When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of a new flu-like coronavirus named Covid-19 as a global health emergency, cruise companies like Carnival Corporation knew they had to act fast. Within hours of the declaration, they had proactively implemented mandatory health screenings that were more stringent than for any other mode of transportation. Ever since, they have been collaborating with global and national health officials, government agencies and many others to ensure they are able to protect guests and crew as they sail around the world.
Carnival Corporation has been in constant consultation with health authorities and its in-house medical teams, which comprise some of the world’s foremost infectious diseases experts, to ensure guests and crew remain safe, cancelling cruises on the 107 ships in its AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises Australia, P&O Cruises UK, Princess Cruises and Seabourn brands. The company has also offered for governments and healthcare authorities to use select cruise ships from four brands as temporary hospitals for non-Covid-19 patients to relieve the growing pressure on land-based healthcare facilities.
Forming strong partnerships to overcome challenges and achieve common goals is something Carnival Corporation is no stranger to. In September 2019, for example, it worked with cruise companies, guests, employees, non-profit groups and many others to help The Bahamas recover in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the most intense tropical storm to ever hit the islands. In addition to collecting donations to pay for more than 25,000 meals per day through Direct Relief and World Central Kitchen funds, the corporation joined forces with Tropical Shipping to collect an estimated 4.5 million metric tonnes of supplies and deliver them via its ships.
“We have numerous employees and partners in The Bahamas and they’re all an important part of the Carnival Corporation family, so we did everything we could to help,” says Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation. “The extent of the damage was heartbreaking but with the help of various parties, we quickly provided much-needed resources so The Bahamas could start rebuilding. It was inspiring to see the cruise industry coming together with external parties to truly help those in need.”
However, Carnival Corporation’s relief efforts did not stop there. Its ships continued calling to unaffected parts of the islands, and it also helped to get a local hospital and Grand Bahama Shipyard up and running again. In September 2019, it also signed an agreement to build two major cruise port facilities in collaboration with the Government of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
One will be built on the south side of Grand Bahama and will primarily be used by Carnival Cruise Line’s ships. The US$100 million facility will be a “uniquely Bahamian destination” with a beachfront and other yet-to-be-revealed features. In addition, Carnival Corporation will invest US$80 million to build a pier and port facilities on the northern part of the island of Little San Salvador, which will accommodate large ships from Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line.
Both projects are set to start in mid-2020 and construction methods will align with Carnival Corporation’s objectives to protect the local environment, use renewable energy and significantly reduce or eliminate single-use plastics and other items.
The new facilities have been heralded as a harbinger of national prosperity and economic stability, largely because they will boost the local job market. “We’ll employ Bahamians during the construction phase and our facilities will generate multiple entrepreneurial and employment opportunities once they’re open for business,” says Donald. “This will help to support the Bahamian people and economy for many years to come, allowing it to recover and rebuild so that it is stronger than ever.”
Carnival Corporation aims to build similar partnerships with port operators, destination authorities, tourism operators, community leaders and other local businesses and service providers in all 700 ports it sails to worldwide. According to Donald, it’s a crucial part of a key company mantra: happy locals, happy guests.
“If locals don’t want cruise ships visiting their hometown, they won’t be warm and welcoming towards our guests, which could be detrimental for both our revenue and the destination’s economy,” he explains. “We work with partners worldwide to promote the socio-economic benefits of our cruising, such as the fact that every direct job role created by the cruise industry leads to another four or five indirect employment opportunities, usually in ports and destinations. The most powerful and effective way to help dispel any cruise industry myths and address any concerns is for residents to hear all the facts from local leaders they know and trust, rather than from us.”
This approach is particularly effective when it comes to explaining the cruise industry’s environmental impact. Following a US$20 million fine for violating environmental regulations, Carnival Corporation has renewed efforts to collaborate with destination, technology, shipyard and other partners to find ways to significantly lower its environmental impact in 2020 and beyond.
“Excelling in safety and environmental protection and compliance has always been, and will always continue to be, our highest priority,” he stresses. “Global warming and climate change are real threats and, speaking from the heart as a father and grandfather, I’m genuinely invested in doing my best to leave behind a healthy planet for future generations. Along with everyone else at Carnival Corporation and its brands, I’m committed to developing, or investing in, innovative new green technologies that will optimise our operations, decrease our emissions and cut our fuel consumption so that we can eventually become a zero-emissions cruise corporation.”
Although current technology limitations mean that it will be several years before Carnival Corporation can fully achieve this ambitious goal, all nine brands are already well on their way to making it a reality.
“We set 10 environmental sustainability goals and implemented a myriad of new technologies and initiatives to achieve them,” says Donald. “We’ve taken a holistic approach, installing solutions such as smart elevators, LED lighting, energy-efficient hotel machinery and reverse osmosis water systems. Plus, we’ve fine-tuned ship engines, modulate sailing speeds, revised itineraries and much more.”
Carnival Corporation is also an environmental technology trailblazer. It pioneered the use of both cold ironing capabilities for connecting ships to shore power in ports, and advanced air quality systems for significantly reducing sulphur and diesel particulate emissions. Today, almost 40% of the fleet can plug into shore power, while more than 70 ships have advanced air quality systems. In addition, the company expects to have installed scrubbers on over 85 vessels across its brands by 2020.
