Who Owns Carnival Cruise Line?

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Known as “The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line,” Carnival Cruise Line was founded in 1972. Millions of guests board its fleet of ships annually.

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its party-like atmosphere that’s fun for people of all ages. We discuss who owns Carnival Cruise Line and how it has developed over the past 50 years. 

Carnival Cruise Line is a subsidiary of the British-American Carnival Corporation & PLC and has its headquarters in Doral, Florida. Carnival Corp has over 100 ships in its fleet and operates across ten cruise brands.

It is a “dual-listed” company combining Panama Incorporated, which is the United States Carnival Corp (headquarters) and Carnival PLC (United Kingdom-based).

Who Owns Carnival Cruise Line – History of Carnival Corporation

Carnival Corporation was the entity that began in 1972. The cruise line steadily grew throughout the seventies and eighties. In 1987, it made an initial public offering with the New York Stock Exchange. All capital generated from stocks financed further acquisitions. 

From 1989 to 1999, the company did well financially and acquired Windstar Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Westours, Cunard Line, and Costa Cruises. The name Carnival Corporation was created in 1993 to distinguish between its parent company and its subsidiaries. 

Carnival Corporation acquired 50% ownership of Costa Cruises in 1997 and took complete control of the company in 2000. In 1998, it received a 68% stake in Cunard Line and the remaining 32% one year later in Seabourn.

Carnival Miami Offices
Carnival Miami Offices (Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock)

In 2000, P&O Princess Cruise emerged after the demerger from P&O Group. P&O Group began as Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in 1837 in England. They operated the first world commercial cruise ships.

Restructuring during the 20th century led to them being rebranded as P&O Cruises Australia and P&O Cruises. They acquired Princess Cruises in 1974 and AIDA Cruises in 2000.

With Carnival Corporation’s acquisition of P&O Princess Cruises in 2003, it was agreed that P&O Cruises would remain a separate entity on the London Stock Exchange. 

In 2003, Carnival Corporation combined with P&O Princess Cruises and Princess Tours. In 2014, the company contained distinct brands in its portfolio, with its cruise operation in North and South America, the U.K., Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and Australia. 

How Did Carnival Cruise Line Begin?

Carnival Cruise Line was established in 1972 and began as a Boston-based subsidiary of the American International Travel Service (AITS). Meshulam Riklis and Ted Arison originally owned it. Its first ship was the TSS Mardi Gras, bought initially from Canadian Pacific Line. 

However, because of mounting debt, two years later, Riklis sold his shares to Arison for one dollar. With the purchase, Arison assumed the $5 million debt load. 

First Carnival Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Oceanhistory

The company continued to grow throughout the years, with Carnival ordering its first ship, the Tropicale, which finished in 1982. It also generated an industry-wide boom in shipbuilding. It created three additional vessels in the 1980s: the Holiday in 1985, Jubilee in 1986, and Celebration in 1987.

Carnival created an initial public offering containing 20% of common stock to the New York Stock Exchange in 1987. This strategic move allowed it to generate $400 million in capital, later using this money to finance further acquisitions. 

In 1993, Carnival Cruise Line restructured itself under Carnival Corporation. Carnival Cruise Line was its primary subsidiary. 

Carnival Cruise Line contains a 24-ship fleet with more ships on order. The Costa Luminosa was recently transferred from Costa Cruises after being refurbished, and the second Excel class Carnival Celebration joined the fleet in November 2022.

A joint venture between Costa and Carnival will see two additional vessels arrive in 2023 and 2024. A third Excel class named Carnival Jubilee will also arrive in 2023.

Carnival Celebration Delivery
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

Today, Carnival Cruise Line holds a 7.6% share of the cruise industry’s revenue plus 18.2% of its passengers. These cruise ships fly a flag of convenience, with six flying the Bahama flag and 18 flying the Panama flag.

A flag of convenience is when the ship’s owners register their merchant ship to a country outside its location. The cruise ship flies that country’s flag, known as the flag state. 

International law requires every merchant ship to be registered to a registry generated by a country. The owners can register it in a foreign country to avoid the owner’s country’s regulations, which are often stricter. It also reduces the company’s operating costs and taxes, and allows them to bypass laws protecting the working conditions and wages of mariners. 

Leadership for Carnival Cruise Line

During Carnival Cruise Line’s extensive 50 years in business, it has had five presidents. The company began with Ted Arison from 1973 to 1981, who was one of the founders of the cruise line. He was responsible for the Mardi Gras, Carnivale, and Festivale ships. Arison co-founded Norwegian Cruise Line in 1966 and left to establish Carnival Cruise Line in 1972.

Read Also: What Cruise Lines Does Carnival Own?

Ted’s son, Micky, took over the company and ran it from 1981 to 1993. He expanded the company, becoming chairman of Carnival Corporation in 1993. He established the Holiday, Tropicale, and Fantasy ships.

Carnival Corporation Chairman, Micky Arison
Carnival Corporation Chairman, Micky Arison

From 1993 to 2007, the company was led by Robert H. Dickinson, who further expanded the line by strengthening existing relationships with other travel partners. He was responsible for the Carnival Spirit, Fantasy, Destiny, and Conquest ships. 

Gerald R. Cahill took over the cruise line from 2007 to 2014, leading through a global recession and many high-profile events in the company’s history. He was responsible for the Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Splendor, and Carnival Dream.

Christine D. Duffy has been the company’s president since 2015. Christine led the effort emphasizing Carnival Cruise Line as being branded “America’s Cruise Line.” 


Who owns Carnival Cruise Line? This cruise line received its humble beginnings in 1972 with a brief co-ownership between Meshulam Riklis and Ted Arison. However, due to mounting debt, Riklis sold his shares to Arison, who continued with this venture.

The fleet rapidly grew throughout the years to become the famous cruise industry giant it is today.

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