Adam Goldstein was recently promoted to COO and president of Royal Caribbean after 12 years spent with Royal Caribbean International. This new role does include some corporate communications work, so it shouldn’t be surprising that in less than two weeks, Goldstein was appearing on a major morning news program to address yet another illness outbreak this time sickening 105 passengers and crew on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. The previous week, 117 were sickened.
The problem looks to once again be the dreaded norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. The Centers for Disease Control gets involved, passengers miss out on their vacations, and you have an all-around mess on your hands.
Cruising’s reputation is also in a sickly state, with Gayle King noting at the top of the interview that trust in cruise vacations is down 12 percent.
We have to give him credit for taking these questions like a pro. He was faced with a CBS team whose interview style is very straight forward. And besides the illnesses and the industry’s reputation, there were also well-publicized fires on cruise ships in the past year and a horrible new catchphrase — “poop cruise” — to deal with. (Giggles quietly like a 10-year-old.)
Goldstein responded as though he completely expected to answer the questions he got from Charlie Norah and Gayle, who don’t pull any punches. Media training! When Norah O’Donnell tried to correct Goldstein about all the happy customers who are riding on cruise ships by pointing out the people stricken with the norovirus outbreaks, he fired back that that’s only “a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent.”
“There’s no question that the biggest challenge facing the industry today is to convince the potential first time cruiser to come on board,” Goldstein notes.
Very directly, O’Donnell asks him how they’re addressing the fact that there are some who think that cruise ships are basically “floating Petri dish.” His response: the norovirus is common, the company is prepared to handle it when it does happen and the reason why so many people even know about this is because the company has to report it, a process that’s unique to the industry.
In many ways, Royal Caribbean should be happy that they were asked directly about these issues. This is really what people are talking about when they talk about the industry. When you have the platform to address these issues, the worst thing is to waste it by hiding behind talking points.
And by addressing it directly, Goldstein could move on to talk about some actual good news: the company’s expansion into Asia, which will happen in May 2015.
Now whether this is going to actually get people to pay to voluntarily board a ship on their vacation, we’ll have to wait and see.