"When someone says I have no cruise experience, I guess I could be funny and just say: I've cruised a lot," Donald says. "The reality is, business is business."
Donald now pitches cruises as a hassle-free, affordable vacation. Guests only unpack once. Entertainment and meals are included.
"We are actually, for a lot of people, more cost effective than visiting your relatives—and we're probably more fun," he says.
That affordability hurts the bottom line. Donald wants passengers to spend $20 more a day between tickets and onboard purchases—maybe a better quality alcohol, a fancy dinner or an extra shore excursion. That would net Carnival an additional $1.5 billion a year.
Carnival could use the cash. It earned $1.08 billion last fiscal year, its lowest annual profit since 2002.
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That's only half the challenge.
Donald has shuffled executives, trying to force the company's 10 brands to work closer together. It's tricky. Each line—Holland America, Princess, Cunard and Seaborn, to name a few—prospers on its unique personality. The Cunard experience, for example, is very different than Carnival.
"The brands are king," Donald says. "People don't sail on a corporation."
But Carnival also needs to capitalize on its massive size. That means negotiating—for the first time—deals with one set of vendors for food, cleaning supplies and towels. A simple concept, but until Donald took over the 10 brand heads had never even met together.
Donald, 59, grew up in New Orleans during segregation, the youngest of five children.