I was sitting in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning when I read a travel publication’s headline that Christine Duffy was just named president of Carnival Cruise Lines. Reading the headlines made me feel like I was having an out-of-body experience.
Christine Duffy president of Carnival?
I stopped for a moment and thought, is today April Fool’s Day? Or was the article, perhaps, a satire from the Onion?
But it’s true. Effective February 1, 2015, Ms. Duffy will become president of the largest cruise line in the world. Carnival sent out a press release this morning indicating that Ms. Duffy will officially replace Gerald Cahill who resigned as president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines last month.
Ms. Duffy, as we know, is the president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). CLIA is the cruise industry’s trade organization which has lobbied against the cruise victim organization’s efforts to make cruising safer and more transparent to the public.
I have always viewed Ms. Duffy, like the CLIA president before her (Terry Dale), as little more than an energetic, smiling cheerleader doing the dirty work of the cruise line executive men like Micky Arison, Richard Fain, etc. She was thrown into the mix quickly after she replaced Mr. Dale when she had to appear before Congress to explain embarrassments like the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise line’s avoidance of U.S. taxes, and the cruise industry’s refusal to recognize basic rights of cruise passengers.
During a cruise safety hearing before the Senate, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy’s credibility and admonished her to "speak more truth." Referring to the cruise industry which she represented, he stated "You are A World Unto Yourselves."
Carnival’s press statement says that “Ms. Duffy has more than 30 years’ experience in the travel industry, most notably on the trade side, having started her career as a travel agent. She later served as president and CEO of Maritz Travel, one of the country’s largest corporate meeting, incentive and event companies, for seven years."
That’s a nice way of saying that former-travel-agent Ms. Duffy, notwithstanding her enthusiasm, has no experience operating a cruise line whatsoever.
She seems most suited to be a rubber-stamp for Micky Arison and Arnold Donald.
I realize that I’m wading out into dangerous territory here, and will likely be receiving hate-mail with accusations of being misogynous.
There’s no doubt that the cruise lines need far more women elevated into positions of leadership. (I have written about the male-dominated cruise executives before).
But Ms. Duffy seems like Sarah Palin of the Seas. Lots of spunk and personality but little experience and substance. She is not a force who will lead the largest cruise line in the world to become a responsible and transparent leader in the cruise business.