“P&O is on a real roll at the moment”

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Sam Ballard talks to Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald and P&O’s Paul Ludlow


As the biggest travel and leisure company in the world, Carnival Corporation is big news. With 10 brands and more than 100 cruise ships, the company has led the industry for decades. It is building ships for virtually all of its brands including P&O Cruises, which will get its biggest ship ever in 2020. We sat down with president & CEO Arnold Donald and Paul Ludlow, senior vice president of P&O Cruises to discuss the company’s next steps.

Paul Ludlow

Cruise Adviser: You’re ahead on higher value bookings. What does that mean for Carnival and P&O?

Arnold Donald: It means we’ve had some success. People are recognising a great vacation experience and the great value that cruising is. We’re ahead on price and bookings, we have less to fill than we did last year at this point in time. It’s a great indicator, but we’ve got a way to go.

Paul Ludlow: When we place the orders on new ships we look at the markets that have momentum and the UK is doing well at the moment. P&O Cruises is on a real roll, 2016 was a great year for us and it gives us the confidence to bring a new ship into the market.

You’re the world’s largest travel and leisure company. What is the biggest challenge that you face?

AD: There are two real challenges for us and the biggest one is personnel. Each brand has a very identified
way of being. There are very specific communities on board with different service cultures and that kind of thing. We have to keep that intact so that we can exceed guests’ expectations. So, when he [Paul Ludlow] expands,
he has to get new people. When they come in it has to be seamless to the guests. It has to be what they have always experienced with P&O. We’re good at it, it’s what we do, but it’s still a challenge.

In terms of specific macro-economic situations, this stuff happens all the time, the real issue is if it becomes global and you take out all of Asia or all of Europe – that’s a major problem. That’s never happened and we’re hoping and praying that it never happens.

P&O are going to launch their biggest ship ever, but you will also be getting rid of Adonia
which has a very loyal following. How do you take on that change?

PL: One of the reasons guests love Adonia so much is for the places that she goes. Given that she is a smaller ship, she can visit many of the smaller ports on our Discovery-based itineraries, so many of our repeat guests can visit places they’ve never been to before. The neat thing about our fleet is that there are other ships that can do those itineraries, so Oriana will now be placed on Discovery itineraries. We’re seeing many guests who were booked on Adonia moved on to Oriana and they will still get the same enjoyment from their holiday. We’ve also got guests who thought that the smaller-style ship cruising was for them, but then they move up to the larger ships and love it even more. Many of our guests end up trying new experiences with us and realise they just love P&O Cruises, because we have a golden thread that goes through all of our ships.

Why do you think that Carnival is going through such a successful patch, economically?

AD: The key thing is creating demand. The brands have always done a good job with the guests on board. P&O are now proactively promoting cruise outside that – whether it’s Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway or Lorraine – whereas before we would be slashing prices. We’ve done that in many, many different ways, we were the keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, for instance, and had umpteen million media impressions through vehicles that had never talked about cruise before. We were able to talk about what cruise really is, the great vacation experience it provides and help create that demand through Ocean Medallion, an incredible onboard experience.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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