Hospitality at Sea

Florida School Uses Cruise For Teaching Op

Forty-four students from Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management recently participated in a 15-day Hospitality at Sea course on a cruise ship to South America. One of the ship’s chefs speaks to the students in the photo. Submitted photo

My husband and I have just gotten off a cruise ship which took us to South America. As with every trip, we have met people from all walks of life and have had many interesting experiences.

I perked up and started asking questions, when I overheard a conversation over breakfast one morning about a Florida school using the ship as a classroom for 44 hospitality and tourism students.

Nathan Dodge, one of the men who was speaking, happened to teach Analytics and Revenue Optimism, at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in North Miami, Florida. When he saw my interest, he invited me to sit in on one of the Hospitality at Sea classes the next afternoon.

When I arrived at the room, which was near the ship’s library, I found Brian P. Connors, MS, CHE, CSW, making a few last-minute preparations for the Cruise Line Operations and Management Class he was about to teach. Even though he was not expecting me, he was most welcoming and kindly answered the questions I had for him.

Mr. Connors, a graduate of Cornell University’s Hotel Administration program and Johnson and Wales Culinary program, worked in Europe for a year, was a chef on mega yachts and a wine education consultant for Celebrity Cruise Lines. He managed Clarke Cooke House in Newport, Rhode Island which had six bars and three dining rooms and took in $15,000,000 annually.

He stated that the students’ previous day’s assignment was about how hospitality law differs from identity law, where negligence may be involved.

“The ship is a floating lab,” said Connors. “They (the students) thrive with hands-on.”

Hospitality at Sea takes place twice each year, often on a repositioning cruise when the cruise line repositions a ship from one location to another. Besides the courses taught by Mr. Dodge and Mr. Connors, Night Club Management, Hospitality Law, Cruise Line Management and Personal Empowerment are offered as part of Hospitality at Sea.

The students, who ranged from freshmen to graduate students, earned six-nine credits for the time spent on the ship. Most of them have been working in the industry while pursuing their education. While onboard they had multiple opportunities, including meetings with the hotel director, assistant hotel director, food and beverage manager and the restaurant manager and her team. They also met the culinary team, the executive chef and sous chef.

“Roughly 60 percent have a focus in hotel, about 30 percent food and beverage and the remaining go into event planning,” said Connors.

I spoke with some of the nine students, as they trickled in, one by one.

Senior Eric Horowitz is planning a future in travel and tourism distribution, which deals with sales and marketing, followed by human relations. Through his education and experiences with the school, he’s learned he is not interested in hotels, cruises or restaurants.

Maghan Walterman describes herself as a military brat who has lived all over the world. She is Director of Sales for the Hilton Hotel in Salisbury, Maryland. She aspires to become the General Manager, but has no desire to own her own hotel. She is working on her third degree in the industry, with her first being an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts.

“It was a passion, but not my whole passion,” she says.

She has an Associate’s Degree in Hotel/Motel Restaurant Management and will soon complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management.

Crystal Scavuzzo is in her Junior year and is working on a Bachelors Degree in Hospitality Focus. She is employed as Sales Coordinator at Hilton Garden Inn and is taking the Revenue Management course.

“Revenue Management has always been my focus,” Ms. Scavuzzo said. “I love being part of a team.”

“It sounded very interesting to learn about cruises since I work at the port at Fort Lauderdale, where I check in passengers and the crew,” Sophomore Gabriela Solorio said.

She was raised in Mexico until she was 15 years old and speaks Spanish and English and understands Portugese, which is beneficial in the tourism industry.

Their teacher gave the next assignment. They had to decide what they believed their role would be aboard this ship, why they felt it would be a good role and three pros and cons of the position. According to Connors they have to dress up when doing presentations when back at the School, but this one would be done in casual attire.

After a few questions were answered, the students excitedly told of the experiences they had had on the ship since the last class. A female student told about finding a sticker in her salad prompting the rest of the class to discuss how the situation was handled by the server. The consensus of the students, who witnessed the situation, was that the server was too formal and didn’t show empathy.

The teacher brought up the Milkshake Moment, a book that gave a scenario of a man who had had a bad day. When the man was settled in his hotel room at the end of the day, he called room service for the one thing he really wanted and what may have uplifted him, a milkshake. When he called room service he was told there were no milkshakes available. He then asked if the business had milk, ice cream and a blender. When the answer was yes to all three, he asked the person to bring them to his room.

One student, who works in a hotel, said her manager tells his employees, if they have to go to Wal-Mart to get what the guests want, to go.

Most of the people in the room had at least one comment when the teacher asked for opportunities the ship might use for marketing. The first was an observation about how the ship was marketing other’s products with ads posted in elevators. It was suggested that they may use that space to advertise their own product.

Another student thought the casino should have a display of cigarettes and cigars, rather than sell them in an area where smoking is prohibited. This same student thought servers might ask guests if the reason for the cruise was a celebration. If so, the server might suggest a special wine for the occasion.

Still another student noticed the ship had the same poster throughout telling about cruise sales. That student thought the line could take advantage of the space by using posters with varied pictures, not all the same.

The discussion moved on to accidents that happen in restaurants, such as a broken tooth resulting from biting a pearl when eating an oyster and choking on bones in fish stew. The instructor told of an incident that took place in a restaurant he worked in before security cameras were commonplace. Two women demanded gift cards after they had put a screw in a salad. When it was revealed that a witness had seen what had taken place, the women quickly left the facility.

