The key to rebuilding cruise: Agents and cruise loyalists

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Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald speaking at the CLIA Cruise3Sixty conference in 2018.
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald speaking at the CLIA Cruise3Sixty conference in 2018.
Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

A combination of travel advisor expertise and guest testimonials will help the cruise industry bounce back, in a recovery that will be driven by people who already cruise the most, according to Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald.

"There are so many people that love cruising," Donald said during a wide-ranging conversation with the media, adding that 30 million people took cruise vacations in 2019. And Carnival's brands, he said, "have been around a while and have a pretty large base of loyal cruisers."

Those diehard cruisers will fill the ships at first, he said, in the early stages when capacity starts to slowly roll out.

Educating consumers about cruising is nothing new, he said.

"Going forward we'll have to address what we've always had to address: the vast majority of people have not cruised," he said. "We're underpenetrated in every market in the world. We were busy knocking down myths down before, and we'll have to return to that."

Donald said the two "most powerful ways" to do that is through travel advisors, "with their knowledge and experience and personal relations with their clients," and the guests who will "provide the kind of testimonials and credibility with their friends and colleagues and relatives."

Donald acknowledged that cruising's reputation has taken a hit, which is more likely to have an effect on the new-to-cruise market.

"There is no question that the amount of media attention around cruise -- that there have been people who may have been considering [a cruise] who would be having second thoughts at this point in time," he said. "But time and consistent delivery of experience and exceeding guest expectations has always been the formula. The industry was wildly successful before this, and I'm quite confident we will return to that level of success over time."

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