It seems a common conversation these days with friends is that they are all going on a cruise or coming back from one. One friend goes at least four or five times a year now making sure he maintains his frequent cruiser status if there is such a thing. Another friend just returned from a cruise vacation with her entire extended family and even my pastor plans to get in on the action this fall. Surely I am missing something because there are more than 15 million people who board a cruise ship each year.
This past June, Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world with a portfolio that includes Carnival, Holland America and Princess Cruises, announced the appointment of Arnold W. Donald as its new CEO effective July 3. Donald, a global businessman and Carnival board member of 12 years, will assume the responsibility of focusing on the company’s long-term strategic goals which will include enhancing passengers’ experiences. “Mickey Arison with his vision and leadership, 34 years of it, has built an incredible legacy. So I am joining a very capable team. The role really is to lead, to facilitate and collaborate with them to drive, to absolutely drive that consistent performance that dramatically exceeds guests’ expectations.”
Donald was quick to acknowledge that one of the experiences passengers look forward to when cruising is that around dining. He notes that both the dining and food options that passengers have while on board play a major part in how they view their experience and therefore is a great opportunity to work with chefs from around the world who can deliver and exceed those expectations.
Preparing for the Big Seas
A native of New Orleans and cruising enthusiast himself, Donald’s own legacy in business was the perfect stepping stone to his new role at Carnival. After roles in senior management at Monsanto, he acquired the Equal sweetener business from the company and founded Merisant in 2000 with a colleague that is to this day the undisputed leader in the sweetener market. Armed with a degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA, Donald is also a venture capitalist backing new life-science and biotech companies. Once retired, he focused on philanthropist activities with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) and went on to hold several board positions that would include Carnival.
Getting back into business and leading Carnival will be very natural. His experience with the cruise line over the years has certainly prepared him for new opportunities as well as challenges. The cruise line made headlines earlier this year resulting from issues with its Triumph ship that left passengers without working toilets for five days. Acknowledging what had taken place, Donald says the team has examined the incident closely to see what happened and what needs to be in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Although occurrences like this are rare, Donald says they have already taken preventive steps to make sure passengers are not inconvenienced again such as adding a second level of generators. He also emphasizes that cruising is safe and still offers a vacation experience like no other and Carnival’s commitment to not only meet but exceed what passengers look for each time they step aboard their ships.
If you are new to the whole cruising experience, you may be overwhelmed with the number of cruise lines out here today that offer a variety of experiences based on what you like and what you are looking for. As the largest cruise company, each brand that Carnival Corporation owns offers something different especially when it comes to dining. “We have 10 lines. Depending on which line you go on, what your psychographics are, your desire for the type of cruise, we have fine dining, we have the beer pubs, we have the fine wine selections, we have private dining. And one thing about a cruise and this is across them all, if you want to, you can eat all the time,” Donald says with a laugh.
But don’t worry, cruising is more than just eating. Ships are transformed to become cities all by themselves with a ton of things to do from fitness activities, shopping, entertainment shows, swimming, bowling, zip-lining and more. In addition, as you travel to and from a destination, enjoy the time onshore exploring with the locals before heading back to sea.
“The reality is we are constantly evolving the concepts on board. What you should tend to look for in general is more unique dining spaces and dining experiences with top name chefs, the highest quality foods, the highest quality beverages. That is a hard trend here and it would be across the lines.”
As all eyes will be on the Carnival in the months to come, it couldn’t be a more exciting time at the company as Donald takes the lead. “I am very excited about this opportunity. We are a global company with almost 90,000 dedicated employees and they are very diverse because they come from countries all over the world. But I am selfishly looking forward to catering even more to all ethnic groups and of course, African-Americans included and really want to welcome everyone to come cruise with us.”
There is your invitation, so as he told me, “What are you waiting for.”
Visit www.carnival.com today to check out cruise packages and more.