There are people in the Royal Caribbean family who firmly believe that Raimund Gschaider is the “hotel director of all hotel directors” and that’s at least part of the reason why his workplace is known as Allure of the Seas. So in our ongoing quest to provide you with the human-interest side of people on cruise ships, we sat in the hotel director office of all hotel director offices with that in mind.
It quickly became clear that Raimund is more at ease and more animated in talking about his offspring than himself.
The offspring that weighs 100,000 tons.
Yes, Allure of the Seas and her older sibling, Oasis of the Seas. In the years he spent preparing for, participating in and celebrating their arrivals, it’s entirely possible he did feel like he’d been giving birth.
“It takes a lot out of you,” he says. “It is your sole force. That is very demanding, and very rewarding and very amazing, for all the right reasons, but it keeps you involved all the time. You don’t have the same down time. I recommend it to anybody. Very few get to take part in something that is revolutionizing an industry.”
And now that the big ships are three and four years old, he is like any proud parent.
“Once you’ve been on an Oasis Class ship, it’s difficult to go on any other ship,” adds Gschaider, who has worked for Royal Caribbean for 31 years, the last two decades as a hotel director on ships. “It is a most amazing property. It has everything. It simply has everything. There are so many options, and so much space. Everything on the ship is decentralized. It’s such an open place…less density than on any other ship.”
And there’s more:
“It’s a great destination that takes you to great destinations. It has more than Vegas, Orlando, the Caribbean and New York can offer you — a little bit of everything for everyone. Everybody has a space and a place on board. More experience and activities and culinary options…more to do, even on a rainy day. You have so much more to do so much more — Broadway, aqua shows, Shrek, Dreamworks…”
And he’s still getting warmed up.
“There are six different pool areas. Go from the top down and see who’s where. There’s a different energy level in each area. It’s magic, pure magic. It’s like going to five different parts of a city. That is what these ships are. Even when we started, I was blown away.”
Raimund, as he is widely known, was the project director for both ships. He was responsible for, among other things, the organizational chart that made sure the right people were in the right places on a ship with a bigger population than many towns. Having started working on cruise ships as a waiter after leaving his native Austria, Gschaider was promoted to restaurant manager at 26. His next step up was food and beverage manager, on the way to managing 2,160 crew members.
What makes a hotel manager so good…or a good hotel manager?
“On a cruise ship, you’re dealing in a very dynamic environment,” he explains. “There’s a structured element to it. You have to be quick to react to all circumstances, but you are surrounded by an amazing group of people who share my passion to provide great vacations. We are all here to make that happen. It’s not the ‘me’…it’s the ‘we’.”
Gschaider was in Finland when the first plate was cut for Oasis of the Seas, which floated out in 2010. He was there for Allure of the Seas, which arrived a year later. He won’t be there for the arrival of Quantum of the Seas this fall, and not for two more Oasis Class ships expected in 2017 and 2018 (I’m too old for that”). Those ships are following in a wake created by Oasis and Allure.
Expectations were exceeded.
“Absolutely!,” he says emphatically. “And EVERYBODY will tell you that. Richard Fain [Royal Caribbean's CEO] mentioned that when he ordered the fourth ship.”
There is, of course, a human interest side to Raimund Gschaider. He worked at the Four Seasons in St. Moritz after attending hospitality school and before attending business school in Salzburg. He now lives in Miami. He has two 30-something sons who live in London. He and his wife like to vacation in beautiful places and golf courses are personal magnets.
“My wife is taking lessons,” he says. “I’ve had my share of lessons and I’m no good either. When I’m off, I play two or three times a week…when I’m working, two or three times in four months.”
Working, after all, means looking after one big family.
Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news
December 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Colon, Puerto Limon, Belize, Cozumel
Cost per day: $95