With Justin French, Regional Vice President, Canada and the Northern US for Carnival Cruise Lines

Open Jaw

Though he started in the business with the legendary Wardair, this guy has happily changed his affections to the cruise world.

Where were you born? In North York, a Toronto suburb.

How long have you been in the business? For 31 years. I started with Wardair as a cargo agent, after which I joined Delta first in cargo then in sales. I’ve been with Carnival for 16 years now.

How much do you travel? About 2 weeks a month. I can pack a lot of stuff into a very small bag! 

How many cruises have you been on? I lost track at about 140. Not just Carnival – we have nine brands -- but I also do retail travel groups’ conferences which are often at sea, so I do experience other cruise lines. I don’t consider them our competition – land-based vacations are definitely our competition.   

Do you have a favourite Carnival itinerary? Europe, out of Barcelona touching on Spain or Italy. Or out of Miami to the southern Caribbean. We actually have 16 home ports now and over 2,000 itineraries a year. People don’t realize that we are so much more than a 7-day Caribbean cruise: we do Hawaii, Australia, Central America, more. Twenty-six ships in all!

How many people work for you? I have a team of 9 BDMs in Canada and the U.S. 

What’s the best part of the job? Meeting people and educating them about our brand.  We are still the fun ships, but haven’t been the party ships for a very long time. In fact the average age of our passengers is 47.

What did you want to be as a kid? A radio personality. I studied journalism at Humber College and left school but didn’t do a day in journalism! I went straight to work for Wardair.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? I have a real problem with heights but I have done ziplining once: My first and last time.

Any guilty pleasures? I love movies and have every streaming service known to man (which my teenagers love too).

What’s your favourite airline? Delta. Not just because I used to work there, but because I fly out of Buffalo a lot. They’ve come a long way and they treat me well.

Favourite hotel chain? Probably Marriott. They have such a large number of hotels and brands I find myself with them a lot.  

What’s on your tablet? Movies and music – very eclectic, thousands of songs, no rhyme or reason.

What do people not know about you? I do a lot of karaoke.

Sober karaoke? Yes, sober!

Any hobbies or interests? My absolute passion is soccer and I’m a huge fan of the Liverpool team. 

When were you happiest? I’m happy by nature. I’ve been married for almost 25 years, we have two great kids and I have the best job in the world. Happy guy! 

What would you tell your 20-year-old self? Not that I would go back and change things, but I wish I had joined the cruise industry earlier.

Who do you most admire in the industry? Micky Arison, the chairman of Carnival Corporation. A real visionary entrepreneur with foresight.  

What skill or talent do you admire in someone? Musical talent. How can you play the guitar and the drums and the piano? And on the business side, I admire people who can command a room with their presence. It’s pretty cool to watch.

What’s at the top of your bucket list? The Galapagos.

What keeps you awake at night? The thought of putting two kids through college!

How do you spend your frequent flyer points? We try to travel a lot, mostly on cruises.

What is your greatest extravagance? A good red wine. And chocolate.

How do you stay fit when you travel? I try to do as much walking as possible, use the stairs and watch what I eat – but that can be difficult!

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be? If more people would give cruising a chance. To put it in perspective, about 90 million a year go to Orlando every year, but there are only 30 million cruisers. People are still leery…but once you get them on board they’ll say “Why didn’t we do this before?”

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be? Richard Branson.  He must have the best stories and such a great take on life.

What kind of car do you drive? A Ford Edge. I’m a Ford guy.  

Do you have a favourite charity? The Cancer Society. 

What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months? From a Canadian perspective it’s our dollar. So much product is based on the U.S. dollar so it definitely impacts business. Even if it could just stabilize. Plus that dreaded season is coming up (hurricane season), so we need good weather.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Maybe retired? But I love my job and would love to do this as long as possible. You could do it all day long. So many opportunities to learn and grow.




Comments

Susan Champagne - August 23, 2019 @ 10:56
Happy Birthday my friend! Nice interview. Stay healthy and keep up the good work!

Denise Harper - August 20, 2019 @ 16:42
Love this! Great commentary Justin. PS. I know a fabulous tour operator that could help you with your bucket list destination!

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