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Cruise Executive Carousel

Cruise lines are promoting from within to fill vacant executive positions

Amidst cancelled cruises and idle ships all over the world, there’s been another interesting development across the industry; new leadership. Several high-profile employees have stepped down over the past few months, paving the way for a fresh crop of executives who are well positioned to bring our favorite vacation back to full strength. 

So far, cruise lines have chosen to promote talent from within rather than search outside of the industry for their new leadership. The carousel of executives will hopefully bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to an industry beleaguered by COVID-19. 

Seabourn Cruise Line

Who’s In: Josh Leibowitz

Who’s Out: Rick Meadows

After 35 years of service to Carnival Corporation, Seabourn Cruise Line President Rick Meadows announced his retirement effective at the end of May. Meadows held leadership positions at a number of Carnival Corporation’s cruise brands over his tenure and his industry expertise is second to none. 

Rick Meadows

Rick Meadows | Photo: Seabourn Cruise Line

Understanding the big shoes they had to fill, Seabourn tapped Josh Leibowitz to take the helm. Leibowitz brings seven years of experience at Carnival Corporation first as the brand’s chief strategy officer and then as senior vice president of Cunard North America in December 2016. 

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn President Josh Leibowitz

Stan Kruse, Group CEO of Holland America Group and Carnival UK, explained why the hire was such a good fit for Seabourn. 

“We are excited to welcome Josh into this new role on our senior leadership team, where he will bring extensive experience and knowledge that will further strengthen Seabourn’s position in the market,” said Kruse. “I am confident that Josh will help carry Seabourn through the challenges currently facing the travel industry to build on its longstanding reputation as an ultra-luxury travel brand unlike any other, supported by a team of people whose everyday focus is on delivering the best.”

Holland America Line

Who’s In: Gus Antorcha 

Who’s Out: Orlando Ashford 

After six years as the President of Holland America Line, Orlando Ashford announced his decision to move on from the cruise line effective in May. Ashford oversaw the construction of several new cruise ships and fostered partnerships with such high profile celebrities as Oprah Winfrey. 

Orlando Ashford | Photo: Holland America Line

Rather than search outside of the company for his replacement, Carnival Cruise Line COO Gus Antorcha was chosen for the job. Antorcha has nine years of experience at Carnival Corporation in leadership roles managing key components such as guest services, commerce and on board operations. 

Gus Antorcha

Gus Antorcha | Photo: Holland America Line

We are fortunate to welcome Gus to the Holland America Line team for a new chapter at our brand,” said Stein Kruse. “His impressive qualifications, boundless energy and passion for the cruise industry will serve us well as we prepare to resume our global operations in the next several months. These are unprecedented times, and his wisdom and competent judgement will ensure Holland America Line’s long-term success.” 

Carnival Cruise Line 

Who’s In: Neil Palomba

Who’s Out: Gus Antorcha 

Replacing Gus Antorcha as COO of Carnival Cruise Line also came internally, as Neil Palomba, President of Costa Cruises, will take over the role vacated by Antorcha. Palomba will also be the cruise line’s executive vice president and will report to Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy. Palomba began his cruise industry career at MSC Cruises before spending three years the Chairman of the Port and Infrastructure Sub-Committee at CLIA. 

Neil Palomba

Neil Palomba executive vice president and chief operations officer for Carnival Cruise Line | Photo: Carnival Corp

“As part of our ongoing efforts to continue enhancing our global operations, these moves clearly demonstrate the depth and strength of our leadership team,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We are using this pause in guest operations to evaluate every aspect of our business, including our leadership structures, and make changes where appropriate to improve our business. Gus and Neil are both proven and strategic leaders within our organization, and we are looking forward to their contributions and success in these new roles as we position our company and our brands for a bright future.”

Costa Cruises

Who’s In: Michael Thamm and Mario Zanetti 

Who’s Out: Neil Palomba

In order to fill the position vacated by Neil Palomba, Costa Cruises looked internally and promoted Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia, to acting President.  The cruise line also promoted Mario Zanetti, president Costa Group Asia, as COO of Costa Cruises. 

Michael Thamm, left, and Mario Zanetti | Photo: Costa Group

“The current pause in our cruise operations has given us the opportunity of redesigning every aspect of our business, from our commercial strategy, to product design including our organizational structure to make sure we come back stronger when we resume operations.“ said Michael Thamm, Group CEO, Costa Group and Carnival Asia “We all thank Neil for his outstanding contribution to the success of Costa Cruises in the past six years and wish him the best for his new role within the Carnival family of brands“.

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