FORT LAUDERDALE -- Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told an audience at CruiseWorld that being the largest cruise company in the world comes with two key advantages -- stability and innovation -- that help Carnival's brands deliver industry-leading results.
The company has more than 100 ships, and it operates in every segment and several global source markets. "One of every two people who cruise go with one of our nine brands," Donald said, which include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Cunard Line, in addition to the namesake Carnival Cruise Line.
"Because we have such a large portfolio, it's difficult for any one thing happening somewhere in the world to take the company down," Donald said.
Size matters in innovation too. "We have the scale and the capability to take on projects that others can't," he said.
A prime example of that is the costly OceanMedallion personalization technology that Carnival developed and rolled out initially on Princess Cruises.
"We invented it," Donald said. "It's not off-the-shelf apps."
Donald ran down a list of developments at various Carnival brands, such as the roller coaster on next year's Carnival Cruise Line newbuild, the Mardi Gras.
But when he forgot to mention Princess Cruises, a surprise guest made an appearance.
From behind the couch where Arnold was seated, up popped a Muppets-style character designed to look like Princess' senior vice president of sales and trade marketing, John Chernesky. The puppet ribbed Donald and amused the crowd until the real John Chernesky bounded on stage to complain that the puppet has been impersonating him all over town.
The larger message to the puppet tomfoolery was to billboard the Jim Henson Creature Shop show, called "Inspired Silliness," that will debut next month on the newest Princess ship, the Sky Princess.
When Donald finally regained the spotlight, he took some time to outline Carnival's sustainability initiatives and defend the industry's record.
He said that very little of the estimated 8 million tons of plastics in the ocean comes from ships, much less from cruise ships. "It comes from land; it comes through the rivers and gets into the ocean," he said, adding, "Having said that, we don't want anything going in the ocean. He said that Carnival has accelerated existing recycling efforts and processes to eliminate plastics from its waste stream.
Likewise, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, a Carnival brand was the first to use liquified natural gas (LNG) to provide power in port, and Carnival Corp. will be the first to bring an LNG-powered ship to North America, with the Mardi Gras.
"Ultimately we want to get to zero emission," Donald said. But he said cruise emissions are a tiny fraction of the global equation. "The reality is if the cruise industry didn't exist, you wouldn't be able to measure the difference in emissions," he said.