MIAMI BEACH -- The news that Arnold Donald would step down as Carnival Corp.'s CEO on Aug. 1 couldn't help but steal the show at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference here on Tuesday.
The story broke less than two hours before Donald sat on the State of the Global Cruise Industry panel, where hundreds of his cruise industry peers were in attendance, many standing in the back.
"I'm sure you know that you are a hot topic of conversation, I think, for many people this morning," moderator and BBC news anchor Lucy Hockings said to Donald, who sat on her left. "I think you have something to tell us."
Donald deflected. "What's new is the industry is back. That's new," he said to applause. "We're doubling down our commitments to net-zero emissions," he added.
He then acknowledged the news of his eventual departure and recognized Carnival Corp. COO Josh Weinstein as his replacement, who was in the crowd.
"I'm really excited for Josh and even more excited for me," he said.
During the panel, Donald, who will step down after nine years in the role and stay on as vice chair of the company's board, stayed focused on the industry's comeback and future.
But he indicated he planned to stay active in his vice chair role. "Nobody leaves this industry," Donald told the audience.
"What this industry does and why nobody ever wants to leave it is all about human spirit. We bring people together," he added. "They discover what they have in common, and they learn to celebrate their differences rather than fear them. We make the world a better place, and that's what I'm most excited about."
Challenges Josh Weinstein will face as CEO
In response to a question from a reporter about the challenges Weinstein will have to face, Donald said "it's all about opportunity."
"He's a fun guy, he understands business, he's ready for this," Donald said. "his challenge is just going to be the challenge we always face: how to navigate it all where he keeps everyone engaged, but it's just a normal management challenge."
Josh Leibowitz, president of Carnival's Seabourn brand, applauded Weinstein's promotion, saying in an interview that Weinstein is "probably one of the most capable and respected leaders they have."
"We're all really fortunate," Leibowitz added. "He's driven by our core values; he's had experience in pretty much every facet of the business. And I think for most of us, it was a highly anticipated action. We're very excited."
What's next for Arnold Donald?
Donald did not elaborate on what he will do come August but said he is interested in other industries and may serve on "another board or two," do some writing, explore some "impact projects" and spend time with his grandchildren.
"I'm still going to be an employee," he told reporters after the panel. "But it's a change in roles, which I'm excited about."