Communications Plans, Portfolio

Case Study: Carnival Cruise Lines

white cruise ship on blue body of water during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on







The fire and subsequent poor emergency contingency plans aboard the cruise ship Splendor have lead to damage of Carnival Cruise Lines’ reputation.  Among the issues on the ship, there was a lack of toilet facilities for 16 hours, food had to be flown in from the U.S. Navy, and there was no air conditioning.  Despite this unfortunate incident, the company is still the largest cruise line in the world and has more passengers than the competition.



Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world.

They have been in business over 35 years.

Carnival is a flagship brand and accounts for 19 per cent of Carnival Corporation’s capacity.

They have more passengers than any other cruise line.

Carnival’s ships are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard four times a year to ensure they are safe.


Common cruise issues that aren’t unique to Carnival include tilting due to rough seas, Norovirus outbreaks, fire, and pirates.

Poor emergency management contingency plans as demonstrated during the fire on the Splendor.  Since this fire, the plans have been overhauled and greatly improved with the help of an internal investigation and an outside auditor.

The Splendor was one of the pinnacle ships in the fleet so it was damaging to the brand when this happened.


Growing industry (exceptional value proposition, wide appeal, low market penetration, positive guest demographics, high guest satisfaction rates).

Admit they had a poor emergency response plan and demonstrate how they are improving it going forward.


The industry competes for discretionary dollars with other vacation types. Vacation spending is a third priority after savings and living expenses.  In tough economic times, this becomes a threat to Carnival’s business.  Carnival can offer tiered pricing, early booking discounts, and group rates to make their vacations more accessible and competitive.

There is a potential loss of customer trust due to the issue on the Splendor.  Previous passengers may never travel with them again.  Future passengers may not choose Carnival.

In tough economic times when business is slower, Carnival needs to figure out what else they can do with the ships to make money.

Gaps in emergency plans may happen again in the future- unless they can implement their new safety strategy


To be the number one recommended cruise line by industry experts


  1. By end of year 2012, increase Carnival’s ranking to number one among cruise travel agents.
  1. Become the number one cruise line on and in 2012.


  1. Empower 100 of Carnival’s most frequent cruisers to become influencers by June 2013. Having influencers will help boost the reputation of the brand amongst potential customers.


1.Travel agents- seven out of 10 passengers will book through a travel agent.

  1. The editors of, and key cruise bloggers.
  2. Frequent Carnival cruisers with heavy social media presence.


We will work with our advertising agency to launch a campaign to create awareness among travel agents and agencies about Carnival’s amazing fleet and cruising experiences.

Run a traditional media campaign in leading travel industry magazines to reach the travel agents.

Work with our marketing agency to launch a social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook targeting people who follow cruise lines or search for them.

Leverage John Heald’s blog and establish or re-establish relationships with the top four bloggers in the industry.


FAM Tours

Organize and execute three FAM tours (familiarization tours) for top cruise agents, key media and premier bloggers starting in January 2012.


The advertising agency will run a year- long campaign geared to agents and agencies beginning in January 2011.

Media Relations

Issue news releases and backgrounders.  Pitch phone interviews between travel journalists at industry publications and key Carnival spokespeople.  Update media/ press section on Carnival corporate website.  These media relations duties are to be completed by March 2011.

Email Blasts and Snail Mail

Target agents who work at cruise ship centers to get 10 per cent more of them accredited with our cruise line through email blasts and postal mailing.  Offer a discount on the accreditation if it’s acquired within the current calendar year.  Begin this campaign in January 2012 after the first FAM tour.

Social Media

Buy ads on Facebook, Instagram and top five key blogs to reach Carnival’s frequent cruisers.  These ads will last for four months beginning in January 2011.  We will repeat the campaign for the same four months in 2012 and 2013 until we acquire 100 effective influencers.


These key messages are recommended for use in all communications initiatives.

  1. Carnival Cruise Lines is committed to creating the best cruise experience for their passengers, whether it is their first cruise, or their 20th.


  1. Carnival Cruise Lines is continuously improving its onboard experiences and upgrading the fleet to ensure their passengers have the safest and most fun experience on its ships.


  1. We encourage all current and future passengers to contact Carnival Cruise Lines if they have any questions, comments or concerns.



