Life of the Carnival King

Cruise ship CEO Arnold W. Donald hasn’t lost touch with home

To dub Arnold W. Donald’s story a real-life example of the American dream wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate, though that might be a bit too broad-brushed.
Rather, to fully appreciate Donald’s impressive corporate climb — an ascent punctuated in October when the Carnival Corporation CEO was named the 2015 Maritime Person of the Year by the Propeller Club of New Orleans — it’s best to drop a pin right on the underdog neighborhood that represents the first rung: the 9th Ward.

Raised in a tiny and therefore full house in the Desire section of the city, Donald was nurtured by love more than anything since money and modern-day luxuries weren’t always available. His parents didn’t finish high school. His father made a carpenter’s salary. Still, that didn’t stop the Donalds from giving back and giving of themselves. While providing for four kids of their own, Arnold’s parents also cared for 27 foster kids over the years.

That same philanthropic spirit and just general sense of doing the right thing stuck with Arnold, even as his professional resume read more and more accomplished and impressive.

“As a native of New Orleans, contributing to both the city and the port is not only near and dear to my heart, but extremely important to Carnival Corporation as well,” Donald said upon receiving the distinction from the Propeller Club. “This award is positive recognition that as a company we are on the right track to provide great vacations that exceed guest expectations to make sure our guests have memorable experiences while we promote the value of New Orleans and its port.” 

At the award ceremony, Donald was greeted by music from the St. Augustine High School Marching 100, the famous band of his alma mater. Civic and business leaders, including New Orleans Convention and Visitors’ Bureau President Stephen Perry, spoke not only of Donald, but also of Carnival’s multiple contributions to the entire Gulf South region. For example, in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, Carnival chartered two ships to FEMA that were used to house first responders. The cruise line was a major piston in accelerating the area’s vital tourism industry. In fact, just 10 years after Katrina’s landfall, Carnival welcomes more patrons aboard than they ever did previously in New Orleans.

As Carnival CEO — a position he’s held for more than two years — Donald heads the world’s largest travel and leisure company. Besides the namesake cruise line, the Carnival Corporation also operates Seabourn, Cunard, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (both in the United Kingdom and Australia), Fathom, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.  As Donald told Fox 8 New Orleans in February 2015, “We visit over 700 ports a year with our 101 ships and our 80 million passenger cruise days.”

Not only was Donald part of the first generation of his family to go to college, he actually earned three degrees during his academic career, the last an MBA from the prestigious University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Donald has applied what he learned in various arenas both charitable and commercial. Prior to joining Carnival Corporation, he was the CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a professional network/forum for African-American executives of Fortune 500 companies. Donald also directed the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, the largest non-profit funder of diabetes research in the world.  Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both appointed Donald to the Export Council for International Trade.

Not surprisingly, Donald serves as a board member for several corporations and institutions such as Carleton College in Minnesota, Washington University in St. Louis, Bank of America, Crown Holdings, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and BJC Healthcare.

By William Kalec



Categories: Maritime