Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world, is responsible for a fleet of over 90 ships and a portfolio of nine leading cruise line brands. In 2019, those ships sailed to over 700 ports around the world, with almost 13 million guests enjoying the experience of a cruise vacation.
With so many ships and so many wonderful destinations available, choosing where to go next is a far from an easy task. Supporting Carnival Corporation’s brands in managing this complexity is its global port and destination development team. Michel Nestour, vice president of global ports and destinations for the EuroMed region at Carnival Corporation, and managing director of Barcelona Cruise Terminal and Santa Cruz Terminal, explains the role of the team within the cruise company.
“What we do is manage the port and destination strategic needs of Carnival Corporation and its brands, in addition to seeking new opportunities,” he says. “When we identify a strategic need or new opportunity, we discuss it internally with our cruise line brands. My job is to enable the development and execution of such opportunities across Europe and the Middle East. This supports the development of new destinations and itinerary options to create exciting and compelling cruises for our guests.”
Carnival Corporation’s involvement in ports and destinations is founded on a belief that investing and partnering with destinations is crucial to the long-term success and popularity of its cruise business.
“We are not in the port business for the sake of it, nor as a collector of cruise ports because we only see limited synergy and value in such an approach,” says Nestour. “There is mutual benefit for a destination to partner with us and for our cruise line brands to bring cruise guests to its ports, cities or islands. What we seek with our investments is berthing rights to give us long-term confidence that our cruise ships can deploy from that specific port, as well as to ensure that facilities are kept up to date for our newest ships.”
Destinations are exciting and important parts of any cruise, and many guests heavily factor the opportunity to explore new places into their choice of voyage to create memories of a lifetime. Nestour is excited by how receptive cruise guests are to these new experiences, which gives him a sense of optimism for the long-term future of the industry.
“There is still so much to discover in the world,” he says. “Hearing about people who want to promote their destinations or who want to start their cruise journey and want to learn about our business is always very exciting. It is also rewarding to create something new, such as the latest project we worked on with Dubai Harbour. Following the development work, the port is a spectacular place to start or end a cruise experience for our guests.”
Dubai is just one example of the many projects in which Nestour has been involved on behalf of Carnival Corporation, and he takes pride in the global achievements of its port and destination team.
“All the port and destination investments that we have made are an immense source of satisfaction,” he says. “Most of these projects have their own journey and take a significant amount of time, effort and investment to develop, build and then operate. In addition, these projects require extensive teamwork encompassing many stakeholders. In short, we are very proud of all of our projects and port and destination partners.”
With such a range of options, judging which homeport is right for a particular ship is a complex, yet crucial, decision to make when creating an itinerary. According to Nestour, the influence of travel links to bring the guests to the homeport play an important part in making that decision once the port nautical and infrastructure considerations have been taken into account. For transit ports, the attractions available at the destination also matter to guests.
“As an example, consider a West Mediterranean itinerary for Spain, France and Italy,” he explains. “AIDA Cruises, our German brand, could homeport in Palma de Mallorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands, since its airport has excellent flight connections with Germany and the islands are well-loved by its guests. However, the port would not work for our American guests and brands due to the lack of air connectivity, but Barcelona in Spain or Civitavecchia in Italy would. As a result, one cruise line may choose a particular homeport depending on its target market, but the same homeport may not work for another cruise line.”
The cruise travel resumption since the beginning of summer 2021 is giving the industry a great platform for 2022 and beyond, but the port authorities and tourist boards always have a key role to play in supporting cruise brands.
“One of the most effective approaches helping our brands to create consumer demand that we have found is when ports, governments and tourism boards focus on cruise lines as their customers, while we focus on our guests,” says Nestour. “As an industry, we see strong ongoing demand from our guests for cruise vacations, so it works very well when ports, governments and tourist boards that want to keep or attract cruise lines focus on what makes them unique and why they are a popular fit for our itineraries.”
Nestour offers the following advice to those ports who are looking to win more cruise business from Carnival Corporation and other companies.
“If you have a workable port from a nautical and infrastructure point of view, tell us why you are unique and should be on one of our itineraries,” he says. “You should understand and focus on your customers, the cruise lines, and be resilient. Cruise lines are very open to ideas and collaboration.”
Crucial to all of Carnival Corporation’s efforts in port development, itinerary planning and the rest of its business, are the workers and partners of the cruise industry. Nestour points out that they are the only reason that any of the company’s cruises are possible, wherever they are in the world.
“What has amazed me since I started working in this industry is the diligence of its people,” he says. “We all know the cruise industry aims to create great memories for our guests but sometimes we also have an opportunity to create great memories for those who work in the business. A cruise would not happen without the crew and shoreside teams, the travel agents, the port authorities, city mayors and representatives, the taxi and bus drivers, the shore excursion businesses and their guides, the many supply chain partners critical to our operation – the list goes on and on.”
Carnival Corporation found a way to acknowledge the important role people play in the cruise industry when building its second terminal at the Port of Barcelona.
“We assembled a collection of photos from all of our cruise line brands, as well as the people who helped us build the cruise terminal, and we created a mural of the Barcelona skyline as a display for our guests to enjoy while getting ready to embark with excitement for their cruise vacation,” says Nestour. “I was very proud that we were able to acknowledge many of the people involved directly and indirectly in our operation.”
This article was first published in the 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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