The three-story tall, fuchsia pink, digitally-decorated funnel with flashing Victoria’s Secret logos that greeted passengers embarking on the new Carnival Horizon cruise ship at New York City’s Pier 88 last week was the first indication of the key role that retail is playing on Carnival’s newest addition to its fleet.
Carnival, working together with Starboard Cruise Services, has revealed its largest area dedicated to shopping on any Carnival ship. The Fun Shops on Carnival Horizon are spread along a two-level shopping promenade rimming the ship’s atrium on decks 4 and 5, with branded shops boasting the largest and most varied offerings in the fleet with a stellar lineup of some of the most popular brands in the world.
William Butler, vice president of retail services, Carnival Cruise Line, told a gathering of journalists that Horizon, the 26th vessel in the Carnival fleet, represented a milestone in the cruise company’s 30-year partnership with Starboard. Butler joined Carnival in 2011 from a retail career in the domestic market, and his dedicated position underscores the growing importance of retail to the cruise industry.
“We first launched retail at sea with Starboard more than 30 years ago and shopping is in the DNA of the Carnival cruise experience,” he said, commenting on how onboard shopping has evolved.
“When retail spaces were first created onboard a ship they were very much secondary venues and at the time we used ship building architects to build these spaces. Fast forward several years, and our shopping environments are now at the heart of ships, beautifully curated and designed by retail architects, with our partners,” he explained.
Carnival and Starboard are also renovating the retail on the older ships in the fleet, bringing them up to the level of the more recent Fun Shops.
For the Carnival Horizon, which launched in April, Starboard has orchestrated a host of firsts, including the line’s first Victoria’s Secret boutique and a high-profile presence for prestigious brands such as Breitling, Hublot, Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Kors and Kate Spade. USA Today cited Carnival Horizon’s shops as “one of top six things to love about the newest ship.”
Starboard Cruise Services President and CEO Beth Neumann explained how the retail concepts on the Horizon were crafted to align with Carnival’s new ‘Choose Fun’ brand positioning and appeal to their unique guest profile.
“Carnival is all about fun, so we were inspired to bring fun to retail. Starboard brings a tailored approach to all of our retail with a program that is very specific to this ship and this cruise brand,” said Neumann.
“Our retail has to be entertaining, it has to be about discovering something new, it has to be about making connections with other guests – all of which create a memory of a wonderful vacation. Every night we have something special in the Fun Shops, something different,” says Neumann.
“Starboard is devoted to going beyond just selling merchandise. We are transforming the retail cruise industry, elevating retail to the same level as other important ship amenities.
“I think we are the luckiest retailers in the world, working with people on vacation. My job is to bring that experience into the shop, to entertain and provide a memory of this vacation experience. We are creating retail magic on board,” she insists.
Led by highly personable and trained sales associates, Starboard has created a series of immersive activations that treat guests to exceptional service and bring brands to life – thus creating that “retail magic.” Some of the retail highlights on the Carnival Horizon include:
Victoria’s Secret Girls Night Out: Guests can browse the latest assortment of merchandise and fragrances in Carnival’s first-ever Victoria’s Secret boutique while sipping champagne, as they have the chance to compete in a runway face-off or spin a wheel for prizes.
Le Vian Style Me Famous Fashion Event: Inspired by the Le Vian jewelry brand’s reputation for outfitting celebrities for the red carpet, this event gives guests the full treatment as they’re styled with signature jewelry pieces and pose for fun photo-ops. Guests even receive a Le Vian gemstone with the option to upgrade to a piece that complements their style.
Rock Envy with Crystals from Swarovski: Guests can custom-design their own jewelry keepsake of their cruise using a huge selection of charms, bracelets, necklaces, rings and watches. Rock Envy with Crystals from Swarovski is exclusively available on board select Carnival ships.
Men came in for their share of activities as well. One of the favorite activities during our press tour was undoubtedly The Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Life: We were taught to tie a bow-tie, pick a day and night fragrance and select a signature whiskey, while getting some down-to-earth dating tips! Starboard calls it the ultimate guy’s guide to style.
Other fun activities include a Beauty and Fragrance Bar, where guests are invited to experiment and “play” with make-up and fragrance; the What’s Your Jewelry Personality? shopping event that helps guests discover which gemstone best matches their spirit and personality; and Happier Hour Daily Tastings, offering a blind taste test, and sampling of some of the world’s top liquors, including travel retail exclusives.
There is even Wearable Tech, where experts help guests discover a variety of watch styles with multi-functionalities in Carnival’s first store entirely devoted to wearable tech.
“Carnival Horizon represents our most significant commitment to retail offerings on any Carnival ship,” said Carnival’s Butler.
“In partnership with Starboard Cruise Services, we created the right atmosphere and introduced the right merchandise assortment and experiences for our brand and guests. The retail environment is designed to further enhance our guests’ vacation experience and we look forward to celebrating many special occasions with an incredible assortment of merchandise. I’m very pleased with the ‘Shop Fun’ concepts we have created with our partners at Starboard,” he concluded.
As part of a multi-year agreement, Starboard now operates retail services on nine Carnival ships including Carnival Horizon.