Shooting The Breeze (from The Breeze) with Bob Dickinson
To people who have been cruising, or involved in the cruise industry for awhile, the name Bob Dickinson is synonymous with the modern cruise industry, and Carnival Corporation.
Bob was President and CEO of Carnival Corporation until his retirement 5 years ago. His book, Selling The Sea, is one of the most interesting written for those with a interest in the industry, and an excellent read.
And Bob believes, “the same principles still apply today“.
Bob continues to sit on the Board of Directors at Carnival Corp., so obviously maintains a strong interest in the industry. Though now he is heavily involved in volunteer charity work; his top cause - among others - is attempting to rid the City of Miami of its homeless problem.
He spends 35-40 hours a week of his time, working tirelessly for the charity, and in speaking with him, it’s obviously near and dear to his heart.
They have raised over 70 million dollars of the 80 million needed to finish a treatment center specializing in curing homeless people suffering from addictions and mental health issues; with an intended focus on women and the Spanish speaking homeless population; which Bob told me makes up nearly 80% of the homeless population in Miami.
By happenstance I spotted Bob and his wife at the Safety Briefing (muster drill) the first day on board my current cruise on the Carnival Breeze. We spoke very briefly on the way out, but then I ran into him again on Deck5, at Ocean Plaza, a few days later. I asked if we could arrange a time for an interview. He invited me to sit down right then.
When the CruiseMates website first went live on the Internet, the very first group cruise we put together for reader’s of the site was a cruise with Bob Dickinson. He as so kind to our group. He dined with the group each night; and held several question and answer sessions for the group.
As this meeting, and pending interview, wasn’t planned, I of course hadn’t prepared any questions, as I normally would have to prepare for an interview.
As the “interview” began It seemed Bob was asking me as any questions as I was asking him, and I said to him… “this in an interview, who’s supposed to ask the questions? But Bob Dickinson is a very smart man, and he likely remembers the old adage; a smart man is a man who listens.
I asked what he thought of the new Carnival Breeze in comparison to the older ships in the Carnival family. He responded by asking me what I thought; what were my opinions impressions of the ship, and what makes it different? Why do I like it, and what sets it apart in my mind?
When Bob talks about Carnival, he still refers to it as “we”, which makes some sense since he’s on the Board of Directors. But, it also displays his continuing love and interest in the company and the industry.
This discussion eventually led us to talking about the new more open design of the ship’s interiors. We both agreed that one of the big positives on this ship are is the openness and airiness of the ship’s public rooms.
Bob also said one of the keys in his mind is the new design of the Lido Deck Marketplace, and the vastly improved and changing signage, allowingguests to easily see what is being offered where.
Bob said “the design has been an ongoing evolution, and has been inspired by the designs of the ship’s in Carnival’s European companies; Costa Cruise Line, and AIDA“.
I found it interesting that they have taken the lead on design from their European brands. Of course, we all know, by far, the vast majority of cruise ships are built in European shipyards. However, perhaps naively, I hadn’t thought about the design updates being led by European trends.
It’s been several years since I’ve sailed on a Costa ship, and I’ve never sailed AIDA, so my experience is very limited.
Bob went on to explain, “ On those ships, the layout of public areas is very open. There are very few walls between lounges and bars. You don’t go in or out of a door from one lounge to the next. The traffic just flows through the ship”.
I do recall from my trips on Costa that their ships have an incredibly active night life - in the case of European cruises, that night life doesn’t even begin until after 10 P.M. and always runs well into the night, and next morning.
We went on to a discussion of the cruise industry in general.
Bob feels, the industry as a whole, even in some of the difficult economic times, has been enjoying a very reasonable level of success.
He says, “the success has come somewhat because of our ability to attract large numbers of repeater customers fairly easily”.
“Maybe we are not doing as well, or enough, to attract new first timer passengers”.
“A big focus for us now is to attract multi-generational groups (which I mentioned to him seems to be very true of the demographic on this cruise).
All of the research tells us the most important thing for the vast majority of people when choosing their vacation is FUN, and fun is what we strive to offer”.
“Of course fun means different things to different people. But there’s no vacation like cruising that can provide different fun for each generation”.
“Typically the most difficult group, in a multi-generational group, who feel their vacations are fun, is the middle generational group; the parents.
On non cruise vacations they are often the ones responsible for the driving, the choices, the decision making on what to do when, and where to do it, trying to make it fun for the others.
Yet, a cruise vacation relieves them of many of those stresses. There are programs on board for everyone to choose from which will provide fun for each them. It is Carnival’s goal to attempt to meet every generations criteria of what is fun.
Cruising today is not exclusionary. There’s no exclusive categories for cruisers, it’s good for those from 8 months to 80. There no limitations as to social cast, or to financial position”.
Bob, also spoke about Carnival making a conscious decision not to get into the “bigger is better” game. He said, “We made the decision not to step into building Mega Mega ships”.
“ We’d rather build more ships the size of the Carnival Breeze, at 130,000 tons. That offers us the ability to offer more itinerary choices, rather than have a ship that is 1/3 or ½ as large again as this, that must repeat only restricted itineraries.
I thank Bob for so generously allowing me to spontaneously disrupt his day in the midst of a cruise, for 45 or 50 minutes, and for so openly sharing his views on the industry and of personal life.
in that brief time I think he described very adeptly what why Carnival continues to be the most successful cruise line in the world, and continues to deliver the “Fun Ships“.
Good thread title.
One has to wonder if Carnival is better or worse since Bob left. He does seem like a good guy, but I think he did stifle innovation. Just my opinion.
I wonder how Bob's 'Wine Club' worked out for Carnival?
Carnival was Great with Bob D. Cahill is the cutback king. Last cruise #16 on Carnival was the last one for us. Back to Princess.
