Three decades ago, a Miami high-school junior, fed up with his job prospects as a dishwasher at a local juice bar, interviewed for a weekend job as a check-in agent at the city’s port with the only cruise line that would hire minors.
“I didn’t hear back for a month. The day before I went to work as a dishwasher I was told that I was hired. I called my manager and said I was going to be leaving,” he told TMR. Now, 35 years later, that part-time job has led Adolfo Perez to a three-decade-long career at Carnival Cruise Line.
Perez went from check-in agent to reservation agent to vice president of sales at Carnival’s contact center to managing director of the U.K. and Ireland. Now, as vice president of sales and trade marketing, he heads Carnival’s international trade team of 70-plus employees working to accommodate and communicate with travel agents selling Carnival.
Perez admits that his longevity and success at Carnival was partly because of good timing. He came on board just as Carnival began a “crazy, crazy rate of growth.” Between 1982 and 1986, Tropicale, the first new Carnival ship in 20 years, Holiday and Jubilee all debuted.
But it wasn’t just luck.
“I worked hard, I’m very competitive, I always wanted to move to the next level,” he said. “I worked at the port and I wanted to work at reservations…then I wanted to work at the hot line,” and so on and so on.
Perez also points to the Carnival team, including his boss Mickey Arison, who made loyalty easy.
“It feels like a family here. I have always been treated very well and have been given opportunities,” he said.
Much like Carnival has placed a lot of faith in Perez, he has done the same with his partners in the trade. He says that not only Carnival but the cruise industry as a whole “wouldn’t be where they are today” without agents taking a chance on the industry in the 1970s.
So far 2017 has been a banner year for Carnival’s outreach to the trade. In March, Carnival launched a promotion to give gift cards to 45 travel agents who answered a question correctly on its travel-agent Facebook page.
In May, Carnival changed its payment policy to allow agents and guests to pay for their sailing in three monthly installments through a new EasyPay program.
And in July, Carnival said it would began to pay travel agent commissions on bookings made with future cruise credits.
Still, Perez doesn’t see 2017 as anything out of the ordinary. The ‘Travel Agents Rock’ tagline has been using “is not just for 2017, it’s really the way we think here,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to look for things we can do—so don’t be surprised.”
Perez decided to make that dedication it a little more visible (and permanent) during Carnival’s Agentpalooza celebration last spring, getting a “Travel Agents Rock” tattoo on his upper left arm during one of the stops on the tour.
“People said ‘you’re going to regret it,’” but he doesn’t, Perez said.
“Everything that I have in my life that is material and everything I have that is experience wise is all tied back to Carnival and travel agents.”\