Exceeding expectations every time at Carnival Cruise Line

Ugo Savino, Carnival Cruise Line’s Fleet Deployment Manager, explains why successful itinerary planning is an art that requires years of experience to master

Exceeding expectations every time at Carnival Cruise Line
This article was first published in the Itinerary Planning Special Report 2016. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Itinerary planning is a complicated exercise with numerous challenges. Exceeding guest expectations and maximising overall profitability are the ultimate goals guiding our deployment decisions. It is a learning process that requires us to challenge the status quo every day. We monitor the financial performance of our 25 ships constantly, along with our guests’ response to the itinerary portfolio we offer. Finding the optimum balance between these two critical elements is our biggest challenge.

Some of the other challenges we face are the direct consequence of the massive scale of our operations. Every year, Carnival Cruise Line offers more than 1,600 cruises, calling at more than 7,500 ports. The logistical constraints behind each and every one of these calls are infinite. We need to share our plans with the nautical team and the ships’ captain. We need the commercial port operations team to secure the berth reservations as needed, and we have to share our plans with the shore excursions department to give them the necessary time to put together a tour programme in each port. We need the green light from our security team to make sure destinations are safe for our guests and crew members. The list goes on! It is fair to say that itinerary planning is an activity that impacts all areas of our company and requires input from everybody at Carnival.

Our continued success boils down to three things – communication, analysis, and innovation. Our guests are an extraordinary source of precious and actionable information. They can be very vocal and are not shy when it comes to sharing their opinion – a fantastic resource, which we leverage on a regular basis. We read the many comments from our guests about itineraries and destinations and look for ways to improve their experience. Often, we ask our past and prospective guests to participate in ad-hoc surveys and share their insights about everything related with itineraries. For instance, the Mediterranean program we offer this year with Carnival Vista is the direct result of a survey we fielded two years ago while planning the inaugural season of the latest addition to our fleet. Our colleagues ashore and onboard our ships also provide us with invaluable feedback. Before and after our plans are implemented, we encourage everybody to share any idea that can make our itinerary portfolio more successful.

We also engage with port representatives and, together, we work on creating an unrivalled guest experience. Our guests entrust us with their vacations, so we feel the responsibility to do everything we can to consistently deliver fun and memorable vacations and make their Carnival cruise the best vacation of their life.

We monitor the perception of the ports of call around the world with a survey we field to travel agents, past guests, and people interested in cruising. It is a very thorough process that provides us with precious insights that mean our itineraries get better and better. This is how new programmes are introduced to our deployment portfolio – this is how Carnival Journeys was born.

Carnival Journeys is a series of long cruises (nine days and longer) with a unique onboard programme departing from numerous North American ports. These itineraries allow our guest to visit destination usually not available from their preferred homeports. So far our guests have shown a lot of interest in this new programme and the results are very encouraging.

Conducting surveys has also resulted in the launch of Cozumel PLUS. The overwhelming majority of the respondents asked for new reasons to visit Cozumel. Our shore excursion team worked extremely hard to put together an extraordinary programme in a very short time that is already creating incredible memories for all our guests.

There are many more exciting new things coming in the next few months. We’ve introduced new cruises to Mahogany Bay from Tampa with Carnival Paradise. These itineraries represent a completely new product for the Tampa short cruise market and have already been well received. We are offering sailings to Bermuda from many East Coast ports – in fact, we are the only cruise line with such deep reach. In addition to Port Canaveral, Carnival Sunshine will sail from Charleston, Norfolk, and New York. Our guests can take advantage of the many departures of our Carnival Journeys program to explore Carnival style the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Panama Canal. We have enhanced the five-day itineraries from Jacksonville by adding one more port – we are confident our guests will enjoy their cruise onboard of Carnival Elation even more.

We are also very excited about the opportunity to show the latest addition to our fleet, Carnival Vista. After her Mediterranean programme, she will stop in New York to offer two Carnival Journeys voyages and, finally, will move to her new home, Miami. As a result, Carnival Breeze has moved to Galveston and Carnival Magic to Port Canaveral. Thus far, the response has been outstanding.

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