“I’m always thinking about how I can add value to the business, and then I volunteer myself to do things. Sometimes it becomes my next job,” says Renata Ribeiro, senior vice president in the Office of the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Carnival Corporation.
Ribeiro reached her position after taking on six roles in the organization over the past thirteen years. She began her work with the organization at Carnival Cruise Line in 2008 working in Guest Experience Innovation, after establishing herself through her time in strategic management consulting. Born and raised in Brazil, Ribeiro moved to the United States and took her skills in strategy, business growth, and global operations with her.
The combination of global operations experience and strategic management consulting shaped her perspective and approach to leadership. “I’ve spent about 60 percent of my career in corporate roles and about 40 percent in management consulting. This is a very interesting combination because in management consulting, you are trained to find opportunities to create shareholder value and to serve clients,” Ribeiro says.
Now as an SVP working for the COO, she is a key leader in the organization, and currently taking a leadership role on the efforts to restart after COVID-19. “I’m always thinking, What does this company need?” she notes. “What are the major challenges and opportunities? How can I help?”
Restarting in the cruise industry poses many major challenges. It is the last arm of the travel industry to restart operations, and it is a very international industry. To begin operating again, many aspects need to be considered: access to ports, understanding travel restrictions, the impact of vaccinations, and assessing the need of other protocols such as wearing masks, to name a few.
Carnival Corporation has had lines sailing in Europe for a few months as of June 2021, but in the United States things are still in the process of reopening. Ribeiro stresses that the highest responsibility and top priorities of the company are always compliance, environmental protection, and the health, safety and well-being of its guests, its shipboard and shoreside employees, and the communities they visit and serve. As part of this, Carnival Corporation is trying to ensure that all crew members can receive vaccines.
“Most of the crew members are from countries where vaccination is not widely available yet,” Ribeiro tells us. Partnering with various governments around the world for support has been successful in vaccination efforts and ensuring crew members and guests are safe to return to sea.
With all the moving parts and lines of communication needed to restart cruise operations, Ribeiro’s mindset of looking at challenges as opportunities and stepping in to help is perfect for her role.
The first step in restarting, according to Ribeiro, was to explain to different local governments the economic impact cruising has to their communities. This has been imperative for Carnival Corporation as it gives countries, with different regulations, awareness of the contributions cruising has to local communities.
After engaging with different local and federal governments, Ribeiro says that the next step has been to build a network of global public health experts to advise on protocols. Carnival Corporation works with several from around the world, and additionally has held scientific summits to stay current on information about the vaccine and the way in which the United Kingdom, countries in Europe such Italy and Germany, and the United States demonstrated their approach to COVID management.
As a self-proclaimed generalist, Ribeiro says that leaning on experts has been pertinent for her as a leader in many times throughout her career but especially during Carnival’s restart initiatives. “Every time there’s a new challenge, the process of learning and discovering is fascinating,” she says. “For me, it’s all about teamwork. I try to be very collaborative and lead by influence.
“This is a huge team effort,” she continues. “We’ve currently got eight different brands either restarted or actively ramping up for restart in a myriad of places around the world. On top of that there are experts in different fields that we need to involve. Once we start communicating protocols and policies with the cruise lines, there is a lot of discussion on interpretation and understanding how we’re going to make it operational.”
Ribeiro also notes the differences in how countries are handling the pandemic and the necessity of keeping dialogue open to handle the protocols per country. She states that the Carnival Corporation group responsible for the restart of operations discusses the essence of the protocols and collective perspective before engaging globally and making adjustments from there. “It is a global effort with a lot of dialogue,” she notes. “That is the secret of how to make this happen.”
Her boss, Chief Operations Officer Josh Weinstein, notes that Ribeiro has been instrumental in keeping the organization on track for a successful restart. “She’s taken what could have been a very fragmented process and has kept it—and all of us—on track,” he says. “Renata is ensuring that workstreams are connected, that issues are being surfaced and resolved by the right subject matter experts, that brands are collaborating in the right areas, and that full communication is happening in real time.”
The culture of diversity at Carnival Corporation enables this global effort. “When people think about cruise lines,” she says, “they think that on the ships we have diversity—and we do, but there is huge diversity in our offices, too.”
A large part of the culture is also creating a sense of belonging that enables members of the corporation to view others as equals and share ideas freely. “Very senior people are very approachable,” Ribeiro says. “I feel I can be very entrepreneurial in a large corporation.”
This type of culture, combined with the ability to lean on experts and open a collective dialogue, is what Ribeiro feels is responsible for cultivating an environment that puts Carnival Corporation’s restart initiatives on course for success.
“Renata’s contributions go well beyond the restart,” Weinstein says. “She’s an intellectual Swiss Army Knife who has eagerly, for the past year in my organization, taken on challenges, solved problems and seized opportunities on behalf of the corporation.”
As the global market leader in retail at sea, Starboard Cruise Services takes pride in curating vacation retail experiences with the best cruise line partners in the world. Congratulations, Renata Ribeiro, for leading a remarkable career with vision, passion and resilience. We are honored to work with you and Carnival Corporation.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world’s leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises.