Carnival Buys P&O: Does Anyone Care?

Chris Dikmen, President, Professional Internet Travel Alliance Remember when Carnival did its merger with Holland America? Travel agents were very concerned at that time about Carnival ruining the HAL brand. When Royal Caribbean purchased Celebrity, the same concerns existed perhaps some were justified. S

By: Chris Dikmen, President, Professional Internet Travel Alliance

Remember when Carnival did its merger with Holland America? Travel agents were very concerned at that time about Carnival ruining the HAL brand. When Royal Caribbean purchased Celebrity, the same concerns existed perhaps some were justified. So why have we not heard the same grumblings over the imminent takeover of P&O Princess by Carnival? Could it be that there is not really that much to differentiate Princess from the other mass-market cruise brands?

Let’s face it: If you were blindfolded and removed the employee name badges, you could be two days into a cruise before you would know if you were on Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Princess. Unfortunately for the consumer, the major cruise lines (much like the major airlines) have spent more time trying to be like the other guy than being different from the other guy. True, Carnival has the “fun ship” identity, and Royal Caribbean is pounding away at the adventure-seekers with its “get out there” theme, but what brand message does Princess really have? Instead of exploiting their “Love Boat” franchise with a full-blown “romance at sea” theme, they have become just another big cruise line.

The concern now is that with Princess in its fold, Carnival will virtually dominate the number of berths in Alaska next year. But don’t forget: All Royal Caribbean has to do is reposition one of their behemoth Voyager-class vessels to compete in the Mexican Riviera and Alaska, and the playing field will become a little more level.

From a pure marketing perspective, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity both have slicker and clearer brand messages to the consumer. And of course, Royal Caribbean now has $62 million more to spend to promote Alaska in 2003. Could it be that Richard Fain planned this all along?

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