Gerry Cahill, who led Carnival Cruise Lines through some of its most challenging years, will retire effective Nov. 30 at age 63.
His departure was announced late last week by the cruise line's parent, Carnival Corp.
When he replaced Carnival Cruise Lines' longtime leader Bob Dickinson in 2007, Cahill took the helm at what would prove to be a tumultuous period during which the brand faced one setback after another, from the 2008 financial meltdown to the 2010 Carnival Splendor fire and the 2013 stranding of the Carnival Triumph at sea.
The Triumph incident was particularly damaging because it became a major story on 24/7 cable news channels when the ship and its passengers were stranded without power at sea for days. The negative publicity generated by the images of the incapacitated ship and tales of hardships onboard resulted in plunging sales.
Later that year, the line launched a major travel agent outreach program, Carnival Conversations, which included a marketing campaign and a series of road-show presentations attended by various senior Carnival management, including Cahill.
Among the changes undertaken by Carnival as a result of Conversations was a simplified fare structure and improved terms for its group promotions. The line returned to television advertising, with each ad concluding with a "Call your travel professional" tag line.
Carnival also launched four ships under Cahill's watch, including the new Dream class, and upgraded many older ships under the Fun Ship 2.0 initiative. These included the Carnival Destiny, which emerged from drydock with a new name, the Carnival Sunshine.
The turnaround efforts proved successful when earlier this year, the line said it had set a single-month record for booking volume in January. At the time, Cahill said Carnival was seeing heavy sales growth in all channels, particularly via agents.
No replacement has yet been named for Cahill, who has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity for an unspecified time through a transition period.
Cahill joined Carnival Corp. in 1994 as vice president of finance. In January 1998, he was promoted to senior vice president of finance and CFO.
"Gerry has been instrumental in taking Carnival Cruise Lines to new heights as one of the preeminent brands in the cruise industry," said Arnold Donald, Carnival Corp.'s president and CEO. "He and his team have delivered new innovations to cruising while growing the business year after year."
Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison stated: "While we would always feel his retiring is premature, we understand and support his decision. His leadership and passion, along with his honest and frank views will be missed, and we will always have a deep appreciation for Gerry's tremendous contributions to Carnival Corp."
Cahill called it "an honor and a privilege to lead Carnival Cruise Lines for the past seven years and to work for this great company for 20 years."
He added: "Deciding when to retire is not easy, especially when you love what you do. I feel the time is good for me personally, and the company and brand are in a good place."