Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Robert Dickinson, who has been with the company since its start 35 years ago, will retire at the end of the year, parent Carnival Corp. said Monday.
Dickinson has been instrumental in turning Carnival into the world’s largest cruise operator while using his sense of humor to build relationships along the way. Dickinson, who will turn 65 in August, said he was in good health.
“I’m not dead. I’m just segueing into another part of my life,” he said Monday.
Dickinson joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 1972. He worked his way up the organization under founder Ted Arison and his son Micky, who now leads Carnival Corp. Micky Arison called Dickinson “one of the most influential people in the development of the modern-day cruise industry.”
Dickinson became senior vice president of sales and marketing in 1979. He was part of Carnival’s early-1980s expansion, when it built the Tropicale. The industry’s first new ship in years, it led to an industrywide shipbuilding boom and the addition of several Carnival vessels later that decade.
Dickinson’s tenure also saw the popular Fun Ships advertising blitz that featured the Ain’t We Got Fun television campaign, which showed cruise vacationers dancing and gambling and put the focus on the ship rather than the port of call.
“To me, the big leap of faith was to ask people to take a chance on what was going to happen on the big white box before they got to the ... St. Thomases of the world,” Dickinson said.
During his career, he worked to convince travel agents that it would be more lucrative for them to sell cruise vacations than airline tickets, which changed the way agents did business, said Brad Anderson, co-president of America’s Vacation Center/American Express.
“The folks at Carnival under Bob’s leadership were always early adopters,” Anderson said. “Not everything they adopted grew up to what they thought it was going to be, but they were always willing to adopt new things.”
The company said Gerry Cahill, chief financial officer of Carnival Corp., would immediately assume Dickinson’s responsibilities as president and chief executive of Carnival Cruise Lines.