Cruise Experience: ‘Fun Is Who We Are’

EA Sports Bar on Carnival Cruise Lines“Is it fun? Will it appeal to our guests?” asked Lania Rittenhouse, vice president of product development at Carnival Cruise Lines. That is the first criteria when considering new food venues, bars or entertainment.

“The second criteria,” she said, “is whether it represents good value to our customers. They tend to be value conscious and are often families on budgets.”

Rolling out Fun Ship 2.0, Rittenhouse said that in the big picture her focus is on food and beverage and entertainment. “Guest comments have helped inspire new concepts and ideas that we test in focus groups.

“We tend to have outspoken guests,” she continued. “They are spirited. They are not shy and reserved, and love to interact. They also told us they wanted an Italian restaurant, so we created Cucina del Capitano. They told us they wanted a pub onboard, so we came up with the RedFrog Pub, even our own private label beer. From there, we extrapolated and branched out to the BlueIguana Cantina; they have their own personalities and characters.”

Rittenhouse explained that guests want a special experience – they want the venues to be on a human scale and tell a story. Thus, Carnival created characters and personalities it infused into the brands. In fact, the cruise line has created several new brands.

“We created the brands in-house, we started with the concept, the logo and the character – what it should look and sound like.”

The creative process is not a slam dunk, however, according to Rittenhouse, but requires a team effort by different departments, including the cooperation of the shipboard operating teams, which after all will be responsible for the execution. “We need to make sure they have the bar or galley equipment they need,” she added.

As for Guy’s Burger Joint, created with restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Guy Fieri, much of the planning went into designing the physical layout to be able to handle the expected onslaught of passengers. With the goal of serving the best burgers at sea – free – Rittenhouse and her team were concerned there could be lines, but, she said, it has turned out to be a good experience, and with no lines.

The fun starts early on Carnival ships with the Punchliner Comedy Brunch (by George Lopez), which Rittenhouse said has gotten rave review after its April launch.

“Comedy is core to our brand,” she added. “Fun is who we are.”

Carnival is reinventing itself, introducing new food, bar and entertainment concepts on its new ship, the Breeze, which entered service in May, and is spending $500 million rolling its Fun Ship 2.0 features back throughout 18 of its ships by 2015.

Meanwhile, the Carnival Destiny is undergoing a $155 million rebuild at Fincantieri and will emerge as the Sunshine in April 2013 – including all of the new Fun Ship 2.0 features, as well as other innovations unique to the ship.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2012

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