It does say a lot when veteran and loyal Customers such as Platinum are bailing out. I too will be trying another 'Brand' soon.
Was this the same cruise where we had a birthday cake sent to him and the entire Dining Room Staff sang Happy Birthday to him AND.... it wasn't his birthday???? Do you remember that? He was such a great sport about it... It was so much fun... Too bad Carnival has changed since the Bob Dickinson days...
I just cruised on the Breeze last week, and while I enjoyed my cruise very much, there were parts of the week spent at sea that could have been improved on. I felt like the pictures at the end of the gangway were often a nusiance rather than enjoyable. At Curacao in particular, we docked late due to wind and the people taking pictures were practically blocking the only way to get to the tour busses. I also found that many of the overhead announcements were pointless while I felt that important information was not relayed to everyone on board, such as better information about Miami shore excursions and more indepth information about disembarkation. Like I said, overall I had a fun week, but there were parts that Carnival could have improved on.
Just took the Breeze last week out of Miami. If you are driving, DO NOT use Premier Parking. It is through several homeless camps. They screwed us, as they overbooked the lot and couldn't accommodate us due to the Miami Marathon happening the same day as the cruise. I got aggravated as I backed out of their lot and am now fighting for my money back. It was worth the $20 per day port parking...easiest on and off yet.
As for the Breeze, it is the most tastefully dedicated Carnival ship we have been on. Not at all gaudy. I can say it was not the best food out of all the cruises we have been on with them. All pasta was under cooked, and the fish/shellfish was all overcooked.
The deli was excellent. Guys burgers was a favorite.
The ropes course, well I couldn't get my son off of it when it was open, and of course I had to go too :). It really was fun. The only issue is we went in January, if that makes a difference. The winds were higher than other cruises...we never sailed that early in the year before. When winds were over 35 kts, the ropes course and the slides were both shut down. I actually waited in line and it took me a half hour to get down the Twister slide. If this happens to you, don't curse all the way up the stairs like I did! When I got up to the top, the guy explained to me that with any cross wind, the ship is moving side to side enough to lower the water levels in the landing area, so if you hit it wrong at the bottom you could accelerate and slam into grate at the end. I was very happy to wait at that point, and a few small kids were sent down before me.
The cabin steward was outstanding. Can't say enough good things about that guy. He helped find my youngest when he got separated from us by accident on the first night and was crying while wandering the ship...security or guest services were no help with this.
I can honestly say, as long as I cruise with family, I will never book another balcony as we had in the past. We were going to this time, but cabins were limited as it was a last minute decision. We ended up with two adjoining ocean view cabins which afforded us four showers (2 were tubs, which kept the floor nice and dry). The convenience of the extra space was phenomenal, not to mention for the four of us it was the same amount for the adjoining rooms as it would have been to jam us into the one balcony room.
The way the TV's swing out is a big hazard for shorter children...don't know how many times my son smacked his noggin. On TV's...the service was blotchy, constantly pixelating...not that I was on the ship to watch TV, but I liked to watch the map and info channel to see what the temps and locations were. It was awful. I also brought along a cheap DVD player for the kids to watch movies just before bed if they wanted to. All the inputs are locked out except for the single HDMI that they use (my cheapo player only had the RGB/AV cables of course). So if you wish to bring something like that as I saw some folks on other sites asking these questions, bring something with an HDMI cable and you will be good to go, just unplugging theirs and plugging yours in. A universal remote will also not work...I tried that too...got into the menu, but the TV's were specially made for the ship by Viewsonic, have the Carnival logo for a splash screen, and when you go into the menu, no other inputs are available for selection or even activation. In the end it was really not missed anyway, although it might have been nice on the last day after leaving Nassau because it was cold and rainy. We spent time in the library for a while playing board games and had fun anyway!
Entertainment was so-so. Turns out Carnival (as written in their stuff) now only hires singers/dancers instead of singers and dancers. So there was a total of 8 of them, and it was definitely not on par with last cruises although entertaining. Hasbro the Game Show was good, especially with the kids. The best was the last night...Motown. I went there and began with a low expectation and wanting to walk out. When Consuela and the live band started, man they were hot! Do not miss them at all. Motown is usually not my choice of music, but she had a tremendous voice, spot on key wise, and the band was excellent. They actually played mid-ship all week, and I failed to stop and listen, just walking by...kicking myself now for not doing that. Mutzie one of the comedian was also the best I have ever seen, second only to Sinbad. Absolutely no foul language, and ad lib. He has 5 totally different shows, so that you didn't come to another show feeling ripped off. Real talent. Would have brought the kids to the adult show if they let them in. Do not miss him. Percy was crappy, in my opinion.
On to food...MDR service was sub par for us. No drinks (non alcohol) until we were almost finished with our meal, if they came at all, even after complaint to the Maitre d'. Finally sunk in after I brought my big Rubbermaid cup to the table with drink mix. The service really turned up on the last night as a last ditch effort for tips. I'm sure they were disappointing. The pasta was under-cooked, always. The fish and shrimp was all overcooked, Mahi rock hard. There were a lot more choices on the Lido than I had seen in the past, and they were all good. I missed trying the taco/burrito one. Guys burgers was my wife's favorite and always mobbed.
My last gripe was the elevators. Everyone had the same complaint. It was faster to take the stairs than to ever take an elevator. You could wait and wait and wait. Then all the elevators would show up at once.
Overall a good experience though, fun time with family. Grand Turk was beautiful, Ocho Rios more enjoyable than last time, Nassau was better than last time also, and it was cold and rainy.
If you have any other questions while things are fresh in my mind, let me know.
Thank you for your very well written informative post and it's nice to read about folks giving back. Warming
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