HAL blogger Gary Frink currently is sailing on board Oosterdam and will be sending in posts from his voyage.
ABOARD OOSTERDAM, EN ROUTE HONOLULU TO VANCOUVER B.C.
“We train the dining room stewards and cabin attendants at the Holland America facility in Jakarta, Indonesia. The cooks and beverage people are trained at a similar school in Manila,” said Oosterdam Hotel Director Edwin Brunink, during an April 29, 9:30 a.m. Crow’s Nest “Celebrity Coffee Chat” monitored by Cruise Director Drew Smith. Later in his presentation before 25 passengers, give or take a few, Brunink explained that of the 800 plus crew aboard the Oosterdam, 630 are under his supervision; these include, housekeeping, all food and beverage; musicians, singers and dancers and all forms of entertainment; finally, what Brunink describes as his “corporate partners”, the independent companies, and their employees, that contract with Holland America to provide specific on-board passenger services: casino, retail shops, photography and spa.
The Holland America system of having folks of the same nationality working together accounts, in my view, for much of the harmony so prevalent among HAL employees — you name the ship. Instead of the tension inherent in having a Romanian trying to communicate with a Korean in English, most of the floating staff on the “Dam” ships enjoy the ease of speaking and joking with their colleagues in their native tongue. Over many years sailing on various cruise lines, my experience is that the HAL system works best.
In his office after the coffee chat, I learned more about the tall, deeply-tanned, 41 year old Dutchman from Meppel, on the northeastern side of Holland. “I went to hotel school in the Netherlands; then I got the opportunity to work for a year at a hotel in Corning, New York; at the least, it improved my English.” During that job, Brunink decided that a land-anchored hotel wouldn’t do much to satisfy the travel-yen he developed as a child. When he returned home, he applied to Holland America. He began his work at sea as an assistant controller; he soon got into operations and, like most of his craft, then worked his way up through the ranks of food and beverage. Sixteen years later, he is the general manager — in land-bound terms — of a hotel which, on this Sydney to Seattle voyage, has 1,900 guests.
Like many in the cruise industry, Edwin met his wife while working on a passenger ship; a Canadian, she was a card dealer in a Holland America casino. He and wife, Eleanor, have a 12 year old daughter, Kiara. Edwin prefers a schedule of four months working afloat and two months at home in Ontario, hopefully timed to when Kiara is in school, to support her studies. His family sometimes comes aboard for short periods; though, he says: “Those round trip tickets from Toronto to Sydney are not cheap.”