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Carnival’s Bob Dickinson

Bob Dickinson joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 1973. Since that time, he has been responsible for all sales and marketing activities. In May, 1993, he was promoted from senior vice president of sales and marketing to president. In that position, he oversees all operations of Carnival Cruise Lines. He also serves on the board of directors of parent company, Carnival Corporation.

Dickinson is a former chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trustee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the boards of United Way of Dade County, Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida, and The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. A fellow of the Institute of Travel Agents, Dickinson is also immediate past chairman of the Travel Industry Association, former chairman of the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority, and Miami's Academy of Tourism. He is also a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) and a member of ASTA, SITE, and the Association of Travel Marketing Executives.

Dickinson was named 1988 Travel Person of the Year by readers of Travel Trade magazine and his marketing honors include the ATME Atlas Award and the TIA Hall of Leaders designation. He was also named one of the 100 Best Marketers in the Nation by Advertising Age Magazine.

His hobbies include wine appreciate and fine dining. He is a member of numerous wine organizations, including: Les Amis Du Vin, the International Wine & Food Society, the Commanderie de Bordeaux, and the Confrerie de la Chaine de Rotisseurs. He and his wife, Jodi, reside in Miami and have four children.

IA: What is the overall direction of Carnival Cruise Lines right now and in the coming years?

Dickinson: Since the 1980s, Carnival has been very aggressive in building new cruise ships, which has enabled us to stay at the forefront of the industry in terms of expanding and modernizing our fleet. Currently, Carnival operates 12 ships and we have four more on the way.

Our on-going shipbuilding program reflects our longstanding confidence in the growth potential of cruising. Cruising is still only capturing 2% of the overall vacation market. Orlando captures 40 million people a year and Las Vegas more than 20 million. The cruise industry only carried five million folks last year. We're nowhere close to our potential and one way to attract a broader market is through state-of-the-art ships whose programs and amenities tap the trends and preferences of today's vacationing public.

A larger fleet also enables us to broaden the scope of our itinerary offerings. We're constantly growing and improving by increasing capacity on existing routes or launching new programs. In 1998 alone, we'll have introduced two new ships. The Elation entered service in April as the largest and first brand new ship to operate year-round from Los Angeles to Mexico. In November, we'll launch the world's first smoke-free cruise ship, the Paradise.

We've also started one-of-a-kind four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises from Tampa on the Tropicale and we'll introduce expanded seven-day programs from Tampa and New Orleans in December.

IA: How has the image of Carnival Cruise Line evolved over the years and how do you continue to improve/change the product?

Dickinson: Carnival Cruise Lines is lights years away from where we were when we first launched back in 1972. Yet, there still remains some misconceptions in the marketplace about who we cater to. Our demographics are very broad-based. Only 30% of our guests are under age 35; 40% are between 35 and 55; and 30% are over 55. Our median age falls around the mid-40s.

We attract families, newlyweds, seniors, couples, empty-nesters, and virtually anyone seeking fun in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. We've definitely got the market on fun, which is what people really want from a vacation. Folks don't want to feel intimidated, worrying about whether their wardrobe is adequate or which fork to use first in the dining room. They want unpretentiousness and, above all, to have fun. This is precisely why Orlando and Las Vegas are the leading tourist draws in this country.

We have also placed tremendous emphasis on evolving the Carnival product. The primary key to our ascent to becoming the most popular and profitable cruise line in the world has been a constant focus on giving vacation consumers what they want. Long ago, we took an approach of positioning ourselves as being in the vacation business--not just the cruise business.

As a result of this strategy, cruising has evolved from an old folks vacation to the seagoing resort experience of today--an evolution led by Carnival Cruise Lines. Today's Carnival entails a commitment to offering our guests the widest range of choices to satisfy changing preferences.

For example, we were the first cruise line to introduce lavish Las Vegas-style shows, the first to build ships with larger staterooms and extensive spa facilities. and the first mainstream cruise line to introduce spa cuisine. We also led the way with alternative dining, offering 24-hour pizzerias free of charge on every ship, along with casual bistro-style dinner service as an option each evening.

IA: Tell us about Carnival's one-of-a-kind Vacation Guarantee.

Dickinson: Because of our focus on listening to our guests and providing a vacation product accordingly, we have complete confidence in our ability to deliver a satisfying vacation experience. Perhaps we're unique in that position, as we're the only cruise line in the business offering a vacation guarantee.

When we introduced Carnival Vacation Guarantee two years ago, many people thought we would lose our shirts giving refunds. We believed differently and history has proven us correct. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Carnival's guests have invoked the guarantee, ending their cruise in the first port of call and receiving a pro-rated refund as provided by the program. The Guarantee is a positive inducement to the first-time cruiser, giving him or her a psychological safety net!

IA: Tell us about the new smoke-free ship, Paradise, and any specific marketing plans for it.

Dickinson: Most of the North American population opposes smoking and we've found that the majority of our guests do as well. Therefore, the decision was made to launch a completely smoke-free cruise ship. The Paradise enters service this November and will operate year-round from Miami to the Caribbean. Of course, we'll have 12 other Carnival ships on which smoking will continue to be permitted, with the exception of the dining rooms and show lounges.

IA: How does Carnival view its role in the interline community?

Dickinson: We love to be accessible to interliners. They are typically trendsetters in the public eye. As they cruise with us (having the time of their lives), their resulting positive word of mouth endorsement of Carnival and cruising is invaluable.

IA: Any personal comments you’d like to share with interliners?

Dickinson: I've been working with Carnival for more than 26 years--having the time of my life. Afterall, we're in the happiness business!