When I first entered the travel business in the late 70’s the modern cruise era was just beginning to take shape. During this time there were quite a few people involved, but two cruise executives stood head and shoulders among the rest with vision and a deep understanding of the business. These two innovators were Richard Revenes of Royal Cruise Line and Bob Dickinson of Carnival Cruise Line.
I remember attending a travel agent seminar put on by Royal Cruise Line and was lucky to listen to Richard Revenes speak for almost three hours. He was a great innovator who came up with the concept of providing “hosts” for widows and single ladies to dance and dine with. He was a deep advocate for the one week cruise to attract a wider audience of travelers. Reveness was also the cruise industry’s preeminent motivational speaker who could make an army climb walls. He spoke about the cruise industry in general, freely gave his opinion and illustrated how we travel agents could partner with his company to generate cruise sales. He was such a motivator and advocate for the cruise industry! I remember leaving that seminar thinking I was “gonna be rich” selling a cruise to every client I could.
Bob Dickinson is the other innovative cruise executive who I view responsible for the modern cruise industry. Bob was the V.P. of Sales and Marketing for Carnival Cruise Line from its first days. Under Dickinson, Carnival brought cruising to the masses with their 3-day and 4-day party cruises and Las Vegas style onboard entertainment. While a great visionary and innovator, the thing Bob understood most was the relationship with his channel distribution system of travel agent partners to motivate travelers to become cruisers. Like Reveness, Bob Dickinson could eloquently motivate travel agents to focus on selling cruises. In fact during the 1980’s and 1990’s Dickinson popularized the predominant business plan of leisure travel agents to focus almost exclusively on selling cruises. In fact, many in the travel agent leadership thought it was just stupid to promote or advertise anything other than cruises. This mentality of travel agents focusing their entire business on selling cruises was the impact of a master motivator and visionary like Bob Dickinson.
However, fast forward to today and you will find a much different picture. Make no mistake about it. Carnival Cruise is in trouble. It is painfully obvious that the new executives in charge have cut corners too far to increase profits. Nowhere has this cost cutting been more apparent than ship operations with the Carnival Triumph engine room fire mishap after the Carnival Legend power mishap following the tragic wreck of the Costa Concordia. On top of all the negative press these tragedies and mishaps garnered, consider how the new executives also alienated their channel distribution system to a point most refuse to sell their cruise product. Yes, folks there is trouble right here in Carnival City!
Mickey Arison made a key rebound this week in bringing back famed cruise executive Bob Dickinson for a consulting role to Carnival Cruise Corporation. Bob has his work cut out for him, but lucky for Arison that Dickinson, 69, is still available to bail this company out. It will be interesting to see how long Gerry Cahill, CEO and Lynn Torrent, V.P. Sales & Marketing last. My bet is not long.