Mr. Connors made a point of telling the class to be sure to ask the complainant if medical attention was needed.

The students were given an assignment to identify three things they saw from the ship’s guests’ actions that would be considered contributary negligence and what the ship is doing to offer reasonable care or heightened duty of care.

“I wish we could teach all classes like this,” said John Thomas, a maritime lawyer, who serves as the head of the hospitality department and who had stopped in while the students were out of the room, doing the assignment they were just given. “Here students who wouldn’t ordinarily talk to each other, mix and do things together and talk about life’s experiences.”

Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism has one of the best wine education programs in the country. They have received more than $28 million dollars from the Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Food and Wine Festival, the largest in the country, where the students work with chefs from Food Network and The Cooking Channel.

The school surprised their 2018 incoming freshman class with a $500 scholarship for each student. The Chaplin School plans to award the scholarship to all future incoming freshmen, who will receive it after completing their first 30 credits.

“Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray…the kids participate in all of that,” said Connors. “The Chaplin Family, founders of Southern Glazer’s Wines and Spirits, have worked with FIU’s hospitality for many years. When we began the Florida Extravaganza, now the Food Network, Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival, our partnership grew. Southern Glazers has donated millions to the program in the form of student scholarships, new facilities and faculty/staff development,” said Dodge.

The school was voted Number One Hospitality Online Program in the U.S. in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and Number One Best Value in the U.S. Eighteen hundred students attend the hospitality and tourism school with most coming from all over the United States, South America and the Caribbean. There are 500 students at the Tianjin, China school, which has operated since 2006. The government of the People’s Republic of China selected Florida International University from a group of hospitality schools in the U.S. and Europe to partner with them to establish a hospitality and tourism campus in the fourth largest city in China. The center was fully funded by the Chinese government.

“Primarily, our students pursue jobs in restaurants, hotels and events, but we have students in the cruise line industry, airline, car rental, casinos, etc,” Mr. Dodge said. “There are graduates everywhere, including the president and COO of the Fontainebleau, Philip Goldfarb.”

“Industry leaders are looking for graduates with both leadership and global experiences. Study abroad and Hospitality at Sea gives our students both of these. They are able to do and experience new things outside of the classroom. The skills they develop during their travels will attribute to the development of leadership abilities through independence, analysis, critical thinking, etc,” Dodge adds.

The day after I visited the class, I met Sacelia Orsini on a shuttle bus after spending the day in Trujillo, Peru. Sacelia had graduated from the school in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. She was on the trip to blog about the students’ daily routine on and off the ship and to grow the study abroad programs.

“I have past experience with the hospitality abroad programs,” she said. “I attended the cruise to Europe in May of 2016, the cruise reposition from Barcelona, Spain in May of 2018 and now the cruise to South America. The Hospitality at Sea program has allowed me to meet new people, guide students and help expand the program for FIU. From my experience, I have landed a full-time job with Nikki Beach on South Beach in Miami, Florida, where I will be the Social Media Coordinator.”

The recipes that follow, including Key Lime Pie, which is a Florida favorite, are some that are used in the school’s Wine Spectator Restaurant Lab, a state-of-the-art teaching restaurant “that gives the students an opportunity to experience the ‘real world’ operation on campus. Students create the concept, menu and rotation positions in both front of the house and back of the house.”

Those who are seeking an education in the industry or who would like more information about the program, may contact the Florida-based school by calling (305) 919- 4500. Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management is located at 3000 NE 151 Street, Biscayne Bay Campus, North Miami, Florida 33181.

No-Bake Key Lime Pie Filling

12 eggs, separated

1/2 tsp cream of tarter

5.25 lbs sweetened condensed milk

18 oz key lime juice

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Ground nutmeg, to taste

Lime zest, mango and raspberries for garnish

Whip egg whites with cream of tarter until foamy and then beat on high speed until stiff. Set aside. Beat yolks until thick and light yellow. Add condensed milk and beat well. Add lime juice, vanilla and nutmeg. Fold in beaten egg whites. Mix and pour into prepared graham cracker pie crusts. Place in freezer. Garnish each slice with whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg or diced lime peel and finely diced mango and raspberries. Store remaining pie in freezer.

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

1 lb black beans

1 qt vegetable stock

1 oz olive oil

7-1/2 onion, small dice

7 oz green pepper, small dice

§ oz garlic, minced

4 oz dry white wine

1 oz red wine vinegar

3 bay leaves

¢ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp salt

Sour cream, green onions, guacamole, Pico de Gallo for garnish

Remove any debris from beans and then wash. Place beans in pot covered with water at least 1-inch above beans. Refrigerate overnight. Rinse and drain. Add vegetable stock and water, if necessary, to cover beans. Set aside. In stock pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion, green pepper and garlic. Saute until vegetables become soft. Add beans, including stock, wine, vinegar, bay leaves, pepper, cumin, oregano and paprika. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until beans are tender, Add salt. When beans are thoroughly cooked, puree soup in blender. Return to heat and correct seasonings. Heat thoroughly. Portion into in warm bowls and garnish.

Quinoa Pilaf

1 lb 8 oz green onions, sliced

1 lb celery, finely diced

Medium mushrooms, finely diced

1 T garlic, minced

1 c olive oil

3 1/2 qts vegetable stock

3 lbs 8 oz quinoa, rinsed and drained

Saute vegetables in olive oil until crisp tender. In a stock pot over high heat, heat vegetable stock and vegetables and bring to rolling boil. Stir in quinoa, Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until liquid is absorbed and grain is translucent, 10-15 minutes.