Carnival CCO on coronavirus comms: ‘Social distancing might calm the situation’

Chris Chiames discusses comms priorities and how he's defending the cruise industry on LinkedIn.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

MIAMI: Carnival Cruise Line’s chief comms officer Chris Chiames is calling out a LinkedIn user for asking him if he would like to buy the domains coronacruiseship.com and coronaviruscruiseship.com to help manage the narrative around the pandemic.

LinkedIn user Sameer Rai sent Chiames a message over the weekend explaining that he was planning on making a website with the domains, but he wanted to offer them to Carnival Cruise Line because “they have been generating interest and seem to have a lot more value to others than to myself.”

Rai then explained that if the company wants to use the domains, he is willing to “sell them to you for the right price.”

In response, Chiames posted a screenshot of Rai’s message on LinkedIn and wrote, “No Sameer. I don’t want to buy your domain name rights. But I’m happy to publicize your stupid, selfish and sick idea to make money off the situation that not only threatens lives but livelihoods as well.”

Chiames told PRWeek that upon receiving the message from Rai he was stunned, then angry, then sad.

“He was clearly trying to take advantage of a global crisis,” said Chiames. “And from a PR perspective, what did he think I would want to do with these domains? Use them to promote something? Why would we want to link cruising with coronavirus in a URL?”

This isn’t the only battle Chiames has faced on LinkedIn. A former colleague, whom he didn’t provide the name of, used the same LinkedIn discussion to vent about how awful the cruise industry is “shoving” people onto ships.

“I tactfully replied that cruising is not for everyone, but we don’t shove people anywhere, and we are heavily regulated by governments around the world, and then people started jumping on that too,” said Chiames. “It was like ill-informed people in the 1980s saying gay men deserved to get AIDS.”

Over the last six weeks, Carnival has been focused on keeping customers and crew safe and healthy and raising its screening, monitoring and sanitation protocols.

“We have been communicating those efforts to our guests, crew, travel agents and officials in the destinations we serve,” Chiames said. “We’ve also been focused on how we can communicate effectively with our guests pre-cruise and during the cruise — which admittedly hasn’t always been a perfect process for us as things have been constantly changing.”

Chiames said the comms team has also been keeping employees informed about new procedures on board and work from home policies.

Carnival Cruise Line hasn’t had any customers or crew members come down with coronavirus, but it is pausing operations for the next month as part of an industry-wide initiative.

“We are in the final days of bringing all of our ships to port,” Chiames explained. “By the end of the day Monday, 80% of the fleet will be back and all guests disembarked, with the remaining few ships back to port by mid-week.”

Although the reputation and business of cruise lines have been majorly impacted by the virus, Chiames said this issue is bigger than the cruise industry.

“Simple, clear and timely messaging always wins the day,” he said. “And right now, maybe a little social distancing  including social media distancing  might help calm the situation.”

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