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Carnival Cruise Line’s Strategic Sourcing Team Helps Reduce Cost and Increase Efficiency

Carnival Cruise Line used its supply chain know-how to deliver 10 million pounds of food and supplies to help with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.


Carnival Cruise Line is the largest of nine brands under Carnival Corp. with a total of 27 cruise ships. In spite of its size, the company insists it is careful to not lose its focus on the five million individuals who cruise with it every year.


“We try to understand our guests and listen to them to provide the goods and services they want versus what we think they want,” says Norbert Dean, vice president of strategic sourcing and supply chain.



The guest experience often boils down to their interaction with Carnival staff. “How our employees on the ships deliver the product is key,” Dean says. “They are fun, open and have conversations with guests, providing exceptional service while delivering a memorable vacation experience. As cruise ships continue to get larger, I think there’s an even deeper focus and importance placed on enhancing the guest experience. It’s all about the quality and quantity of experiences available onboard and during the shore excursions.”


But if its staff is there to support guests, who works to ensure the staff has what it needs to make sure honeymoons and vacations aboard its ships don’t disappoint?


Before Setting Sail


Carnival Cruise Line’s supply chain is the key to how well its employees can support the guest experience. “What’s interesting about this industry is that when the ship leaves, it leaves,” Dean explains. “If an item arrives a day late, for example, that won’t work. The importance of the ship leaving with the items and having the right stocked items is really an interesting and ongoing supply chain practice.”


Partnering with its operations department to source and coordinate the on-time delivery of goods and services to the cruise ship while at a dry dock is also critical. “The scope of work accomplished during a dry dock is amazing,” Dean explains. “We are trying to do in a couple of weeks what large construction projects accomplish in months and years. It’s not just changing the carpet; in some cases, we could be changing the entire theme, installing new technical equipment or putting in new restaurants or areas on the ship. The coordination of items that have to be there and the coordination of all those tradesmen is really interesting.”


Dean praises his supply chain team for its work in supporting the guest experience. “We have people who really understand our impact on the guest experience and are on the phone at 10 pm or 6 am if something happened in the supply chain to make sure an item gets to the ship,” Dean says. “There’s a real understanding and love for the job and that is something I bet all companies wish they had.  This team also has great heart and played a key role in helping move 10 million pounds of food and supplies and over 250 shipping containers to support the relief efforts in The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian” in 2019.


Strategic Vision


Dean seized the opportunity to come aboard Carnival Cruise Line two years ago to build a sourcing team with the goal of reducing cost and increasing efficiency. “When I came here they didn’t have a sourcing organization within Carnival Cruise Line and I had built the sourcing team at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment,” he says. “We are building the team at Carnival Cruise Line and along with that comes the right technology to make sure we have visibility into our processes.”


Two of the most important focus areas in sourcing are contracts and spend. Carnival Corp has implemented new technology to gain greater visibility into its contracts and is in the process of doing so for overall spend.


“Developing stronger relationships with [internal] operations while developing strategic and deeper relationships with our suppliers is also a real area of opportunity for Carnival,” Dean says. “I think this is an area we should focus on across categories. We have the traditional bid, award and communicate relationships, but driving strategic relationships is an area of opportunity.”


Carnival Cruise Line will continue to seek a deeper understanding of its strategic sourcing by category and plans to increase the efficiency of its order processing. Investments in the future may include a procure-to-pay program or robotics, with the ultimate goal of arriving at a more efficient way to place, receive and pay.


“With far less hassle, our team will be able to procure goods and services and have the confidence an item will be received on time or the service will be successfully completed,” Dean concludes. “We want our people to be very confident that the entire supply chain is efficient. That is absolutely a vision.”


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