Arison speaks about struggles ahead for Carnival

In his first interview since stepping down as chief executive, Carnival Corp’s Micky Arison has spoken about the “extremely hard” task of rebuilding confidence in the company and the difficulties of the European market.

Arison, who has led the company since 1979, this month moved into the role of chairman while Arnold Donald took over as chief executive.

In his first interview since the transition, Arison told The Wall Street Journal Donald would have “somewhat of a learning curve” as he moved from his previous position as outside director into management.

The 64-year-old, whose father launched the company in 1972, spoke about the difficulties Carnival faced following a string of bad headlines, including the Costa Concordia disaster, which left 32 people dead when it grounded off Italy last year, as well as an engine-room fire on the Carnival Triumph, which left more than 3000 people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for days in February.

“Our biggest challenge is to turn around brands impacted by recent events. The Carnival Cruise Lines incident involving the Triumph is an industry issue. Its market share in the US is very, very large. Rebuilding confidence in the Carnival Cruise Lines brand is a key priority,” he said.

“But it has been extremely hard. To put it into perspective, 3,000 passengers were impacted by the Triumph incident. None was hurt. It was a passenger comfort issue. We apologized.”

Arison also discussed the issues the lines faced in Europe.

“We face a weak economic situation in Europe. Spain and Italy are heavily impacted. Southern Europe is going to continue to struggle. Europe is a very significant piece of our business, representing about 35% of annual revenue.”

Although he has said he will not be playing a day-to-day role as chairman, Arison is keeping his corner office and staying involved with the company for the forseeable future.

“To not be on the board and not be chairman would be really hard. This has been my life 24/7, seven days a week for 40-plus years. As long as I have decent health, I am going to try to contribute something.”

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