Taking to the Skies: 5 Questions With Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy


Carnival Cruise Lines is bringing fun to the skies—and to a city near you. On August 29, the line launched the Carnival AirShip—the centerpiece of its “Homeport Advantage” campaign—at its Sixth Annual Day of Play at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

The AirShip will travel to seven cities on a 30-day tour of the Southeast US, highlighting the line’s accessibility—over half of the US population can drive to one of Carnival’s 18 ports in five hours or less—and welcoming the arrival of several ships to Carnival’s regional ports.

The campaign follows on the heels of Carnival Cruise Line’s “Choose Fun” initiative, launched earlier this year. Similar to that campaign—which included the appointment of Shaquille O’Neal as the brand’s Chief Fun Officer—the Carnival AirShip is a playful yet powerful symbol of brand’s commitment to engaging diverse audiences in communities focused on fun.

Anyone who posts a photo or video of the 128-foot long AirShip using the hashtag #ChooseFun will be eligible for a host of prizes, including free cruises, VIP passes and gift cards. In addition to creating a new social community through this hashtag, the AirShip will also engage with existing entertainment communities by flying over sporting events and featuring celebrity appearances on its tour of key markets and homeports of Dallas, Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Jacksonville, Charleston and Atlanta. The AirShip will also generate support for the community at Carnival’s partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as using the hashtag will also generate a donation to the hospital.


brandchannel caught up with Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy to learn more about the campaign’s launch—and what’s coming next. 

Can you take us behind the scenes and tell us where the idea for this campaign came from?

We are moving around quite a number of ships to make room for our newest ship Carnival Horizon—[a process] that we lovingly refer to as our “ship shuffle.”

Knowing this, we gave the marketing team the challenge to say “Okay, how do we do all this in a way and come up with something that will resonate with people in all of these different markets? How will this give us an opportunity to talk about not only our newest ship, but all the other ships that are moving into new markets creating greater capacity and [opportunities] for our guests? And so the agency and our team came out with the idea for a Carnival AirShip.

How is your brand owning the concept of fun in the cruising space?

We moved over to a new agency late last year. We challenged them to come up with something that you could actually put on a bumper sticker; something that was leading to the legacy, the history of what the brand is. We are not looking to be something that we’re not.

We have been around since 1974 and we really got excited about the concept of “Choose Fun.” Today more than ever that’s really what we want people to think about when they think about their vacations, when they think about what the cruise line they are going to take that vacation with. And so we love the “Choose Fun” tag and of course then we set about figuring out what personality or celebrity could we find that embodied “Choose Fun”. We introduced Shaquille O’Neal as our Chief Fun Officer at the beginning of the year and it resonated well with consumers of all ages.

How does this campaign support this initiative?

What I love about the concept of the Carnival AirShip is that it’s such a big, powerful visual and so it gets your attention, and makes you smile, right? She’s going to cover a lot of ground in major markets that are important to us from where our ships are located. The fact that 50% of the U.S. population can drive to a Carnival cruise in five hours or less is really important to us. We believe in it as in advantage. Our homeport advantage is that people can easily take a Carnival cruise vacation. They don’t have to fly necessarily, you can get in your car and drive. And you know for our guests and for people who are traveling with mostly members and extended family groups it just makes all the value of what you get for that vacation just go that much further.

Is the campaign focused on a specific audience?

Our focus is really on a broad audience. If you will look on who is on a Carnival ship, there are people of all ages. We are brand that urges everyone to have fun. People who love carnival tend to be people who are social, who like to meet new people or people who like to be around those that are social. So we believe that we are going to get a lot of pretty broad demographics of people that are going to see the blimp, take the picture and post, especially in some pretty big venues where we will have lots and lots of people gathered. We also hope this is really going to inspire some cruise rookies, who might yet not have tried the cruise, to take that next step and check it out. And for all those clicks and postings on social media we will make donations to St. Jude which is an important partnership for us.

[At the end of the day,] the AirShip symbolizes what our brand is all about, and who our customers are—people who work hard and who deserve and enjoy great vacations.

What’s next—for the campaign and Carnival Cruise lines? 

We’re going to have some different [household names] that we’re going to try to get on the blimp for a ride, which we think will be another good opportunity to raise the profile and get more people posting about the Homeport Advantage, as well as increase the donations received.

We’ll have some more surprises that we were planning for the arrival of Carnival Horizon in Miami. We will welcome Horizon and say farewell or Bon Voyage to Carnival Vista, who has been in Miami [and is headed to Galveston]. So we will have our two biggest newest ships, the two sisters in Miami at the same time at the end of September. The blimp will be there and it will really be a great day.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.


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