Carnival Cruise Line is a Sinking Ship

Carnival is the Walmart of the cruise line industry. You will leave each trip with extra money in your pocket, but don’t expect to have your expectations exceeded.

“You get what you pay for” comes to mind when hearing about another problem aboard a Carnival ship. The cruise line can’t escape negative headlines, from flooded cabins and stranded ships to nonstop environmental violations dating back to the 1990s.

The Carnival Corporation recently agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $20 million for environmental violations such as dumping plastic waste into the ocean. It’s paid millions more for other vessel pollution penalties and plead guilty to seven felony charges for violations on five ships starting as early as 2005.

Herein lies the real problem. For a company that relies on the ocean to operate, you’d expect Carnival to fully comply with environmental laws without being forced. It’s been years and the company continues to trash the ocean and its reputation, whatever is left of it.

Paid fines and empty promises from its CEO will not be enough to regain the trust and goodwill it never really had with the public. If Carnival has any interest in turning its public image around, I suggest these steps be taken immediately:

  1. Hold top executives accountable. Whether it’s forced resignations or outright firings, people need to trust leadership and the steps they’re taking to ensure these egregious environmental practices stop. It starts at the top.
  2. Be transparent with regulators and the public on compliance plans, audits and changes the company is making to practice better environmental stewardship. Hold press conferences, post frequent social media updates and focus on environmental messaging. Highlighting destinations and boat amenities is important to attract customers, but don’t shy away from difficult topics. Years of mistakes can be mitigated with a thoughtful approach and honest communication across digital platforms. There’s no more room under the rug. Stop sweeping.
  3. Donate millions to environmental groups. Corporate social responsibility is essential, especially for a company that relies on the environment to exist. Carnival generated over 18 billion in revenues last year. Provide financial support to private companies, government organizations and non-profits working together to clean up oceans and protect marine life.
  4. Change the entire culture that persists at Carnival. From top to bottom, encourage employees to report violations which hopefully results in better practices. Foster a new culture on every Carnival ship that focuses on environmental stewardship. This company is not on a sustainable path. Public opinion is in the toilet and it won’t change if they continue to throw money at problems that could be fixed with more care and common sense.
  5. Let Carnival self destruct because it refuses to adapt in a world that is more environmentally conscious than it’s ever been.

It won’t be an easy road for Carnival. Proactive companies and leaders establish good business practices early on so their brand isn’t impacted even when problems arise. Brand loyalty remains strong even if mistakes are made, and they always are.

Carnival may be the largest cruise line in the world, but no company is immune to the power of public opinion. It can leverage its market share to remain in business, but it won’t survive long-term if it neglects the one natural resource keeping it afloat.

Is it too late for Carnival to fix its public image? Is the brand a sinking ship? Let me know in the comments.


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