Sam Ballard profiles the all-American, family-friendly, big-ship line that decided to go trade only last year, because it believes “travel agents rock”
When Carnival Cruise Line announced last November that it was going trade only, there were few raised eyebrows across the industry. The biggest cruise line in the world has 25 ships serving a predominantly American market. While in the past the company has flirted with having ships in the Mediterranean, they have never lasted long. Its entire fleet now sails out of American ports.
For Carnival Cruise Line that deployment has certain ramifications. The first, obviously, is that it has taken what is a hugely popular mass market offering in the States and turned it into a long-haul offering in the UK. It could even be regarded as niche. The end result is that typical consumer sales channels were not penetrating the market to the extent that the investment necessitated. By choosing to work with agents, Carnival was recognising that it needed specialist sellers to shift the product.
Carnival is predominantly aimed at families. The line is renowned for its Caribbean cruises that operate out of more than 10 US ports. Mexico and Hawaii are two other major destinations for the company, while Alaska and New England represent the rest of its programme. There will typically be a couple of European cruises when a new ship leaves the shipyard, but not much beyond that.
The resort-style line is known for its party cruises and pushing the envelope when it comes to having a good time. Its ships have everything on board from iMax cinemas to massive waterparks. There are SkyRides (bikes that are pedalled through an aerial circuit), a partnership with Dr Seuss (that includes a Dr Seuss Bookville kids’ club) and some pretty impressive events, called Carnival Live, with artists such as Chris Tucker, Gladys Knight and Journey performing.
At Carnival Cruise Line, we think travel agents rock
If you were to position Carnival within today’s market, it would sit with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC. Ships are typically large – its latest ship, Carnival Vista, has capacity for about 4,000 passengers – and come with plenty of outdoor space to help enjoy the Caribbean sunshine.
When it comes to food options on board, there are typically a number of paid for and included restaurants available. From Mexican cantinas and Guy’s Burger Joint to Seafood Shacks and JiJi’s Asian Kitchen – as well as the main dining room.
The line has its own private island – Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas – where guests can take a number of excursions, including horseback riding, kayaking, snorkelling and encountering stingrays.
“At Carnival Cruise Line, we think travel agents rock,” said Iain Baillie, vice president UK & international sales. “Not only do we provide interactive fun training, a choice of rewards for booking Carnival Cruise Line through our Loyalty Rocks Club and ensure agents experience Carnival Cruise Line first hand, we also pay great commissions, offer extensive gross and net rate pricing across our product range and have a very user friendly booking portal.”
Carnival Cruise Line is a company that personifies American style cruising more than any other. From its cuisine, to the entertainment on board and big casinos. There are four ships currently under construction for the line, which are due to be launched in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022.