Carnival Cruise Line Finds Success Through People
by Scott Fais
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy dropped anchor at IAAPA Expo as the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s GM and Owners’ Breakfast. Upon taking the stage, Duffy shared how the cruise industry and the attractions industry go hand in hand. From creating memories that last a lifetime and offering world-class service to finding and retaining staff and generating new revenue streams, Duffy said leaders across both industries face the same challenges.
“I used to say I was in the travel industry. But more and more, I realize we’re all in the experience industry,” Duffy told a sold-out crowd.
Duffy explained how Carnival tracks passengers’ needs from occasions they are celebrating to what each passenger likes to drink. The crew on board is encouraged to learn passengers’ names and preferences early in their vacation.
“That’s a level of authentic personalization that we work hard to practice across our company,” said Duffy. “Our guests literally go on vacation with our team.”
With 19 ports serving Carnival in the United States, Duffy said 50% of U.S. households are within a six-hour drive of a ship.
Duffy said upgrading Carnival’s app to allow passengers to plan their vacation in advance has generated a windfall of new revenue. Pre-booking shore excursions, spa treatments, and specialty dining has doubled.
“Much of the fun is planning and dreaming,” Duffy said. Passengers have downloaded the Carnival app 6 million times, with 80% of vacationers using the app while on board.
With a fleet of 27 ships—each with water slides on board—Duffy said adding additional attractions will continue. The cruise line’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama, will launch next month from Long Beach, California, with a Sky Zone trampoline park on board.
The new Carnival Mardi Gras will sail from Port Canaveral—50 minutes east of the Orange County Convention Center—starting next autumn. On board will be what Carnival touts as the first roller coaster at sea. “Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster” from Maurer Rides will allow riders to control their speed while completing a circuit with views of the sea. Duffy said the added attractions are in response to changing consumer attitudes.
“More than ever today, people value experiences over things. And we’re seeing this even more so with millennials, Generation X, and Gen Z,” Duffy told the crowd.
Duffy said her ships are also investing in food as an attraction. The “Carnival Kitchen” teaches passengers how to make delectable dishes beyond burgers. (Yet, the hamburger is not in jeopardy. Duffy said on average, 1,500 burgers a day are consumed on each Carnival ship.)
She was joined on stage at the end of her presentation by NBA legend Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal, who drew names and awarded three cruises to members of the audience.