While sailing the Zuiderdam this past June, I had the opportunity to sit down for a one on one interview with Boban Zivkovic, Zuiderdam’s Hotel Director. During the interview, I had the chance to discuss Boban’s position, the crew aboard, and the tasks that need to be accomplished for moving a ship into a different market.
Boban Zivkovic started with Holland America Line 9 years ago. Holland America Line has been the only cruise line he has worked for and actually began his career in the Pinnacle Grill aboard the Oosterdam in 2004. After much hard work and determination, Boban eventually worked his way up the chain of command to where he is today – the Hotel Manager of the Zuiderdam.
Through his time with Holland America Line, Boban has sailed across 10 different ships throughout the fleet, but has remained on the Zuiderdam as her Hotel Director since 2011. As Boban described it, the Zuiderdam became “his ship, a home.” He even says that the Zuiderdam has a “special spirit” and feels that it is “the happy ship. ” Each ship he has sailed on has had a similar build, but he is always able to find something special about the ship. Most of the time, he finds that “something special” in the happy crew and guests each ship carries. He explains, “A happy crew creates for a happy guest, which is so critical [at Holland America Line.]” The Zuiderdam can’t be “the happy ship” without a happy crew.
When the interview turned towards discussion about the crew, Boban was happy to state that he is very proud to work alongside his 800 fellow crew members. He explains that the majority of the crew is Filipino and Indonesian, which makes for a pleasant experience for the guests as they have a natural, hospitable and humble demeanor. “Even their smiles and greetings are natural,” he explains. Boban described his crew as very hospitable, genuine, and very humble.
Dining and entertainment – two major aspects of the cruise experience and Boban has become an expert in tailoring the onboard experience to the region the ship is sailing. Since Boban has been sailing the Zuiderdam since 2011, he has had plenty of experience of moving between different cruising regions. Each year the Zuiderdam sails from the Caribbean to Alaska and back, which calls for a change in dining and entertainment options. For example, Boban explained that while sailing in Alaska, the menus are very seafood centric, while Caribbean sailings are heavy on local island dishes. He continues explaining that even food preparation procedures change based on the sailing region. Interestingly enough, Zuiderdam’s guest majority in Alaska is Australians and British, which requires Boban to ensure that enough tea is available onboard for the entire cruise.
Finally, I wanted to find out which Alaskan port is Boban’s favorite. It turns out he had a hard time choosing just one, deciding on a tie between Juneau and Ketchikan. Boban explained he loves Ketchikan and Juneau because of the small towns that lie just outside the gangway. He loves to just debark and walk into town, exploring the local shops and restaurants. Even Skagway is one of his favorites, because of the scenic hiking trails that are often traveled by guests and the ship’s crew during their off time. Overall though, Boban seemed to appreciate each Alaskan port for their own unique charm.
Closing out the interview, Boban summarized the ship and experience onboard perfectly – “Zuiderdam is a home… she’s an excellent ship.”