During last week’s Cruise360 conference, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we had the opportunity to chat with Carnival Cruise Line’s Adolfo Perez, who was honored with Cruise Lines International Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2022.
Perez was presented with the honor at the 2022 CLIA Hall of Fame Cruise Industry Awards, where he was inducted into CLIA’s Hall of Fame by Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy. The honor coincides with Perez marking 40 years with Carnival at the same time the company celebrates its 50th birthday.
He’s humbled by the honor and told Recommend, “I think of people who have been honored in the past like Ted Arison, Micky Arison and Vicki Freed, and to share an induction into this Hall of Fame with them, I think I pale in comparison to people like that. But I will tell you, I feel like I have accomplished a lot in 40 years. I have given everything to the industry, including my arm,” referring to his “Travel Agents Rock” tattoo.
“Probably one of the things I’m most proud of is [what I’ve accomplished in this role]. When I took on this role a few years ago, my job was to change the relationship that Carnival had with the trade; it was a little rocky at best. We changed policies in order to show that we did support them and that we did value them. I’m proud of how quickly that kind of took hold, faster than I would’ve ever thought.” He stresses that he couldn’t have accomplished it without the full support of Carnival’s president Christine Duffy as well as his direct boss Carnival’s CMO Ken Tate, and “my sales leadership team, the BDMs and the people on the phones. Yes, maybe I had a vision and I guided them, but ultimately, they are the ones [who accomplished it]. My role isn’t as important as what they all did.”
Tips for Travel Advisors
And when it comes to travel advisors—Carnival’s largest single distribution channel—Perez says that “now more than ever a travel advisor can add even more value than they did in the past. And I say that because things are different now. Go back to 2019, everybody pretty much knew how the brands operated. There were no protocols, no vaccine requirements, none of these things that have popped up over the last two years.
“Just looking at the cruise industry and forgetting about every other type of travel and country requirements, there’s literally a myriad of protocols and requirements that differ by cruise line, by ports that you visit, by ports that you embark from. I would say the biggest tip for travel advisors is to get up to date on all that information. Maybe you don’t sell every single cruise line, so if you have a core group of cruise lines that you typically sell, really get in there and understand all of those things because for a consumer, that is invaluable and the more value I bring to the equation, the more valuable I am to the consumer and they’ll book with me rather than go direct.”
He also stresses that travel advisors should be taking advantage of Carnival’s “almost free” rates, which will be extended through April. “We’ve had over 6,000 travel advisors take advantage of these extremely low rates. I keep saying take advantage of them now because they are not going to last forever. Not so much because I want you to have a vacation, although you deserve one, I’m sure, but once again, adding to the value of the travel advisor is understanding what it actually feels like to go on a cruise because a lot of people today are unsure. They are asking, ‘I’ve been on a cruise before and I really like it, but do I want to go? Do I have to wear a mask? What about the testing, what’s it going to be like on board, when I get off on a port of call?’ If I’m a travel advisor who has taken advantage of these great rates, the more first-hand knowledge you have, the more you are sharing on social media, again the more value you bring to the equation and that makes you the obvious reason why someone should book through you.”
Mardi Gras is the first ship in Carnival’s Excel-class ships, with Carnival Celebration coming in November of this year and Carnival Jubilee joining in 2023. Powered by liquified gas, these ships, notes Perez, offer a completely different design from Carnival’s former ships. “When you walk on board it feels like a big ship for sure, but she feels like a ship, it doesn’t feel like this big cavernous opening. There are passageways with little venues, little bars, and you have street eats, which are like street truck kind of inspired. The whole way entertainment Is done on the ship is different—we do have a beautiful theater where we do our productions and then we have the atrium. It’s a 3-deck-high glass wall, and when it’s open, it’s spectacular, but it also has LED panels that come down and when that happens it becomes an entertainment space. We have acrobats suspended from the ceiling. So the ship takes advantage of all these spaces in a way we haven’t done in the past, It really gives the opportunity to spread the guests around multiple places on the ship so it never necessarily feels crowded because there’s stuff going on in different parts of the ship all the time. And then there’s the rollercoaster, of course.”
These ships, he points out, “accommodate more types of customers. The experience on board is still going to be a Carnival cruise. It’s still a fun, relaxed, inviting environment; it’s not stuffy, it’s not formal, but it’s high quality. We’ve had people who have been on Seabourn who take their grandkids on a Carnival cruise.”
Noting that the overall experience hasn’t changed, he’s quick to point out that because it’s a larger class, there are more accommodation options, most especially when it comes to suites.
“We have 26 different classes of suites on board Mardi Gras, some with stunning wraparound balconies with an outdoor jacuzzi and with concierge service. We have Loft 19, which is the exclusive outdoor area for suite guests, or you can pay to be in there as well. It’s a much quieter space for daytime. It’s like having a cabana service; it’s a very relaxing space.”
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