Carnival CEO: Our goal is to exceed expectations

In his five months running the world’s largest cruise ship company, Arnold Donald has done a lot of listening.

Since he was named president and CEO of Doral-based Carnival Corp. in July, Donald said he has heard from travel agents, employees and especially guests. The longtime Carnival Corp. director was chosen for the top job by Chairman and former CEO Micky Arison when he stepped down as executive this summer.

“After five months of listening and observing, I’m building on the hard work of Micky and our 120,000 employees with a certain determination to bring the experience of cruising to tens of millions of people who have not tried it,” Donald told about 350 people gathered at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce trustee luncheon.

Donald alluded to “rough waters” the industry has sailed but made little specific mention of the company’s difficulties over the past couple of years, including the fatal shipwreck of the Costa Concordia and disabling fire on the Carnival Triumph. But he said the company is working to improve several aspects, including operational excellence, relationships with travel agents and the guest experience.

In a pitch Donald jokingly admitted was “shameless self promotion,” he highlighted recent innovations of the company’s cruise brands, including B.B. King’s Blues Club on Holland America Line, Monday Night Football games and tailgate parties on Princess Cruises ships and new dining concepts on Carnival Cruise Lines.

“We are trying very hard to better understand our guests so we can better exceed their expectations,” he said.

Donald, who has split his time between Miami, his home in St. Louis and travel to other Carnival offices, also announced that he was about to become a South Florida homeowner. He will still keep the home in Missouri and spend time there.

“My wife and I are closing on a condo — at the peak of the condo market — in South Beach in a few weeks,” he told the group. “Hopefully, I can keep the job long enough to catch the next up wave.”

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