A Q&A With Carnival Cruise Line's Senior PR Manager

Editor’s Note: When I started writing about cruising for The Palm Beach Post six years ago, Vance Gulliksen was one of the first people in the industry I met. The senior PR manager for Carnival Cruise Lines was not only professional and efficient, but also a lot of fun to be around. I asked Vance to tell us a little about himself and what must be one of the best jobs going. — Gerry Barker

Q. What is your title and how long have you been with Carnival?

A.  Senior PR Manager.  I’ll celebrate my 23-year anniversary with Carnival at the end of this month. Time flies!

Q. Tell us about what your role is at Carnival. What’s a typical day like?

A.  My role here at Carnival essentially is to promote our vacation experience to the media, from newspapers and magazines to blogs and TV shows. It’s these types of independent, third-party reviews that resonate with consumers and hopefully they will remember this coverage when it comes time to make their vacation plans.

We interact with dozens of travel writers, freelancers and bloggers on various story ideas on a daily basis. We also organize media events, either aboard ship or in a particular market ashore, to showcase different aspects of our product.

 For instance, we recently worked with Food Network star and Carnival partner Guy Fieri to announce Smokehouse Brewhouse BBQ restaurant on our newest ship Carnival Horizon.  The announcement was made at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas with Guy hosting a cooking competition with local kids from the 4H Club all the while telling the audience about all the great BBQ offerings at Smokehouse Brewhouse.

Next month, we’ll be hosting an event with our brewmaster Colin Presby on Carnival Vista to announce the four new craft beers that will be offered on Carnival Horizon. Can’t wait!

We also organize press trips to give media a first-hand look at our product and also work with journalists who want to sail independently.  I also do a lot of copywriting, story pitching, fact checking and interviews with media.  There’s never a typical day here that’s for sure!

Q. Did you work in the cruise industry prior to joining Carnival, and what attracted you to your current job?

A. To be honest, I had never taken a cruise before joining the company in 1994, so the idea of a seagoing vacation was totally foreign to me. Working in the travel industry always appealed to me and when I saw Carnival’s ad in the Miami Herald (no websites back then), I jumped at the chance, submitted my resume and, after three interviews, thankfully got the job.  

Q. What are the biggest changes you seen in cruising since you started in the industry?

A.  Well, for starters the ships are much, much bigger, which provides an even greater canvas for our ship designers to create some really fun and unique features to promote like the unbelievable bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide that’s on Carnival Vista and soon to be on Horizon. Plus, technology has definitely changed how the cruise industry operates as a whole.

The internet was in its infancy when I started at Carnival and we were very much “old school” – you mailed a release and waited to see if it made the papers a few weeks later.  If something was really urgent, you sent a fax!

Q. You work for The Fun Ships. What’s the most fun about your job?

A. The people I work with, particularly the shipboard staff, are awesome – they’re the ones who really make Carnival such a great place to work. Whether it’s hosting media or coordinating events, everyone comes together and does such a great job creating fun, memorable events that showcase our brand. I also enjoy copywriting and with so many fun happenings here – be it Grinchmas with Dr. Seuss, a cool new water park or promoting the a 300-pound hamburger that’s the largest at sea (really!) – there’s always something interesting to write about.

Q. Do you get to take cruises as well as write about them? If so, how many have you taken in the line of duty?

A. Yes, my family and I will occasionally take a Carnival cruise as a vacation.  My kids love it!  As for my total number of cruises, including those for work, I haven’t really kept track but it’s probably around 100, I presume.

Q. When you are on a cruise, what’s your favorite thing to do?

A. Besides eating, of course?  I really enjoy just relaxing by the pool, checking out the water slides or going to one of our comedy shows.

Q. This is an exciting time for the cruise industry. More people are choosing cruising than ever before. Why is that?

A. That’s certainly true for Carnival Cruise Line – we carried a record 5 million guests this year, including 800,000 kids. Considering all you get for your money and all the incredible new features that are being added to ships these days, a cruise is the best value in travel, hands down. Also, there’s no better vacation for families.  No other vacation has so much for adults and kids alike as well as opportunities for shared experiences.

Q. Let’s look ahead. What does Carnival have in store for us in the next few years?

A.  That’s a really great question. We have four new ships on order over the next four years, including the debut of our new 180,000-ton ships that will be the largest ever constructed for Carnival.  We have lots of exciting, unique and groundbreaking features on tap so you’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store.

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