FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Sprays of ruby-colored water from two escorting fireboats cleared a path for the majestic Ruby Princess, arriving here for a few days of festivities before its maiden voyage.
The newest ship in the Princess Cruises fleet housed a flurry of activity prior to its early November launch. Crewmembers and VIP guests shuffled through a security check, while dockworkers delivered supplies and equipment.
On the Lido deck, video and sound crews set up while party planners put up red velvet bunting, all to prepare for a romantic-themed send-off headlined by The Love Boat’s own TV captain, Gavin MacLeod.
Meanwhile, far below on deck two, beneath water level, the ship’s laundry quietly did its part to polish the Ruby Princess crown before the ship made its debut.
LUXURY EQUALS LOTS OF LINEN
The 3,080-passenger cruise ship includes a piazza-style, mid-ship atrium featuring small-bite eateries and a lineup of “street performers.” It also offers Movies Under the Stars outdoor theater, a casino, live shows, several bars and lounges, a spa with fitness center, a center for children, and more.
To a ship’s laundry manager, it all equals tens of thousands of pounds in fine tablecloths and napkins, pool towels, spa linen, and room linen, not to mention the uniforms of the 1,225 crew members. Plus, the laundry will wash passengers’ clothing upon request.
Now, passengers willing to pay a little extra can get a rare insider’s view of the laundry and other back-of-house areas typically seen only by the crew.
The Ruby Princess is the 17th Princess cruise ship for which Jeff La Pittus manages laundry operations as well as linen and uniform inventory purchasing, control and distribution. He splits time between his Santa Clarita, Calif., office and the Princess ships.
La Pittus says it’s his responsibility “to take each of our operations, because they’re different for every ship, make them more efficient, and improve the quality.”
This involves organizing crew training, establishing operating procedures and creating a reporting structure by which La Pittus can track progress, even though the plant he’s overseeing could be half a world away.
DIFFERENT EVERY DAY
The Ruby Princess laundry employs 25 stewards from different cultures, including Chinese, Indian and Filipino workers. They work alternating shifts averaging 10 hours a day to maintain the round-the-clock laundry operation.
“An average contract is between nine and 10 months,” La Pittus says. “It’s an incredible opportunity to see many parts of the world, experience new things and learn about other cultures.”
The 8,000-square-foot facility has a wash capacity of 2,400 pounds. Six 350-pound end loaders from G.A. Braun anchor the wash floor, which also includes two 75-pound Maytag washer-extractors and three 50-pound Aquatex by JLA washers dedicated to wetcleaning. Wash chemistry is supplied and pumped by Ecolab equipment.
The 1,425-pound drying capacity comes from six 175-pound Kannegiesser dryers, two 75-pound Kannegiesser machines and three 75-pound Aquatex machines. The largest models incorporate fire-suppression systems and recirculate heat for greater efficiency, La Pittus says.
The flatwork finishing area relies on two Kannegiesser fixed-chest ironers. One is a two-roll, 53-inch model, the other a three-roll, 32-inch machine.
Goods are fed to the larger ironer using a Kannegiesser EMD spreader-feeder and automatically folded by a G.A. Braun folder-crossfolder. Complementing the smaller ironer are a folder-crossfolder, a stacker and a small-piece accumulator, all from G.A. Braun.
Because a cruise ship can be isolated for days at a time, redundancies in equipment can overcome breakdowns that could otherwise cripple the laundry, La Pittus says.
The bulk of garment-finishing equipment used in the valet area comes from Forenta, including two legger presses, a pants topper, two utility presses, a triple puff iron, a form finisher, a vacuum touchup board with steam iron, and a spotting board (supported by A.L. Wilson Chemical Co. products). A Unipress shirt unit is used to press shirt bodies, collars and cuffs.
Integral to controlling the flow of uniforms through the laundry is a permanent tagging system from Thermopatch, La Pittus says.
“Just like normal laundry operations, it’s different every day,” La Pittus says. “In every kind of hotel operation, the laundry is probably the only department that actually touches every aspect of an internal or external customer. Everybody is our customer.”
Turnaround day — the day that the passengers from the just-completed cruise disembark and the passengers for the next cruise come aboard — is the laundry’s busiest day.
Housekeepers are responsible for collecting soiled linen from passenger rooms and depositing it into a central linen chute, which directs the goods into the laundry. Food-and-beverage linen and spa linen are delivered via carts.
VENDOR CONNECTIONS VITAL
Cruise ship laundries deal with certain issues that many laundries will find unfamiliar.
“The great percentage of the time, we’re out to sea, so we’re completely isolated,” La Pittus explains. “And we’re anywhere throughout the world, so to develop a network of support functions, vendors, is vital.”
Ecolab Global Cruise is one such partner. Greg Ohlemacher, senior operations manager, is responsible for seeing that 160 ships among several U.S.-based cruise lines are serviced weekly or biweekly.
The company maintains Ecolab dispensing equipment in the laundry, warewashing and housekeeping departments, plus provides cleaning and sanitation products.
Typically, any regular service is performed on an embarkation day, Ohlemacher says.
“Once we start normal service on a ship, we essentially have a six-hour window to get on board, cover all of our equipment and make sure everything is working before the ship leaves.”
The Ruby Princess is now making seven-day weekly sailings from Fort Lauderdale to the Western Caribbean, then will move this spring to Europe for 12-day sailings in the Mediterranean and Greek Islands.