FAM Tour Planning

9/1/11 9/2/11 Develop a list of the top 10 cruise travel agents and their agency general managers in the 10 major markets. Identify 5 key bloggers and 10 travel journalists to invite on the trip Heather B
9/2/11 9/4/11 Approve invite list Director
9/5/11 9/6/11 Book 72 rooms on the Splendor in Jan, Feb and March for a 4 day cruise out of Miami Heather B
9/7/11 9/9/11 Arrange 2 day trips in Bahamas for invitees Heather B
9/7/11 9/9/11 Set up tours of the ship with cruise director and meet and greet with Captain for each trip Heather B
9/10/11 9/15/11 Create invitations, itinerary, gather promo material for mailing Assistant
9/17/11 9/17/11 Send out invitations, itinerary and promotional material Heather B
9/22/11 10/15/11 Coordinate RSVP list in excel file Assistant
12/01/11 12/05/11 Mail out pre-trip package to invitees on January trip with fun items such as Carnival branded sunscreen, hats and flip flops along with final instructions/itinerary for the trip Heather B
12/20/11 12/20/11 Arrange welcome package in rooms for each guest upon arrival. Set up Sign and Sail passes for each guest with drinks and specialty restaurant access already loaded. Heather B
01/15/12 01/19/12 First FAM trip sets sail
01/18/12 01/18/12 Conduct a focus group on the ship with the invitees HB coordinate with marketing agency and an on-board representative



Email Blasts and Snail Mail

01/05/12 01/10/12 Compile a list of cruise travel agents who haven’t been accredited with Carnival yet Assistant
01/12/12 01/12/12 Write an email blast targeting these agents Heather B
01/12/12 01/12/12 Write a pitch letter inviting them to become accredited and outlining the steps they need to complete Heather B
01/13/12 01/15/12 Email and pitch letter approvals Director
01/16/12 01/23/12 Get the mailing printed, stuffed and stamped Assistant
01/24/12 01/24/12 Send out mailing. Send out email blast Heather B


Social Media Buy

01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad time on Facebook to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad time on Instagram to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad space on Cruise Critic, Cruise Fever, Cruise Industry News, Cruise Law News and Cruise Hive (Agarwal, 2018) to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/03/11 01/07/11 Create content for the social ads Agency
01/08/11 01/08/11 Approve the content Heather B
Repeat for 2012 and 2013 on same timelines



FAM Trips    
216 rooms aboard Horizon $195,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
2 Day Trips off the ship $45,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
Invitations, promo material, mailing costs for initial mailing $5,000 09/10/11
Pre-trip package and mailing costs $7,500 12/01/11
In-room welcome packages, Sign and Sail cards $15,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
Focus groups $10,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
SUBTOTAL $277,500
Email Blast and Snail Mail    
Mail printing, stuffing, postage $5,000 01/16/12
Social Media Buy (2012)    
Facebook $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
Instagram $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
5 blogs $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
SUBTOTAL $15,000
Evaluation Costs
See focus groups above
Marketing agency social media KPI report $5,000


To evaluate the effectiveness of the FAM trips, Carnival will conduct focus groups before the cruise returns home.  A representative from the marketing agency will go on each trip to conduct the sessions and compile the findings into a report.

We can determine the success of the email and mail campaigns by running a report at the end of 2012 to see if the number of accredited travel agents has increased by 10%.

Midway through 2012, we will conduct a survey of the key travel agents in major metropolitan cities to see if they feel Carnival is the #1 cruise line in the world.  We will use the findings to see if we are on the right track to regaining the #1 title.

The marketing agency will provide influence metrics (follower counts, Klout scores) and demographic information about who our key influencers are.  We will also find out how we compare to our competition. (Deering Davis, 2012)


This plan was successful when Carnival regained the #1 cruise line in America title in 2012.  We attacked this challenge by targeting 3 groups of important stakeholders: travel agents, cruise bloggers and frequent Carnival cruisers who have a high social media presence.

We coordinated 3 FAM trips for top cruise agents and their agency owners as well as top cruise bloggers and travel industry media.  These were essential to authenticate the experience and fun times available on our ships.

By focusing on advertising to travel agents in the cruise industry, we stayed top of mind.  We also leveraged the travel media and key cruise bloggers to create buzz about new ship launches, destinations and partnerships.

We executed an effective email blast and mailing campaign to target travel agents in major metropolitan cities who were not yet accredited with Carnival Cruise Lines.  By increasing accreditation membership by 10%, we created more awareness of Carnival among the cruising public, which will lead to an increase in bookings.

Our social media campaign was the most exciting program for us because we’ve never used this method.  Influencers are so important to many organizations because of their authenticity and reach and we were able to leverage our frequent Carnival cruisers to turn them into influencers for our brand.

By executing all of these plans successfully, we were able to regain our #1 ranking in the cruise industry by the end of 2012.

















Agarwal, A. (2018). Top 50 cruise blogs and websites to follow in 2018. Retrieved from


Deering Davis Ph.D., J. (2012). The 5 easy steps to measure your social media campaigns. Retrieved from




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