Forty years ago yesterday, something very special happened. The event was one of the biggest game changers in the travel industry. It was a huge gamble for those involved and came with much risk. As with most gutsy endeavors, it was to be a tremendous success or a colossal failure. Thankfully for the travel industry, it was the former. Any guesses?
On March 11, 1972, Carnival’s first ship, the 11-year old Mardi Gras (with 600 travel agents aboard) ran aground..on her maiden voyage from Miami. Industry lore tells us that Ted Arison, Carnival’s founder was on shore watching as his first passenger ship beached itself off the coast of Miami. Not knowing quite what to do, it is reported that Arison made the call to open the bars and the “Fun Ships” were born.
The Mardi Gras, and Carnival has an interesting story. The 11-year old ship was purchased from the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line in 1972, but times were tight for Arison. In fact, there were not enough funds to design a logo for the new ship. To save some money, they adapted the Canadian Pacific logo that was actually welded onto the funnel. All that was altered was changing the colors of green and white to red, white and blue with the angles of the logo softened more into curves. The green band encompassing the hull was changed to a more suitable red color. And one of the most well known trademarks of the travel industry was born.
Undoubtedly, without Arison’s vision, the travel industry never would have seen the commercial success of cruising that it has for the past forty years. Ocean travel had been around for hundreds of years, but Arison’s concept brought shorter cruises to the masses.
And the masses came. Consider these facts from CLIA*:
- Since 1990, the industry has had an average annual passenger growth rate of 7.2% per annum.
- To date, approximately 20% of the U.S. population has never cruised.
But perhaps more importantly, the risk taken by Ted Arison was the catalyst that launched not only the other brands of Carnival, but the other corporations that now allow us, as travel agents, to offer our clients some incredibly diverse choices when it comes to cruising. From trans-oceanic voyages, we now have cruises ranging from 1 night to year-long around-the-world journeys. We can cruise in bays, seas, oceans and rivers. We can travel in relatively spartan accommodations or we can travel in private suites approaching 5,000 square feet—larger than most homes!
As we welcome the spring of 2012, TRO raises a glass to Carnival and to the memory of Ted Arison—well done!
* This report (PDF), which I just discovered, is fascinating. I highly recommend you download it and check it out!