Carnival Cruise Lines: Delivering Its Brand Promise

[With all the news’ emphasis on Oasis of the Seas during the past few weeks, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about the other new ship that was introduced in November, Carnival Dream, and the company behind it.]

When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I am a travel writer who specializes in cruises. The next question inevitably is, “What’s your favorite cruise line?” That’s a hard one to answer. It’s like being asked, “Which of your two children do you love most?” And so I respond in a vague sort of way, because the truth is that all of the cruise lines that I’ve experienced have been my favorites at one time or another. That said, I often surprise people when I mention Carnival Cruise Lines as one of my favorites.

I understand the surprise of those hearing this. Carnival has been around for a long time, more than three decades now, and unfortunately, one of the persistent images of Carnival is of hard-core partying. You know: beer funnels, wet T-shirt contests — all sorts of sin and debauchery. Deserved or not, there it is, the image of Carnival as party-hearty. So I typically find myself offering the rebuttal: “Carnival is not what you think it is.” I explain that Carnival has changed in recent years and that anyone would be surprised at the cruise experience Carnival offers.

In fact, I believe that Carnival Cruise Lines does a better job than any other cruise line in delivering its brand promise. And that brand promise, which has been the same since the maiden voyage in 1972 of the company’s first ship, essentially boils down to this: Sail with us, and you will have fun.

“We have one basic goal, and that is to sell fun at a great value,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill told journalists recently aboard the new Carnival Dream.

Indeed, Carnival’s newest and largest addition to the “Fun Ship” fleet features many “fun” innovations, such as a huge WaterWorks aqua park with the longest water slide at sea.

A couple of years ago, I cruised with my 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter from New York on Carnival Victory. We were traveling not with beer-drinking belly-up-to-the-bar types (that’s the old Carnival) but with people like us — middle America. The thing that struck me was that all of us were having fun. There was no way we could resist: Carnival puts the fun not only in cruising but also in getting away, something we all could use.

On our “Fun Ship” cruise, the daily activity sheet Carnival Capers used the word fun on its cover three times: “Your daily guide to FUN.” “Enjoy your Fun Day at sea!” “On the Fun Ship Carnival Victory.”

Carnival could be accused of overdoing it, but it takes a lot of commitment and a lot of reminders to stay true to your brand.

Open up Capers, and you get a listing of fun and wholesome activities: Name That Tune, The (Not So) Newlywed Show, Ice Carving Demonstrations, Towel Folding, Karaoke Craziness, Totally 80s Dance Party, Air Brush Tattoos and more.

On Pool Deck during the day, adults and kids alike went careening down the giant waterslide. In the dining room, waiters perform magic tricks, dance on tables and make dining fun and festive. On the Promenade Deck late evenings, people were dancing to live music. My daughter crooned Karaoke hits one night.

Back on Carnival Dream a few weeks ago, I overheard a boy, perhaps 8, say to his mother, “I love this ship mommy. You know how much I love it?”

“How much?” she asks.

“So much that I’m going to live on it.”

Perhaps the kid should take a look at ResidenSea’s live-aboard ship The World if he plans to pitch camp at sea for good, but on the day I saw him, the boy had discovered something that he has yet to fully grasp and what many still do not know: A brand promise predicated on fun is certainly a worthwhile pursuit and one that has been appreciated by the millions who have cruised Carnival for nearly four decades.

Join the Conversation

CruiseMates says:

Goof article, Ralph. You summed it up well. I wrote a very similar article once and the prevous Carnival CEO, Bob Dickinsen wrote to me and said “I wish off-line jounalists understood our cruise line the way you do.”

I had said about Carnival, “All the ship’s a stage and all the people its players.” Carnival is an infectiously fun ship experience, and it all starts with the staff, including those crazy waiters in the dining room.

David Molyneaux says:

Ralph, I agree. What I see at Carnival over the years is consistency. I have cruised on at least a dozen Carnival ships, and that Fun brand runs true from ship to ship to ship. The one change I notice is food quality, which has continued to improve while cruise prices have stayed about the same. Carnival’s menu seldom is fancy, but what it serves is as good, often better, than on any other cruise ships in the Carnival price range.

Jim Antista says:

I agree! Carnival delivers where others fail. Their food service is as good or better than that of some of the more “premium” lines. The Steaks, Prime Rib, Lobster, etc are always a hit! But the one thing that a lot of my clients come back raving about is the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake! We are looking forward to seeing the Dream very soon.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *