How Carnival Corporation is capitalising on the power of its people

Josh Weinstein explains to Rebecca Gibson why supporting employees, advancing sustainability initiatives and finding innovative ways to enhance the guest experience are his key priorities for Carnival Corporation

How Carnival Corporation is capitalising on the power of its people

Carnival Corporation

For some a career at sea is a life-long dream. However, Josh Weinstein, president and CEO of the world’s biggest cruise company Carnival Corporation, stumbled into the industry by chance.

“I was working as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer but not particularly enjoying it, and one day I happened to see a classified advert for a corporate attorney position at Carnival Corporation in the newspaper,” he says. “Frankly, I knew absolutely nothing about the company – or even the cruise industry – but I did have the broader legal expertise the leadership team was looking for, so my wife cajoled me into submitting my resume. The next day, I got a call asking me to attend an interview immediately as the company was on the verge of making an offer to someone else. I ran out of my office in a panic, rang my brother-in-law (who is a stockbroker) and asked him to tell me anything and everything about Carnival Corporation!”

Fortunately, for Weinstein, he impressed his interviewers and was quickly offered the job. “It was a steep learning curve, but I knew I’d made the right decision straightaway because I loved the people, the work I was doing and the company’s values,” says Weinstein. “About six months into the job, I was invited on my first cruise and met some of our guests for the first time, which was a lightbulb moment for me. It suddenly struck me that the goal of Carnival Corporation is to make guests happy, and that every employee, no matter what their role, plays a pivotal part in making that happen.

“I realised that everything I did in my administrative role would have an impact somewhere else in the business and ultimately affect its ability to deliver amazing experiences for guests. This gave me an incredible sense of purpose and satisfaction.”

This strong sense of purpose is what is still keeping Weinstein at Carnival Corporation more than 20 years later.

After spending five years in the corporate legal department, he was appointed as the corporation’s treasurer and in 2017, he moved to the UK to become president of Carnival UK, the operating company of both the P&O Cruises (UK) and Cunard brands. In 2020, he became the corporation’s chief operations officer, overseeing global maritime, ports and destinations, sourcing, IT and auditing operations for its nine cruise brands. During this time, Weinstein also played a critical role in planning both the company’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its successful restart after travel restrictions were eventually lifted. His performance led to his promotion to president and CEO of Carnival Corporation when his predecessor, Arnold Donald, retired in August 2022.

“The corporation took a risk hiring me when I knew absolutely nothing about the industry and every transition has been a big one, but the leadership team has been patient and supportive throughout my career, guiding me to where I am today,” says Weinstein. “I’m very grateful for the support and I’m committed to using the knowledge, skills and experience I’ve developed to help drive our brands towards greater success in my role as president and CEO.”

Now that he is at the helm of the corporation, Weinstein aims to provide similar motivation and guidance to the more than 160,000 shipboard and shoreside employees working for its nine cruise brands, including AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises (UK), P&O Cruises (Australia), Princess Cruises and Seabourn.

“People are the power behind our brands,” he says. “We have over 90 amazing ships and we sail to some of the most impressive destinations around the world, but none of that would be possible without the hard work and dedication of our employees. This includes everyone from the crew members interacting with guests on our ships, to the engineers keeping the vessels running smoothly, the teams planning our itineraries and shore excursions, the experts managing our sustainability initiatives, those looking after administration, and the executive teams leading the brands.” 

One of Weinstein’s biggest priorities is to ensure that Carnival Corporation has an open, collaborative and inclusive working environment where people are given the tools, resources, knowledge, training and support they need to grow and thrive.

“We want to offer every employee a realistic route for career progression, showing them how they can develop personally and professionally, whilst also making a real difference to the success of our business and the happiness of our guests,” he explains.

As part of this, Carnival Corporation wants to ensure that every employee has a voice within the organisation.

“Historically, the maritime industry has been very hierarchical, particularly onboard the ships where the people at the top gave the orders and those lower down the ranks were expected to do whatever they were told without question in order to keep their jobs,” says Weinstein. “Fortunately, attitudes have significantly changed and today we recognise that every employee is equally vital to our success, regardless of their role onboard our ships or within our wider business. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard, so it’s crucial that we’re an open and inclusive organisation where everyone can comfortably and confidently raise concerns or share their ideas.

“Our brand leaders are all very passionate about going onboard the ships and talking with as many crew members as possible because they’re right on the front line and can share some of the most valuable insights. They know what’s top of mind for our guests, and they can tell us which of our processes are working well and what operational challenges they’re facing. And they often have good ideas that may help us to resolve these issues too.”

Providing a safe environment and working conditions for all employees is another corporate priority.

“The past few years have been tough for everyone, and the pandemic has been instrumental in reminding us how important it is to take good care of our employees’ physical and mental health,” says Weinstein. “We’ve always prioritised their physical health and safety but now we’re investing much more heavily in taking a holistic approach that enables us to proactively protect and improve their mental well-being too. For example, we’ve created multiple new channels to enable individuals to openly communicate their needs or concerns with their direct manager, the human resources team or others in the business who might be able to help them. Plus, we’ve introduced a service to enable them to speak confidentially with qualified healthcare professionals too.”

These services are particularly important for crew members who often spend prolonged periods of time living and working on ships. “This can be both lonely and challenging at times, so we’ve expanded broadband capacity onboard our ships to make it much easier for crew members to stay connected with loved ones back home,” says Weinstein. 

Another of Weinstein’s responsibilities has been to welcome multiple ships to the global fleet.

In the 2022 financial year (from December 2021 to November 2022), Carnival Corporation took delivery of new flagships for five of its brands – AIDA Cruises’ AIDAcosma, Costa Cruises’ Costa Toscana, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Celebration, Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess and its first luxury expedition ship, Seabourn Venture. P&O Cruises’ Arvia followed at the start of the 2023 financial year and will soon be followed by Seabourn’s second expedition, Seabourn Pursuit. And a further two ships – Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Jubilee and Cunard’s Queen Anne – will begin sailing in late 2023 and early 2024, respectively. According to Weinstein, each vessel offers a platform for innovation.

“Whenever we build a new ship, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate our existing product and identify opportunities to further elevate the guest experience,” he says. “Often, this will involve brands reimagining signature venues, updating colour palettes, making guest accommodation more luxurious, or upgrading the dining, entertainment and other venues.”

Arvia, for example, is the biggest cruise ship to ever be built for both P&O Cruises and the UK market, which has enabled the brand to introduce multiple new indoor and outdoor spaces. Three of the most notable new innovations include the brand’s first high ropes course; an immersive, multimedia escape room; and SkyDome, a two-level pool and entertainment area on the top deck, which is covered by a retractable glass roof.

“Arvia has a similar design aesthetic and general layout to sister ship Iona [which debuted in 2021] but has a staggering number of dining venues, bars and entertainment spaces in comparison,” says Weinstein. “These venues enable P&O Cruises to offer guests new experiences, as well as a lot more choice when it comes to onboard activities. Plus, the additional outdoor spaces help them to make the most of the warm, sunny weather during the ship’s Caribbean and Mediterranean sailings.”

Several of these new ships are also helping Carnival Corporation move closer to achieving its environmental sustainability goals. AIDAcosma, Arvia, Carnival Celebration and Costa Toscana all run on LNG fuel.

“We took a leap of faith with LNG back in 2012 when we decided to invest in it long before any of the infrastructure had been built, and in 2018, we debuted the world’s first ship that could be fully powered by LNG fuel both at sea and in port,” says Weinstein. “Today we have eight LNG-fuelled vessels operating across several brands and will have a total of 11 by the end of 2025, representing nearly 20 per cent of our total capacity.”

LNG-powered vessels are part of Carnival Corporation’s extensive strategy to help it achieve the new sustainability goals it set in late 2021. By 2030, the company aims to reduce carbon intensity by 20 per cent (relative to a 2019 baseline), halve absolute particulate matter air emissions by 50 per cent (compared to a 2015 baseline), equip 60 per cent of its fleet with shore power connections, halve food waste, install advanced wastewater treatment systems on more than 75 per cent of vessels. It has even loftier aspirations for 2050: send all waste to waste-to-energy facilities, extend shore power capabilities to the full fleet, achieve net carbon neutral ship operations, and build zero-emissions vessels.

“We’d already made such good progress with the previous targets that we increased them all to keep challenging ourselves to do better,” says Weinstein. “To date, the industry doesn’t have a foolproof solution for reaching net-zero carbon emissions and I don’t think there ever will be a one-size-fits-all solution that we can roll out to every ship in the cruise industry. We’ll most likely achieve decarbonisation by using a multitude of different technologies in tandem with each other.”

