There are a lot of benefits to working with the largest cruise line in the world, especially for families.
As of May 2023, Carnival Cruise Line operates a fleet of 25 ships, with another in the works, across 15 different home ports spread across the globe. According to Senior Director of Sales Alicia Steuart, “We have a ship positioned across the United State that’s within a five-hour drive of 50% of consumers in the U.S.”
As cruises continue to become more accessible, Steuart says they’re seeing more and more first-time cruisers alongside their repeat loyalists. It also helps that Carnival offers tons of free programming for families. They have Camp Ocean for kids 2 to 11, Circle C for the 12 to 14 set, and Club 02 for teens 15 to 17. Arts, crafts, dancing, games, marine life, outdoor movies and more—they have it all, not to mention babysitting services.
We took some time to talk to Steuart about what makes Carnival so great for families, and why everyone should try a cruise at least once.
To start, what makes Carnival special, in your opinion?
We are predominantly a family cruise line. That’s really our specialty, so to speak, and we have really grown into it in the 25 years that I’ve been here. We are in what we call the contemporary cruise market, so we have larger ships that make it very conducive for families, because we offer so many choices and variety of entertainment of activities of dining programs, whether it’s casual to specialty dining to five star intimate dining experiences. So, it really plays out nicely for families when they’re traveling with us that they have so many choices, and of course, that their kiddos are taken care of, that’s such a big deal to us. We have great family programs, meaning activities to bring the families together, but then also things to entertain the children while the parents can go and enjoy some time that they can spend together as a couple as well.
What other advantages come with a contemporary line like this?
We do offer tremendous value. I think when you look at families and what they’re looking at all-in on their family vacation, what we want to create is memorable experiences and time together and do it in a great value. Being the largest in the cruise industry, we’re able to pass on really nice pricing to families that give them a tremendous value, that really have some of the best experiences that they can enjoy. And I think that it works very nicely for families on board our ships, because we’re less formal. We definitely have a very friendly, inviting atmosphere, and when you get on board, I think that’s what makes it so unique. The crew is exceptionally friendly and interactive and our guests on board are very social. And so people really do walk away with a unique experience that they don’t necessarily find on land. And I think that’s something very special that we’re able to give.
And how would you say you’re different from other options?
If you’re looking in the more premium market, the luxury side of cruises, it’s a wonderful experience by all means, but for kids, especially younger kids, they’re gonna get a little bored. There’s just not as many choices of activities and entertainment for their age group. And so the parents may love it, but then they’re looking for something for the kids to do, and so the parents are constantly trying to entertain them. Our ships are set up to really offer something for all ages, and it makes it easier for families to go and truly enjoy and relax, because they all have choices of things that they can do that are of interest to them, but then come back together as a family.
Is Carnival doing anything new and exciting that you want people to know about?
We’ve got a lot going on, always something, but our newest announcement is our brand new private island in the Bahamas that we will be opening up in 2025, which is Celebration Key, which will be fantastic. But on top of that, there’s our new class of ships, our “Excel class,” which we offer in different home ports across the country, out of Port Canaveral, out of Miami, and in December, soon to be sailing out of Galveston, Texas. And these are going to be of our newest ships that offer that many more choices of accommodations, more suites than ever before for families looking at that. More dining options than ever before, and even a roller coaster at sea. So, something very unique that the whole family can enjoy!
The cruise industry was hit hard by the pandemic. How are things faring now?
Fortunately for us, we have a very a lot of loyal fans, and we gave people a lot of opportunity and took care of our guests when all of that happened. We gave them the ability to refund for those that couldn’t sail or if they wanted to have credits in the future that they can use, and it was so interesting to see how many came back so fast.
In all actuality, we’re having record breaking bookings, meaning we’re selling further out in advance and completely full than ever before. So, it didn’t take a whole lot of time to get to return, which has been outstanding. What that told us was, obviously, people really missed travel. I think we all took it for granted, but we’ve all had the ability to do it and the freedom to do it and when we didn’t, we sorely missed it. And so, family travel has come back in a big way.
I’ve been with the company 25 years and we’ve never seen the booking pace as it is right now.
It does seem like people can have a polarizing reaction to cruises. Do you have any cruise myths you’d like to dispel?
I think there are a couple of things that you hear over and over again. One is, “Well, I’m afraid to go on a cruise because I can’t swim.” Well, we’re not gonna force you! Don’t worry about that. I think a lot of times, people also think, “I’m going to be confined, or I’m going to be bored.” And if they haven’t seen a cruise ship of this magnitude and size, it’s helping them understand: This is a floating resort. And it’s a resort that’s going to offer more dining and activities and entertainment, that’s all part of their experience, that won’t cost them a dime more. So, I think what happens is they just picture a boat, and they’re not really kind of thinking in terms of size and scale.
Now, you can never say it’s for everyone, no specific vacation choice is. But typically, when somebody is concerned about those things or the swimming aspect, when they come on board, they realize, “Oh, wow, I had not pictured this correctly.” And I think the inclusiveness of it all, that’s where I really see the difference. I think what some people don’t realize is just how easy we make it, and how many options and choices there really are.
Photos Courtesy of Carnival Cruise.
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