Carnival Cruise Lines is working hard to repair its relationship with travel agents, rebuild consumer confidence and return to the level of profitability it has enjoyed in the past.
Anecdotally, the Carnival product is better than ever, but the brand still has a way to go before its pricing is back on track.
“We have not particularly changed the product,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO. “We are seeing improvements in guest ratings over the past five to six months, which we attribute to our service value training and Carnival Fun Ship 2.0 features.”
“Carnival has been true to its brand premise for 40 years,” he added. “We offer a fun, memorable vacation at a great value. We know who our customers are. They are not the wealthy, but the Americans across this country who go to work every day and need a vacation to relax and have fun.
“We are cognizant of what we provide and what our guests can afford.
“We continue to execute on that strategy while the rest of the industry is going upmarket. But there are lots of people who are not upmarket.
“We are more differentiated today than we have ever been,” Cahill emphasized.
“Carnival is fun, and we attract people who are fun,” he said. “They are very social, they like to participate, to be part of the show. I think the nature of the product comes partially from the people we attract.”
Reflecting on the incidents that set Carnival back, Cahill said: “I am not one for sitting on my hands. We have attacked the problem. We identified what was wrong, and we have fixed it. Now we have to convince our guests that we are safe.”
He explained how Carnival monitors brand perception every two weeks. “Immediately after the incidents last spring, we saw a significant drop off in the perception of the brand,” he said.
“Since then it has been improving. We have recovered in excess of 70 percent of the brand perception that we lost. Now, the perception needs to translate into considerations and eventually bookings. Obviously, there is a time lag.”