Ushuaia? Port Moresby? Totally unknown places to most of us. Until some time ago, Laura Hartmann had never heard of them, either; meanwhile, these places are quite familiar to her even though she has never actually been there. The Argentinian port town of Ushuaia is regarded as the southernmost city in the world – and a regular port of call for cruise ships. And this is where Laura Hartmann comes in. Because at every port of call visited by large cruise ships, crew members go on board or travel back to their home countries, for instance when their contracts have expired. Very often, they then have to travel to the other end of the world. At the same time, new crew members arrive from all over the world to take over from those leaving. Laura Hartmann and three other colleagues in FIRST Business Travel’s Marine Team organise the trips for the cruise ship crews, for instance for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, the Hamburg-based TUI subsidiary and market leader in the luxury and expedition cruise segment. The FIRST travel agency is part of TUI’s and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ distribution team. “Without us, the passengers on the ship would be on their own,” smiles the travel agent.
The Marine Team organises the trips and transfers for hundreds of people from all over the world working on cruise ships. From captains via housekeeping staff all the way to the numerous artists for the on-board entertainment programme. A typical itinerary may cover the route from Hamburg to Palma de Mallorca and back to Hamburg from Rio de Janeiro. Laura Hartmann sits back and takes a deep breath. The return trip for an Austrian orchestra from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea with a local airline to the stopover in Singapore has finally been confirmed – including four violins and a cello which the musicians are not prepared to check in. The travel team has therefore also booked cabin seats for the musical instruments. “This procedure has taken longer than one month,” she explains. But in many cases, things have to be delivered much faster, for instance when flights have to be rebooked at short notice because a ship is delayed when reaching a port of call. “Every day is different,” says Hartmann, who joined FIRST Business Travel eighteen months ago. “And this far, nobody has gone missing.”
The agencies providing the crews for the ships submit lists with the travel information to the Marine Team. The team also has to meet special requests: “We have seen virtually anything on these lists, from hula hoops to accordions,“ says Hartmann. Her key tool is English, the language generally used in the business. She sometimes looks up the destinations on the Internet. “This way, I get to know almost the entire world from my desk.”