Cruise line plans for more hiring.
SPRINGFIELD - Royal Caribbean's reservations center is gearing up for its biggest hiring effort since it opened the facility in January.
Now at 300 employees, the center plans to have 360 to 400 employees by October, and possibly as many as 500 employees by January 2007, the beginning of its three-month "wave period" - its busiest time for cruise reservations.
Royal Caribbean appears to be well on the way toward its goal of having 1,000 employees in Springfield by 2009.
Strong bookings, especially for the cruise line's two new megaships, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, and a gradual shift of reservations work from Miami to Springfield is fueling the growth, said Chris Monnette, director of trade and support service.
Most of Royal Caribbean's reservations staff used to work out of its headquarters in Miami, Monnette said. But the Miami center's numbers have dwindled as the Springfield center has grown. Land costs and the cost of doing business is cheaper in Springfield than in downtown Miami, he said.
"As people (in Miami) have been promoted to other positions, or left, we backfilled those positions in Oregon," Monnette said.
Royal Caribbean also has a third call center in Wichita, Kan., which has about 700 employees, he said.
Royal Caribbean has another incentive to keep its employment level up in Springfield.
As part of a $1.3 million package of state and federal incentives, a $600,000 loan to Royal Caribbean from the Governor's Strategic Reserve fund will be forgiven if the cruise line creates and keeps 600 full-time jobs in Springfield for at least six months between July 1, 2004, and December 31, 2009.
Nearly all of Royal Caribbean's Springfield job openings are for cruise representatives, who take calls and answer questions from travel agents who are booking cruises for their clients.
Job openings are posted at royalcaribbean.hire.com, and the Springfield center will host a jobs open house on Sept. 9. People interested in working at Royal Caribbean can tour the center and fill out an application, said Lena Kostopulos, human resources manager at the Springfield center.
When it was starting up the Springfield site, Royal Caribbean hired employees through Personnel Source, a local employment agency. The company recently decided to bring that function in-house, Monnette said.
Royal Caribbean moved to a direct-hire model instead of hiring new workers as temporaries because "we recognized we weren't hiring for temporary positions," he said.
Cruise representatives start at $9.25 an hour, but after 90 days they are eligible for a performance bonus. Also after 90 days, the hires qualify for a full benefits package, including health insurance, retirement savings plan, vacation and sick leave/personal leave.