An Interview With Carnival's
New President - Gerry Cahill
by Roy Witman © 2008
After 35 years at Carnival Cruises, legendary
President, Bob Dickinson has made the decision to
retire. Filling his shoes will be a familiar face at
Carnival, that of Gerry Cahill former Chief Financial
Officer, who has been with the organization since
1994. While Bob Dickinson will be a member of the
Carnival board, Gerry is official at the helm. I had the
privilege of discussing with Gerry his new position
and other points of interest.
ROY: Gerry, what influenced you to study
accounting in college?
GERRY: I started college as a finance
major and freshman year at the University of Miami I
took Introductory Accounting. I kind of liked it because
it was very logical. I have a brain that thinks very
logically so I changed my major to accounting and
stayed in it.
ROY: How did Howard Frank pursue you
to jump ship and join Carnival Corporation?
GERRY: I don't know if I jumped ship.
Howard had known me back at Paine Webber. I had
worked with him. Howard had been the audit partner
at Resorts International so we had a relationship.
Then he moved me to Wyoming and I agreed I would
go to Wyoming for two years. After that my family and I
decided we really wanted to go back to south Florida.
Wyoming is such a beautiful area but it is a little colder
than usual for someone used to going around in a
pair of shorts and t-shirt in January. Howard had read
in the papers that I was coming back so he called me
since we had a relationship. So it worked and I was
very fortunate. Life is funny like that. Sometimes you
wind up in the right place accidentally.
ROY: How did CEO Micky Arison approach
you and offer you the position of President? Did you
have any time to think about it?
GERRY: I had a lot of time to think about it
because Micky had been bouncing different ideas off
me for a few years to take a position in the operations
side. Micky has always liked that executives have
operating experience and I happen to agree with him.
So I've had a lot of time to think about the issue of
whether I wanted to go into operations prior to Bob
deciding that he was going to retire. The day that
Micky actually walked into my office and asked me, I
already had plenty of time to think about it so it took
me about 10 seconds.
ROY: What do you feel Carnival
employees will miss most about Bob once he retires?
GERRY: The people in the organization
have really welcomed me better than I ever anticipated
and I think it's going very well. Bob has been a
tremendous supporter of mine and has handled the
transition better than anything I could ask for.
ROY: Do you feel that the new fuel
surcharge will have any effect on bookings?
GERRY: We are anticipating and certainly
hoping it won't but time will tell. We don't really expect
that it will have any negative impact.
ROY: Do you have any new ideas on how
to increase onboard revenue in your fleet of ships?
GERRY: We are always looking at new
things but to me it is a very, very delicate balance
because you don't want to ever give the impression to
guests that you're nickel and diming them these
days. The idea is to try to find new things for guests
that were not available in the past but that they would
have an interest in paying for. There are some
different things that we're looking at that will evolve
over time. It's just this year that we're going through a
complete upgrade of the gift shops and all the
merchandising in there. We've spent a lot of time in
trying to upgrade the quality of the products and I think
it's going to work. But there are other things that are in
the works that I'm not ready to talk about yet.
ROY: On average, in your former position
with Carnival Corporation, how many hours did you
normally work per week? As President of Carnival do
you plan on working and traveling more?
GERRY: This would scare people! In my
old job I don't actually know but if I had to guess I
probably worked 60 - 65 hours per week. Throughout
my entire career I've been a worker. I love work and I
get a real high out of what I've done and I love the job I
had before. Since I've been in charge of Carnival
Cruise Lines, I can't remember taking a day off but I
don't anticipate that's going to go on forever. I'm
going through a transition and obviously there's a lot
of learning for me at this point in time. Hopefully I can
moderate it as I go forward but right now it's basically
seven days a week.
ROY: What made your company go
outside the Carnival family to bring in a new marketing
director? What qualities in Ruben Rodriguez attracted
GERRY: When Bob was President,
Carnival Cruise Lines had already started a search for
a Chief Marketing Officer. When I came in I wasn't
sure exactly what I was going to do with respect to that
search. The position had not been filled at that point.
But what I decided after I met with Ruben during the
PCG work he was going for Carnival Cruise Lines
about 1 ½ years ago was that I was very impressed
He has a tremendous strategic mind and so I saw
an opportunity there to bring in someone that had the
tactical sense and an excellent understanding of how
to marry your marketing and your guest experience
together and how important it is that they go together
well. So to me it was a great opportunity to bring in a
fresh viewpoint, to bring in somebody that had this
experience to help us really get the marketing to work
better with the product itself. Bob has said this over
the years - that we don't get the pricing that our
products deserve. Ruben's task is to help us get the
ROY: Do you plan on ever doing a
President's cruise for concierge club members in the
GERRY: That is a question that I don't
know the answer to. Nobody has asked me that
question yet. That's an interesting question though.
I'm not adverse to it. I'd have to talk to [some others]
and see what [they] think about it.
ROY: Living in Florida most of your life,
did you have a hard job convincing your family to move
to Wyoming to take the position with Safecard?
GERRY: No, I'll tell you a little bit about
my style. Before we made the decision to move I flew
the entire family to Wyoming. We went out there for
about 5 days and I said if we go it's because everyone
decides we want to go. It's kind of my style as I like to
include people. I don't make all the decisions but I
always include people in the decision-making
process so we all went out there and the entire family
voted to go. It was a truly great experience but we
were happier living in south Florida because of the
ROY: I recently read that your last family
vacation was a bike trip to Ireland. Did your family
have more time together versus on a cruise vacation?
Did they all enjoy it?
GERRY: It's interesting. I think we
probably had about the same amount of time
together. At this stage with my daughters being grown
adults I'll do anything I can to get the family together.
Over the years we've probably done 15, 16 or 17
cruise vacations together with the family. We had
actually come up with the idea of a bike vacation when
I was on a cruise in Alaska. The concept of going on a
bike was great since we're all very physically active
My wife and daughters are huge runners so the
idea of going and doing something physically
challenging was very attractive to them so I used that
as a lure to get the whole family together. My one
daughter lives in London and the other lives in
Tampa. They are both gone and so if I could come up
with an idea to get the whole family together I would
do it, I would pay for it, whatever it takes.
ROY: Let's say in 3 years Micky asks you
to replace him as Chairman. What would be your
GERRY: I don't think that far down the
road. I have one thought in mind today and that is to
really do a great job as president of Carnival Cruise
Lines. I will take what happens tomorrow but you
know what - first I have to do a great job as president
of Carnival Cruise Lines. If Micky would ask me that
down the road that would come probably because of
the fact I had done a great job at Carnival Cruise
Lines, so listen, I'm happy to be here.
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the world with over 20 ships - including the recently
launched Carnival Freedom - that visit all seven
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