The corporation also made history when it debuted AIDA Cruises’ AIDAnova, the first cruise ship powered by LNG at port and at sea, in December 2018. A second, Costa Smeralda, entered service with Costa Cruises’ fleet in December 2019, a third will launch as P&O Cruises’ Iona this May and a fourth will enter service as Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras this November. There are seven additional LNG-fuelled ships on order, which will be distributed between the AIDA, Carnival, Costa, Princess and P&O Cruises UK fleets and be delivered by 2025.
“These pioneering technologies helped us to achieve our 2020 emission reduction targets a couple of years ahead of schedule and we’ve lowered our unit fuel consumption by almost 37% since our baseline year ,” comments Donald. “LNG has a much lower carbon footprint than that of other fossil fuels, but we’ll keep tracking the data to confirm whether it truly is the cleanest way to go. In addition, we’ll continue to explore the potential of alternative energy sources, such as fuel cells and hydrogen, as well as the lithium-ion batteries that we’ll begin piloting on AIDAperla in 2020.”
All nine brands have also pledged to significantly reduce or eliminate single-use plastic items that are not used for sanitary or public health-related purposes by the end of 2021. And they will be minimising food waste too.
“Research suggests that one third of the food produced worldwide is wasted and that if everyone were to stop doing that, we’d be able to eliminate around 8% of our total global greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “Carnival Corporation’s brands serve millions of meals to guests every year, so we want to optimise food management to significantly cut waste and reduce our environmental impact.”
To achieve that, Carnival Corporation has become the first in the cruise industry to trial innovative food waste bio-digester technology in galleys onboard 15 of its ships. Operational 24 hours a day, the machines use a combination of microorganisms to naturally break down food particles and turn organic waste into a liquid that can be safely and legally discharged into the ocean. The machines also have a screen filter to capture any small plastics and other non-organic debris that has accidentally mixed with food waste and separate it from the liquid.
“The bio-digesters produce less greenhouse gases than conventional food waste processing systems, thereby reducing our carbon footprint,” says Donald. “We’ve already seen positive results, so we’ll continue to expand their use across our global fleet.”
New ships are also on the horizon for 2020 and beyond, with a total of 16 vessels being delivered by the end of 2025, including four in 2020. Set to debut in Southampton, England, in May, Iona will be P&O Cruises’ first LNG-powered ship and the greenest cruise ship to homeport in the UK. Designed for the British market, the vessel will boast highlights such as a top-deck SkyDome entertainment venue and the first gin distillery at sea. Also set to launch in Southampton this year is Princess Cruises’ fifth Royal-class ship, Enchanted Princess. She will be the second purpose-built MedallionClass ship, offering new venues and personalised experiences activated by the Ocean Medallion device.
In October, Costa will inaugurate Costa Firenze, which has interiors inspired by Florence, Italy, but onboard elements designed specifically for the Chinese market, such as Chinese cuisine and karaoke. November will see Carnival welcoming Mardi Gras, which will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship in North America and offer the first roller coaster at sea and the only at-sea restaurant by famed New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse.
“New ships are always exciting – it’s like welcoming a new child or, more accurately at my age, a new grandchild, which everyone knows is even better!” he quips. “Each one of the four ships will be iconic for its own brand and gives us an opportunity to offer our guests the latest innovations in onboard features and amenities, which will help to inspire more travellers to take a cruise.”
As always, Donald is full of praise for the hundreds of partners who have been involved in empowering Carnival Corporation to take these ships from the drawing board to the sea.
“Cruise ships are essentially mini cosmopolitan cities made up of thousands of different components, but unlike most cities, they have the added complication that they need to sail smoothly and safely between multiple destinations around the world,” says Donald. “We’re fortunate to work with a huge range of competent and experienced architects, engineers, interior designers, outfitters, shipyards, vendors, technology experts and multiple other partners who all provide high-quality services and do their utmost to deliver exceptional ships that will exceed guest expectations. It’s an incredibly complex process but, as you will see with these new ships, we’re able to achieve it with clear communication, coordination and collaboration between all stakeholders.”
A plethora of other partners will play a crucial role in empowering the corporation to consistently exceed the expectations of the guests once the ships are in service too. Donald says: “We’ll work with travel agents to promote them, entertainment and culinary partners to elevate the onboard offering, shore excursion operators to create compelling destination experiences, and suppliers and service providers to ensure our ships remain fully stocked, safe and compliant.”
Donald’s appreciation for his unique position and the people he works with – both inside and outside of Carnival Corporation – is always abundantly clear.
“One of my greatest pleasures is being able to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together and watch as they enjoy discovering what they have in common and how they can celebrate and appreciate their differences,” says Donald. “I feel incredibly privileged to be able to play a part in helping our 150,000 employees from over 145 countries and our nearly 13 million guests from more than 200 countries do that every day.
“I’m honoured to have led Carnival Corporation since 2013 and I remain just as motivated to continue to find new ways to excel in environmental stewardship and create outstanding experiences that surprise both our guests and employees.”
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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