Stormy Seas Ahead

Carnival rides the economy’s rough waters


By: By Norman Sklarewitz

Redefining the Fun Ship

By Marilyn Green

Carnival Cruise Lines’ launched a new branding campaign this month, redefining the line’s signature Fun Ships concept. Carnival president Gerry Cahill pointed to the Carnival Splendor naming last summer as the direction the line is taking: inventive, unusual and spontaneous. Under the tagline "Fun For All. All For Fun," the new campaign kicked off with special events that set new Guinness World Records for fun in Dallas and Philadelphia.

The first event, in Dallas on Oct. 26, involved setting a Guinness record for the world’s largest beach ball. Two beach balls, each three stories high, thrilled a crowd at the city’s Pegasus Park. The second event in Philadelphia on Nov. 2 was another world-record success with the world’s largest piñata — 61 feet tall, 60 feet long and 23 feet wide and holding 8,000 pounds. of candy. As more than 10,000 people turned out, Carnival cruise director John Heald announced that the Philadelphia Police Department had asked the company to delay breaking the piñata due to safety concerns. However, Carnival offered free food and giveaways including five seven-day cruises from Baltimore aboard the Carnival Pride.

Footage from both events will be used to create two television spots, which will soon begin airing nationally and eventually in select local markets as well. The new campaign also includes both a consumer and trade magazine component with new travel trade ads beginning Nov. 10 and a series of four consumer ads scheduled to run in People the weeks of Nov. 17 through Dec. 8.

Carnival’s campaign also features a variety of online elements including Towel Animal Theater, which involves a series of online videos that depict towel animals having amusing conversations with each other while the stateroom’s occupants are away. The videos capture the whimsical spirit that towel animals bring to the overall Carnival vacation experience. They are currently running as part of an advertising buy on and are available for viewing and downloading at The new Funville Web portal will also feature a number of other videos, along with interactive opportunities.

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Scroll down to learn more about Carnival's new "Fun for All. All for Fun" ad campaign

On a recent Friday afternoon, Gerry Cahill left his office at Carnival Cruise Lines headquarters and headed down to the sprawling Miami cruise terminal to board the Carnival Fascination. Given the fact that he had just completed his first year as Carnival’s president and CEO, one might assume that Cahill was going to enjoy a little Caribbean cruise as an anniversary perk.

The Carnival Splendor is currently the largest ship in Carnival’s fleet. // (c) Carnival Cruise Line
The Carnival Splendor is currently the largest ship in Carnival’s fleet.

That was hardly the case. Cahill was accompanied by some of this senior department heads who, together, made up a Quality Assurance Team. Over the next few days, there would be meetings onboard with the ship’s senior staff, as well as a question-and-answer period where bartenders, waitresses, room stewards and other crew members would have the opportunity to dialogue with their company’s senior-most executives.

Now, more than ever before, an enhanced guest experience is the single most important goal of such sessions, Cahill believes. This remains his focus despite the myriad of problems impacting the U.S. these days, which he calls a "perfect storm."

Still, he considers Carnival "probably better positioned to cope with current economic conditions than any other cruise line in the world."

He points out that the line now is homeporting its ships at 17 different U.S. cities, and all but one of them can be reached by car.

"With airfares up and airlines’ capacity down, to have that much of our capacity where customers can drive to [the ship] is a blessing," he said.

When it comes to luring customers to drive to the embarkation cities, Carnival isn’t sitting still, either. Cahill says that starting next year, Carnival will position a ship year-round in Baltimore, Md., something it has never done before. The company is also pulling the Carnival Freedom out of Europe next year to homeport in Fort Lauderdale on year-round, six- and eight-day sailings to the Caribbean.

Carnival’s sales and marketing efforts admittedly target those who have already sailed with the line.

"In tougher economic times, you can depend on your repeat customers," said Cahill. "But to accommodate them, we need to offer more variety in available itineraries."

As a result, the line has introduced alternating runs to replace the weekly turnaround to the same Caribbean ports. Out of Galveston, for example, the Conquest will introduce a new Eastern Caribbean route to complement its regular Western Caribbean itineraries. Other rotating itineraries will be available out of New Orleans, Baltimore and New York City.

While Carnival is fine-tuning deployment of its ships, it’s going ahead with the ambitious Evolutions of Fun refurbishment, investing $40 million per ship in eight Fantasy-class vessels. The renovation includes fully remodeled staterooms and suites, updating sound and lighting systems in various lounges and clubs, coffee bars, adding nine-hole miniature golf courses, new art and photo galleries, New York-style delis in the Lido restaurants and improved conference facilities. Also part of the makeover are expansive water parks, a new design for the pool areas, an adults-only deck area and an overhaul of the 12,000-square-foot spas.

Filling cabins on its huge fleet requires an aggressive and creative marketing effort and Cahill is out to make that happen. Carnival has announced a new advertising campaign and launched a "redefinition of fun" with world-record-breaking events presenting the world’s largest pinata and the world’s largest beach ball.

While shipboard visits by management were conducted by Cahill’s predecessor, Bob Dickinson, the program has expanded to a point where there are now five Quality Assurance Teams. The policy produces real results; one team addressed the issue of passenger baggage being slow in reaching staterooms. A study followed resulting in new procedures that brought luggage to cabins much more quickly. Cahill views shore excursions, shipboard bars, gift shops and casinos as guest amenities first and as revenues generators second.

"I preach this all the time," he said. "If you provide a great guest experience, revenues will follow."

A longer version of this story appeared in the International Cruise & Ferry Review.