You have now been in your role over here in the UK for almost six months. How have you found the transition period and how are you enjoying the life in the UK?
Living and working in London for the past six months has been fantastic. I’m really getting into the swing of my new job here and enjoying every minute of it. I had lived in Miami my entire life and always had the desire to live in a big city and experience urban living. Having the opportunity to live in London while still working for the company I love, is truly a dream come true. As far as big cities go, you can’t get much better than London. The transition has not been difficult at all, except maybe the weather (I’m sure you’re shocked to read that). It has basically been winter since I moved here in December. Not having a car has also taken some getting used to since I’ve had a car since I was 16 years old. In many ways, living in the UK is much like living in the States. I was surprised at how similar our cultures and customs are. Of course there are differences, but overall, I feel very much at home and welcome in my new home town.
The Carnival Cruise Line brand is not as well known at both consumer and agent level, despite the brand having been marketed in the UK for many years. Why do you think that is?
You’re certainly right about Carnival not being well known in the UK, yet. Although we have been marketed in the UK for many years, we have never really invested in any consumer marketing. We relied almost exclusively on the trade to do all the marketing for us in the past. This approach has proven to be very efficient and effective for us in the past; however, we have big ambitions for the UK and in order to exceed our goals, we have to invest more in the market. That’s exactly what we are doing. As we have reported in the past, we have hired a Karmarama as our creative agency, MPG as our media buying agency, and M&C Saatchi as our PR firm. Together we will ensure that over the next few years Carnival Cruise Lines’ awareness grows with both the trade and the consumers. We have a big job ahead of us, but we are very confident that we will be successful.
You have recently announced that Carnival Legend will undertake a number of cruises from UK ports in 2013. Has that decision been made to gain a footprint in this market by having a ship available ex a UK port?
We are all very excited about bringing the Carnival Legend back to the UK with her first cruise out of Dover to the Baltic commencing on 21st of June 2013. As you may know, she was named in Harwich by Dame Judi Dench and had her inaugural cruise out of Dover in 2002. Having the Carnival Legend in Dover is definitely part of our plan to source more guests from the UK. So the pressure is on for my team and me to fill the Carnival Legend next year. We will be relying heavily on the trade to make this a successful deployment. We are committed to supporting them to help us reach our goals. Additionally, by putting a ship in our backyard, we make is more convenient and less expensive for UK holiday makers to experience a fantastic Carnival cruise holiday. It also serves a dual purpose in that it allows us to offer a wider variety of itineraries for the UK and the other markets we serve throughout the world.
You have just launched the brand new Carnival Breeze. What are some of the new innovations your customer will be able to find on this ship? The Carnival Destiny will undergo a major conversion next year; on completion will be known as the Carnival Sunshine. Tell us a little bit more about the scope of work to be undertaken, the new features and why the name change?
- The Carnival Breeze will be the first ship in our fleet to offer all of the Fun Ship 2.0 features. Those include:
- Bonsai Sushi restaurant
- Guy’s Burger Joint
- Punchliners Comedy Club
- Sports Square with the only Ropes Course at sea
- Carnival’s Waterworks
- BlueIguana Tequila Bar, Red Frog Rum bar, Alchemy martini Bar
- EA Sports Bar
- Hasbro, the Game Show
- Thrill Theater (cinema) – More than just a 3D film, the new Thrill Theater (cinema) offers exciting 3D movies that totally immerse the guest in the movie experience by adding motion, leg tickle, neck air, seat poke, and even some water squirts and bubbles. This will be lots of fun.
- Serenity – adults only oasis
- There are so many I can’t possibly mention all the great new features aboard the Carnival Breeze. I suggest readers go to www.carnivalbreeze.com
The Carnival Destiny is not going through a standard dry-dock re-fit, she is being completely transformed. There isn’t any area of the ship that isn’t being touched during her month-long drydock. She will receive all of the new Fun Ship 2.0 features as well as additional staterooms. She will have the largest Serenity area, which will span over three decks. All of her staterooms will be completely redone in our new, fresher, and breezier cabin décor. She is going to be truly magnificent! So why the name change? When she emerges from her drydock transformation, she will be essentially a new ship from bow to stern.
How does Carnival Cruise Lines intend to engage with the travel agents to ensure the brand achieves a far deeper penetration in the UK?
We understand how critical supporting the trade is to our success in the UK. We hired Iain Baillie (formerly with CCS) as our head of sales and expanded our sales team to ensure we have the ability to provide service and support to our valued travel agent partners. Since Iain started in March, we have made quite a lot of progress with the trade by offering product training, marketing support, agent incentives, and top-notch account management. We have also had the opportunity to invite some of our travel agent partners on-board the Carnival Breeze’s inaugural cruise from Barcelona on the 15th of June. I have been very impressed away by the support, excitement, and genuine interest the trade has shown us since I arrived.
Your two ships in Europe in 2013, the Carnival Sunshine and the Carnival Legend in 2013 being the obvious priority, what other destinations is a key priority for you to target from the UK?
Since 2012 isn’t quite over yet, I’d say our focus is still on getting more Brits aboard the Carnival Breeze this summer. And yes, you are right, our priority for 2013 is filling the Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Legend, but we do have 22 other ships in the Carnival Cruise Lines fleet. We offer exciting itineraries that are perfect for the UK market out of the many US homeports we offer. For example, the Carnival Dream out of Port Canaveral in central Florida is a very popular choice for Brits since you can combine a Carnival Cruise with a land stay in central Florida. Tampa sailings also offer a great opportunity to combine a cruise with a land stay with Florida theme parks. We’ve also noticed more Brits sailing on the Carnival Splendor out of Los Angeles (Long Beach) and combining the cruise with a land stay in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Our year-round departures from New York offer another great opportunity for combining land and cruise. And, of course, let’s not forget the Caribbean out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. There are so many great options to package a cruise with interesting land options in the US. I have seen some really great and unique packages put together by trade partners that have been very successful. If your clients fancy a more exotic itinerary, we are offering three unique cruises as the Carnival Splendor circumnavigates South America next year.
What training aids or services are available to agents who wish to improve their product expertise?
Our main form of training today comes from our sales team in face-to-face training. We are looking forward to the autumn launch of CCL University that we currently offer in the States so that we can expand our training coverage. Also, we have plans to offer sales and product training webinars in the future. Keep a lookout for that later this year.
The Carnival product offers fantastic travel value, given the quality and inclusivity of the Carnival product. Do you believe the value proposition is adequately communicated to the market and if not are there plans to change your communication strategy?
I would argue that Carnival offers one of the best holiday values for your pound but I believe that as an industry we have not done a good enough job communicating the tremendous value proposition that cruising offers. When you look at the Mintel report recently released, the number one reason respondents would not consider a cruise is because they believe it is too expensive. We have to do a better job getting that message out. We hope that our new TV campaign in the UK will do just that.