rich’s caliber in the classroom,” said Scott. “Textbooks just cannot do justice to what the management of the largest sector of our economy – the services sector – is actually like to manage on a day to day basis. He was able to dive into details that the students wouldn’t have access to otherwise – including over an hour in the final Q&A discussion.”