Carnival Cruises First Black CEO Arnold Donald Rides The Waves To Success

February 18, 2015  |  

Carnival cruise ship Triumph. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard- Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell)

Carnival Cruises’s first Black CEO is proving to be an able captain. As CEO of the world’s largest cruise line, Arnold Donald oversees 120,000 employees and 100 ships catering to 10.5 million passengers annually.

Donald, who took the helm in 2013, has taken turned around the struggling brand. In January 2012, the Concordia, from Carnival’s Costa Cruises brand, sank off the coast of Italy. Thirty-two people were killed. And in February 2013, an engine-room fire on the Triumph, a Carnival Cruise Lineship, was stranded without power for five days. Passengers did not have air conditioning, hot food, or use of most toilets.

But in his first full year as CEO, Carnival Corporation saw solid earnings improvement, including a net profit of $1.5 billion. And, the company ended 2014 fiscal year with a strong fourth quarter, that resulted in 2014 full year cash from operations of nearly $3.5 billion.

And he has brought a little flavor the Carnival. Last year, Donald partnered with comedian Cedric the Entertainer to market all nine of Carnival Corporation’s brands in a major way. They put a call out for consumers to offer suggestions on four TV commercials, one of which aired during the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.

It was a great marketing move for Donald to enlist Cedric the Entertainer, which would appeal to Black consumers. You see, Black people are major consumers of cruises.

“As Carnival’s first Black CEO, I have learned the obvious: Black folks are like everybody else,” Donald told Black America Web.

“There is range of interests, a range of orientation, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer the (luxury) Seabourn experience, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer our Carnival Cruise Lines (more affordable) experience. You have studious African-Americans, extroverts; folks who want to party,” he added.

Then there’s the four-years running deal with Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage, which sails this year from Miami on April 11 and has extended its cruise by eight days. For this, Donald said Carnival is giving Joyner its newest and largest ship, the Carnival Breeze, which can accommodate 3,690 passengers.

In all Carnival has nine brands–from more affordable cruises like Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises to luxury brands like Seabourn Cruise Line and Cunard Line, which operates the grand Queen Elizabeth 2, (QE2).

They will soon be adding to it fleet as Carnival plans to build a $700 million ship for its Princess line in 2017.

According to Donald, cruising is the perfect money-saving travel opportunity.

“Cruising is the greatest vacation value there is,” Donald said. “You can’t get high-end restaurants, top-flight entertainment and the number of venues and match that on land. People bond and connect; they grow; they learn about other cultures, they get closer to their loved ones and children. They learn about marine life and the environment; it broadens people and it enriches them through the experiences they have on our ships.”

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