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Sailing on Value, Fulfilling DreamsNovember 16, 2009 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
As the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream prepares to sail from her home port of Port Canaveral, FL, Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO, makes one thing perfectly clear: Even in this economic market, Carnival will strive to not allow the 3,646-passenger ship or any other ships in the Carnival Fleet to sail with empty cabins.
“The economic cost of not filling a ship is huge, so you always want to make sure you fill your ships,” stressed Cahill, who spoke at a press briefing onboard Carnival Dream. “We have a little different philosophy than others.” Noting that Carnival has the highest occupancy in the industry, he says Carnival does a better job than other lines of selling further out at advantageous pricing with its Early Saver fares. That means fewer cabins to fill close in and better price stability.
As for Carnival Dream, “this ship is booking very, very well with pricing higher than across the fleet,” said Cahill, who said the fares reflect the demand. In additional to individual bookings, the opportunity to sell groups and incentive cruises onboard the new Carnival Dream is strong, he said.
“You can put large groups on this ship…and it doesn’t affect the rest of the guests,” Cahill said. “This is the best ship we have for [the incentive and group markets].” For example, the Carnival’s Dream has many venues that can host large groups out of sight of other guests – such as the new Chambers Conference Center, site of today’s Carnival executive briefing with the news media.
It’s a Dream
Cahill and other executives, including Roberta Jacoby, senior vice president of hotel operations, painted a picture of Carnival Dream as the perfect family ship -- with so many different areas onboard to create fun for diverse kinds of guests. The WaterWorks area, for example, with the longest waterslide at sea, will entice kids and active adults alike.
In a brief ceremony on Friday at Pier 88 in New York, 9-year-old Hailee Steberger, winner of Carnival’s Visual Book of Dreams Contest, served as the ship’s godchild for the official opening of the 303-foot-long Twister Waterslide. Other kid-friendly spots onboard the new Carnival include Camp Carnival (for kids 2-11) and two highly creative venues for older children – Circle C (for kids 12-14) and the hip Club 02 (for older teens).
Guests of all ages will enjoy FunHub, a combination Internet café and intranet portal for onboard social networking; it features 36 computers around the ship on Decks 3, 4 and 5. A highly innovative new space – one that agents and VIPs onboard for ship previews raved about – is Ocean Plaza; it’s the hub and epicenter of the ship with day-to-night entertainment, a dance floor, WiFi access and multiple venues.
Couples and singles seeking a quiet enclave will likely head for the two-level, adults-only Serenity relaxation area. For high-energy, high-tech entertainment, guests shouldn’t miss the new 15-minute night-time laser shows featuring aerial patterns of blue, red and green set to the music of such artists as Styx, Rush, Van Halen, Boston and Pink Floyd.
Carnival Dream also features a new comedy club. Comedians perform 24 shows each voyage – a mix of night-time adults only R rated shows and milder family-focused ones. In conjunction with the ship’s debut, the line is introducing several new spa treatments in the 23,750-square-foot Cloud Nine spa. For example, your clients might savor an unusual bamboo massage.
On the dining side, the ship has a new Italian pasta bar; specialty coffees and sweets at Ocean Plaza; the Chef’s Art Steakhouse (at $30 per person), and fixed or open seating styles in the main dining rooms.
Cahill stressed Carnival’s philosophy of balancing innovation with cost. He said it was important not for lines not to “overinvest” in innovation – thereby driving up a ship’s construction costs and the line’s operating costs; he said that could put a new ship out of the price range of many Americans. Carnival, he believes, has created the right balance of innovation and fiscal responsibility with Carnival Dream.
On the accommodations side, 48 percent of Carnival Dream’s staterooms feature balconies and 193 deluxe ocean view stateroom boast two bathrooms; that’s great for families with kids, or as Cahill suggested, perfect for husbands and wives who want their own space. Carnival Dream also has a new cabin type – cove balconies, which are closer to the water line than other balcony cabins on other ships.
