Carnival Corp. shuffles the deck of top execs

Howard Frank is leaving his role as chief operating officer and vice chairman; he will become a special advisor to the Carnival Corp. CEO and chairman.
Howard Frank is leaving his role as chief operating officer and vice chairman; he will become a special advisor to the Carnival Corp. CEO and chairman.
Carnival Corp.

Longtime Carnival Corp. right-hand man Howard Frank is stepping down from his role as chief operating officer and vice chairman, the Miami-based cruise company said Monday.

Frank, 72, will act as special advisor to CEO Arnold Donald and Chairman Micky Arison.

“For the last 25 years, Howard and I have worked side by side and I could not have asked for a better business partner,” Arison said in a statement. “I am looking forward to his continued contributions in his new role.”

The announcement came amid news of other changes at the top of some of the company’s North American brands — and four months after Donald stepped into the CEO job. In late June, Arison announced that the CEO and chairman roles were being split, and that he would continue only as chairman, as the company struggled to recover from a series of mishaps that took a toll on customer demand and earnings.

Frank, who joined the company in 1989, will remain chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association.

Cruise veteran Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises, will become the parent company’s chief operations officer. The newly created position is slightly different from the role Frank held, a spokesman said, because the CEO of each brand will report to Donald, not the COO. The new position also includes oversight of information technology. Buckelew, who lives in Los Angeles, will keep a home there and have a residence in South Florida, according to the spokesman.

Filling the position as president at Princess will be Jan Swartz, the line’s executive vice president for sales, marketing and customer service.

Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Seattle-based Holland America Line, will move into an expanded role as CEO of the 41-ship Holland America Group. In addition to Holland America and the luxury Seabourn line, that new group will also include Princess Cruises, which has headquarters in the Los Angeles area.

The moves, which were somewhat anticipated within the industry, are effective Dec. 1.

“It’s big news, but it’s not a shocker,” said Mike Driscoll, editor of the weekly trade publication Cruise Week.

Driscoll said the moves represent a change in competitive strategy for Carnival Corp. and called them “the most visible example to date of Arnold Donald’s thinking as CEO.”

“For years the Carnival Corp. brands have competed fiercely amongst themselves but now the view seems to be compete fiercely with the competition, not the Carnival Corp. brands,” he said in an email.

Wells Fargo analyst Timothy Conder said in a note to investors that the changes represent “the initial steps toward an increased focus by [Donald] to enhance coordination/collaboration among CCL’s brands to further utilize the company’s scale and consumer data for revenue and cost leverage.”

None of the changes announced Monday affect Carnival Cruise Lines, the company’s largest brand. The namesake cruise line has been weathering rough seas since a fire left the Carnival Triumph powerless for days in February.

Miami cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of, said Monday’s changes make sense. Referring to last month’s meeting of Carnival Corp.’s board of directors, he said he’s anticipating more announcements.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what else was decided at that board meeting,” he said. “There’s certainly going to be more changes in the company. This was the opening act. And the main event is coming up.”

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