Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald oversees nine cruise lines, each with a different personality and target market. The company he heads is a household name and a market leader, with about 100 ships in operation around the globe and a 48 percent share of the cruise marketplace.
And Carnival Corp. continues to grow: Nine new vessels are coming online in the next three years, and another nine have been contracted for after that. The company has built 30 new ships since 2007, Donald notes, and tallies 80 million passenger cruise days per year.
Donald recently briefed reporters in Miami on trends such as hybrid wi-fi, more personalization, more balcony cabins, variable pricing, increased presence in China and Australia, an eye on Cuba and other industry topics. In the process, he addressed three common myths about cruising.
Myth 1: There's no time to relax
1Donald: We have nine brands. There’s Seabourn, very high end. If you want your caviar, Lay’s potato chips and champagne at 3 pm every day, you’ll have it. The crew to passenger ratio is one to one. You have a butler. Seabourn ships carry about 400 passengers each and can go into ports that can’t be accessed otherwise.
Then we have larger ships in a very competitive market. With Carnival and Costa, ships can be as large as 4,000 on board. But they offer a plethora of activities: waterslides, water parks, many venues for entertainment. If you want to relax, you can, if you want to party hearty into the wee hours, you can do that, too. There is casual dining and fine dining. It’s a very social experience. People who want to be the life of the party choose Carnival.
In between are “adventure” cruises on lines like Princess, with ships in the 2,000-passenger range. They offer very active itineraries. You can do sea kayaking, climb a mountain, whatever; it just depends on what resonates with you. The reality is that cruising is a mix of experiences. The other reality is that if you go alone or with a loved one, you want one kind of experience. If you’re with your kids or your grandparents, you want another.
The most important thing in this industry is to help people choose the right cruise. If they choose the right cruise, they’ll be a cruiser for life.
Myth 2: Cruising is for tourists, not travelers
Myth 3: Cruises are for old people
3Donald: There are some cruises heavily indexed to older people – usually older people who think young. And others are indexed on people 35 years or younger. In terms of millennials as a target, we’re already serving them. But we don’t see millennials as a unique target in that we have to change everything to accommodate them. As with every other group, there’s a dissemination of interests.
It’s not true, for example, that everyone wants to be connected. A lot of people like cruising because they want to be disconnected. With some of the brands, that’s one of the things they value.
Donald's comments were edited for clarity and brevity.