From an operational perspective, the ship is considerably more fuel efficient than even the relatively new Carnival Splendor. Thanks to a new rudder and hull design, Carnival Dream saves 15-20 percent in propulsion system fuel efficiency over any other Carnival ship in the fleet.
How can your clients sail on Carnival Dream? It will home port year round at Port Canaveral, FL, within the Space Coast region and close to Orlando for major theme park fun. “Port Canaveral is a very, very good family market,” said Cahill. The ship will offer seven-day cruises year-round on both eastern and western Caribbean routes.
The western itinerary includes Roatan and its port of Mahogany Bay, where Carnival Corp. has made a $62 million investment in infrastructure and entertainment. Cahill said that 20-acre shoreside experience now resembles what the guest might enjoy at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas or Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos.
The addition of Carnival Dream, and the recent departure of Carnival Holiday from the fleet, gives Carnival 22 ships of varied sizes. Carnival now has eight Fantasy-class ships of roughly 2,000 beds, four Spirit-class ships of 2,200 beds; nine Destiny-, Conquest- and Splendor-class ships of 2,600 to 3,000 beds and one Dream-class ship at 3,600 beds.
That variety suits Cahill just fine; he said not every home port can support a massive ship.
In 2010, Cahill said Carnival Cruise Lines will operate service from 20 North American home ports which “blows my mind” given that the line had only four home ports in 1993. New year-round service began this year from Baltimore and will start in Charleston next year. For 2010, Carnival will also home port in Seattle for Alaska seasonal cruises.
Overall, Carnival expects to carry 3.8 million guests this year and approximately 3.9 million next year. Cahill is “pretty sure” the total will be more than 4 million in 2011 when the Carnival Magic launches.
“The whole world knows that 2009 knows that it’s been a challenging year,” Cahill said, but stressed that “we fared better than just about everyone in North America.” He believes that’s due to Carnival’s brand position as a value product.
“Even the rich are very, very conscious of value and that has played to our strength,” Cahill said. He also cited Carnival’s broad depth of home ports, allowing guests to drive to their embarkation port and strip out the air ticket factor from their vacation.
Update on Future Plans
One journalist asked when Carnival will have year-round service from New York, and why it chose Baltimore instead for new service this year. In the media briefing, Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival’s executive vice president of marketing and guest experience, said that while New York is an important market for Carnival and that the Carnival Miracle sails from the city in summer, Baltimore was a logical choice for Carnival to begin year-round service this year.
Citing a huge market of guests within the Mid-Atlantic, he said pluses for Baltimore include its accessibility, popularity with mass market cruisers, and its ability to attract first-time cruisers.” The Chesapeake Bay also is slightly more accessible to the Bahamas [than New York or Philadelphia] and Baltimore as a home port gives Carnival a chance to offer two different itineraries for cruisers,” Rodriguez said.
The company continues to evaluate New York and Europe as year-round markets. In terms of New York, “we’re never saying never,” Cahill said, noting that the Carnival Magic launches in 2011 and that gives the line more flexibility. In terms of returning to Europe, Cahill’s view?: “We’re thinking very hard about 2011. We’re not yet ready to make an announcement, but it’s a decent possibility.”
Asked about Carnival’s position on the recent cruise industry lawsuit to try and overturn Alaska’s onerous cruise passenger head tax, Cahill said “the ultimate determinate will be the courts,” he said. “Regardless of the lawsuit, the real determining factor in Alaska is economics, he noted: “The more taxes [costs] that are layered on, the less affordable it is to the guest, then you are by definition pricing people out of the market.”
Asked about another line’s recent downturn in bookings from Florida, Cahill said “we did not have a downturn from Florida; we actually had an increase from Florida this year.”
Moving forward, expect the same value proposition from the Fun Ships. “People have a very clear understanding of what the Carnival brand is,” Cahill emphasizes. “We’re fun, we want to provide memorable experiences and we want to provide great value.”
Look for more photos and additional details about Carnival Dream’s ship-specific features in an upcoming story in Travel Agent magazine.