Donald works diligently to find the best cruises for all passengers, particularly families with children and teenagers. Last year, Donald teamed up with comedian Cedric the Entertainer to market – for the first time — all nine of Carnival Corp’s brands in a major way. Donald and Cedric the Entertainer called for consumers to provide input on four TV commercials, one of which aired during the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Cedric the Entertainer’s involvement underscores one thing Donald knows instinctively: Black folks love to cruise.
“As Carnival’s first Black CEO, I have learned the obvious: Black folks are like everybody else,” Donald said. “There is range of interests, a range of orientation, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer the (luxury) Seabourn experience, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer our Carnival Cruise Lines (more affordable) experience. You have studious African-Americans, extroverts; folks who want to party,” he added. “Carnival is probably more diverse in the traditional sense than many of the other brands. It’s more contemporary marketing. But we have African American guests on all of our brands.”
The diversity of Carnival Cruise Lines is perhaps why Donald agreed to partner with Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage for the fourth straight year. This year, the cruise, which sails from Miami on April 11, has been extended to eight days and Donald said Carnival is offering Joyner its newest and largest ship, the Carnival Breeze, which can accommodate 3,690 passengers.
“The people on the ship have so much energy and lots of positive energy,” Donald said of the Fantastic Voyage. “Our people love working with the Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage and our people love interacting with the guests onboard.”
Donald took over Carnival Corporation in July 2013, when Micky Arison, the son of Carnival Corp.’s founder and the CEO since 1979, stepped aside. At that point, Carnival had experienced some significant setbacks. First, the Concordia, from its Costa Cruises brand, sank off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people in January 2012. Then, in February 2013, an engine-room fire on the Triumph, from its Carnival Cruise Line brand, left the ship without power for five days. Passengers were left stranded without air conditioning, hot food and use of most toilets.
“We started out with the media not being our friends,” Donald recalled, saying it was his job to regain the trust of passengers who were reluctant to cruise with Carnival after the much-publicized incidents. “The media was hard on the industry and hard on us.”
But Donald, who served on Carnival’s board for 12 years, seems to have weathered the storms. In the first full year under Arnold’s leadership, Carnival Corporation saw significant earnings improvement, including a full-year 2014 net profit of $1.5 billion, according to Carnival officials.The company finished its 2014 fiscal year with a strong fourth quarter, exceeding guidance even before factoring in the benefits of lower fuels and leading to 2014 full year cash from operations of nearly $3.5 billion.