Sunday, December 28, 2008

Even When Skiing Iamboatman Thinks About The Cruise Industry - Training and Consistency Is the Cornerstone.

The other day I wrote about Mark Conroy, President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises' open letter and Regent's new efforts to provide what it has promised it would be providing all along. I am hopeful, but not enthusiastic.

Well, I am a member of the Tahoe Mountain Club - a sort of country club for skiers and golfers belonging to Northstar-at-Tahoe or Old Greenwood - here in Lake Tahoe, California.  It has, to be kind, been a monument to ripping off those of us shelling out tens and tens of thousands of dollars under the guise of providing the ultimate in luxury ski and gold experiences.  It has  actually been nothing more than a vehicle to sell faux luxury to those interested in being nothing more than fractional owners (read "timeshare") or renters.

The result has been really good looking facilities overrun with children, people who don't give a damn about the facilities or other "members", and the "real members" (those who actually paid up to $100,000 for a membership...I am a member, but not in that league!) being unable to find real luxury anywhere in the very facilities they have paid for.  (The General Manager actually sent out a letter last Spring claiming TMC was striving to reach an 8 out of 10...a B-...in all areas!)

This year I have found things to be just as bad...almost.  Just when I was about to give up, Schaffer's Camp, a private TMC restaurant on the top of Northstar-at-Tahoe, gave me some hope.  After my screaming for two years about the faux luxury, a pretentious but dishonest and inept manager, horrid overpriced food and lousy service, Tahoe Mountain Club finally listened.  I walked in the door and was greeted by, "Hello Mr. Goldring.  Nice to see you."  The new manager, Brad Kohler, happened to be there and started to speak to me with enthusiasm.  They found me a table in the dining room (I was going to eat in the bar) and was greeted by a very nice and competent waiter, trained and smiling bus-staff, a menu and wine list with reasonable food and wine at reasonable prices (and a true wine expert on staff)...and all of a sudden that Million Dollar View looked a whole lot better and the food was excellent.

How did this transformation happen?  BIG changes.  There was an admission by TMC's management that they were doing it wrong.  They brought in a fresh and enthusiastic face who actually knew the business.  He is taking it slow, limiting the reservations in the restaurant so that the staff (cooks to busboys) can learn what to do, how to do it better and making sure execution is excellent.  I repeatedly heard, "We want to take it slow so that we can deliver consistent service and product."  Music to my ears!!!

Being the skeptic I am, I went back the next day and found things...get this...exactly the same!  Consistency has possibly found another home.  While I remain skeptical,  the present situation in one small portion of the Tahoe Mountain Club has - after years - finally seems to deliver what was promised...at least at Schaffer's Camp.  (Last night at 6PM in the Alpine Club kids still were allowed to run amuck, classless and loud renters and filth - from the thin and marginally trained staff being unable to properly cleanup due to overwhelmed and chaotic situation.)

If Tahoe Mountain Club can make things work -even one facility at a time - Regent should be able to do it to.  Regent has an advantage, as well:  It has never been in as bad a shape as TMC.

That said, I kept thinking those that haven't tried Seabourn need to.  For me it sets the standard.  It is better at an excellent level of service...in all areas of its ships, with truly fine dining and, while not perfect, always striving for consistency.