Alan Buckelew, chief operations officer (COO) for Carnival Corporation“My responsibility is to ensure that as a corporation we take full advantage of our scale,” said Alan Buckelew, chief operations officer (COO) for Carnival Corporation.

 “If we want to raise the bar, collaboration is critical. Historically, the brands have operated independently. Now, the overarching strategy is for the brands to cooperate, collaborate and communicate, being committed to one solution and taking advantage of our scale, rather than pursuing 10 different approaches. We have to change some of our corporate culture; the key is that our leadership is in agreement that this is the direction we have to move.”

Assuming his position on Dec. 1, 2013, Buckelew has oversight of all maritime and port operations around the world and group collaborative functions, including information technology, group strategy and global operations, ship retrofits, newbuilds, research and development, risk advisory, and quality assurance. Additionally, he has oversight of Carnival Asia, with responsibility for coordinating all the brands and related activities in that part of the world.

Barely on the job a few weeks, Buckelew had already gotten things in motion, including the work to create a common IT infrastructure, scrubber testing, and working on the strategic aspects of how to better deploy separate brands in each market that would clearly define and differentiate them from each other.

He said that further efficiencies can be gained from working together on purchasing, and not just for supplies, food and fuel, but for port services and shore excursions. “We need to do this smarter,” he said. “There is a lot of work in progress.”

The individual brands are not reporting to Buckelew, but he has what he described as a dotted line to marine and technical. “We are a service department; we are all in this together; we are all on the same team. I am coordinating policies and procedures and I am ultimately responsible for the safe operation of our vessels. You can call it a matrix organization.”

Having started his career with Sitmar in 1977, he was most recently president and CEO of Princess Cruises, before being named to the newly created role of COO at Carnival.

Buckelew served in the U.S. army in 1969 and 1970 in Vietnam and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Air Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Galantry with Palm, and two Bronze Stars.

So, where does he find the energy to take on his new, big job when many start thinking about retirement when approaching their mid-sixties? “My wife tells me 64 is the new 44,” Buckelew laughed. “I like to build things and take on challenges. I like the opportunity to be able to contribute in a myriad of areas. I am excited and motivated to take this on. I relish the challenge; if we do a good job, the challenges will evaporate.

“As a corporation, we are leaving no stone unturned. I truly believe we are on the road to enormous success.”

>> Also in this section: Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises; Helen Caron, Thomson Cruises; Lisa Bauer, ICE.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2014