For example, AIDA Cruises is trialling fuel cells powered by hydrogen derived from methanol on AIDAnova, a lithium-ion battery power system on AIDAperla, and the world’s largest battery storage system on AIDAprima. Meanwhile, Costa Cruises is testing biofuels and working with methanol producer Proman to pave the way for both newbuilds and existing ships to operate on sustainable methanol. Carnival Corporation has also invested in devices like food biodigesters to enable it to further eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. There are 600 operating on ships across the fleet, using microorganisms to naturally break down the waste food particles, forming a clear, environmentally safe effluent.

"As far as I’m aware, we’re the only cruise company to have invested in food biodigesters but they’re really helping us to cut food waste in line with our aims,” says Weinstein. “The great thing about having more than 90 ships and nine brands is that we have plenty of capacity to experiment by piloting different technologies. If any solutions prove particularly effective, we can look to roll them out to all our brands and vessels.

“I’m very proud that we’ve continued to measurably reduce our impact on the environment and continue investing in new technologies, despite the turbulent times the industry has faced in the last three years.”

Carnival Corporation has also spent the last three years analysing and evaluating each brand to identify how it can optimise everything from ships to processes to ensure that they are all delivering the best possible guest experience and achieving good operational, environmental and financial performance. As part of this process, the corporation has retired or sold 26 vessels from its fleet.

“We were planning to retire these vessels anyway within the next few years as they were older and less efficient, so we decided to accelerate that timeline,” says Weinstein. “During this time, though, we’ve also taken delivery of larger and more efficient ships, which will result in nearly a quarter of our fleet consisting of new capacity. The fleet transformation results in an eight-percentage point increase in balcony cabins, along with a tremendous rise in available real estate onboard our vessels. This will enable brands to deliver more differentiated onboard experiences and generate associated revenues contributing to durable revenue growth going forward.”

Now that all of Carnival Corporation’s ships are back in service and both travel restrictions and Covid-related protocols have been relaxed, booking volumes have strengthened and the booking curve has measurably lengthened across the board.

“This bodes well for 2023 as more markets open for cruise travel, protocols continue to relax, our ‘closer to home’ itineraries play out, and our brands continue to hone all aspects of their revenue-generating activities,” says Weinstein. “We’ve come a long way in an incredibly short amount of time, successfully restarting the world’s biggest cruise business by bringing all our ships back into service thanks to the tireless efforts and dedication of our employees.

“This year, we’ll concentrate on filling our ships, enhancing the guest experience, optimising our vessels, getting back to strong profitability, and making incremental steps towards achieving our environmental and sustainability goals. Most importantly, we’ll also be focusing on supporting our employees and making our organisation an even more diverse, equitable, inclusive and enjoyable place to work.”

Buoyed by the success of Carnival Corporation’s restart, Weinstein is confident that both his company and the rest of the global cruise industry are set for a successful future.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for travel and cruises offer tremendous value for money,” he says. “If you compare the cost of cruising with one of Carnival Corporation’s brands with the price you’d pay for an equivalent land-based holiday, you’ll find that we can be anywhere from 25 per cent to 50 per cent cheaper. There’s also nothing quite like waking up to a view of the ocean and exploring a new destination every day. Plus, there’s the added perk of only having to unpack once.”

Weinstein is a man who practices what he preaches. Since joining Carnival Corporation, he has become a cruise convert and now personally advocates it as the ideal holiday for any traveller.

“My wife and I have probably been on more than 20 cruises now and we’ve visited some remarkable bucket-list destinations that are best seen from the water, such as Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and the Norwegian fjords,” he says. “In recent years, we’ve often cruised with our children, my parents and my sisters and their families, and we’ve created some amazing memories together.”

One such memory is now “crystallised in family lore”, says Weinstein, recalling the day he and his wife let their oldest two girls go to the children’s club by themselves for the first time.

"We’d always done everything together during family holidays, but the club seemed like fun, so we decided to let the girls try it for 30 minutes,” he says. “We nervously watched as they walked in together holding hands and spent the next half an hour fretting about them, but we needn’t have worried – they were having an amazing time. In fact, when my wife went to collect them, one of our girls looked at her and very deliberately turned around to carry on playing with the toys! We tried to convince her it was time to leave but she was adamant that she would much rather stay there than come with us as she was having so much fun!”

For Weinstein, this memory encapsulates what makes a cruise the top holiday of choice for many guests.

“No matter what their age or interests, every guest can find something they like when they’re sailing onboard one of the amazing cruise ships operated by our brands,” he says. “Cruises are an ideal option for everyone, but they’re particularly well suited to groups of friends and multigenerational families because you can switch between doing things together and splitting up and doing your own thing. We look forward to welcoming guests wanting to make their own amazing memories this year.”

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.


Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
15 March 2023