USA. Carnival Cruise Line and Starboard Cruise Services have hailed the high-class new shopping offer onboard Carnival Horizon, with both partners calling it a “milestone” launch for retailing at sea. In a first for both companies, Carnival and Starboard hosted a media event in New York yesterday to showcase the onboard stores, with The Moodie Davitt Report among the guests.

As reported, LVMH-owned Starboard has revealed its largest shopping space at sea, with The Fun Shops on Carnival Horizon covering around 5,000sq ft over two decks, with numerous firsts. These include a debut Victoria’s Secret boutique and a high-profile presence for brands such as Breitling, Hublot, Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Kors and Kate Spade. The product offer spans fashion & accessories, beauty & fragrance, spirits, watches, jewellery and more.

High class on the high seas: The luxury watches and jewellery store offers generous space for these categories, with new brands such as Hublot and Breitling joining the Carnival shopping offer through Starboard

Carnival Cruise Line Vice President of Retail Services William Butler said: “This is a milestone in our partnership with Starboard. We have created the best shopping experience at sea and we are proud to showcase our flagship retail experience. Carnival Horizon launched in April with sailings in Europe before repositioning to New York and its official launch. It shows many of the same features as her sister Carnival Vista but with some notable new additions, including the first Dr. Seuss themed water park, our first teppanyaki menu and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse created by Food network star Guy Fieri with four beers that are brewed onboard.

William Butler: “Our shopping environments are now at the heart of our vessels, with curated spaces designed by retail architects.”

“I am most proud of our two-deck mall-style shopping experience. We began our partnership with Starboard over 30 years ago. Shopping is now very much in the DNA of our ships. When retail was first created onboard our ships back then, they were secondary spaces and we used ship-building architects to create them. Fast forward and our shopping environments are now at the heart of our vessels, with curated spaces designed by retail architects. We have also embarked on numerous renovations across our fleet, notably with Starboard on Carnival Legend which is sailing in Alaska for the season.”

Media guests were given a snapshot of the onboard experiences provided by Carnival, Starboard and their brand partners; here Le Vian specialist AJ introduces the jewellery brand’s customised experience

Starboard Cruise Services President and CEO Beth Neumann said: “These shops are not about transactions but about creating experiences for guests onboard.

“Carnival is all about unabashed all-in fun, no matter who you are. As we thought about that and Carnival’s ‘Choose fun’ tag line, we were inspired to extend that to retail and to the ‘Shop fun’ concepts onboard.”

Victoria’s Secret opens its first boutique onboard a Carnival ship, with the ‘Girls Night Out’ experience providing a fun drawcard for guests each evening

She added: “We learned what Carnival was about and we extended that fun into retail in a tailored way. We do that across every ship we’re on. You won’t find what we do onboard Carnival Horizon on any other cruise ship in the world. It’s tailored to what the Carnival guest is looking for. I feel lucky as people are on this incredible vacation, they are joyous and having fun. So really our job is to bring that experience into the shops, entertain them, help them discover new things and give them hospitality. What we are selling them is a memory of that vacation. It’s easier to be an experiential retailer in those circumstances.

The Rock Envy store offers guests the chance to create their own customised Swarovski piece, a lovely idea that is likely to resonate with shoppers seeking a memento with a branded connection

Window dressing: The Carnival Horizon set in Swarovski crystals at the front of the jewellery shop

“It’s about creating magic in retail onboard and has to be about entertainment. There is so much to do onboard so as a retailer we have to ensure guests choose our experiences. That can mean educating them in the art of watch-making or offering a Victoria’s Secret night out. Also, you don’t sail if you don’t like people and we help connect people to each other. And our incredibly talented teams onboard are great connectors with other people. They love to connect and it is real and genuine.”

Crucially, the stores neatly blend shopping with tailored experiences for Carnival guests. For example, in Carnival’s first Victoria’s Secret boutique, guests can join in a Victoria’s Secret Girls Night Out, where cruise line and retailer invite women to sample a cocktail, listen to a DJ, spin a wheel and possibly win a prize while browsing the merchandise.

The beauty store in which Victoria’s Secret is housed offers an array of other leading brands

Another highlight is the high-end jewellery and watches offer, with brands such as Hublot and Breitling complementing Rolex, Tag Heuer and others. The same upscale store also houses a Le Vian shop-in-shop, which brings the jewellery brand that is popular among many celebrities to life through regular Le Vian Style Me Famous Fashion events.

Neumann said: “Le Vian is seen on many celebrities and for guests onboard is the chance to feel like one of them. Being a jeweller at sea we can allow women to experience the brand and even wear it to dinner. There is something for everyone and women love to try it on, take a selfie with the coloured gemstones and chocolate diamonds.” Guests receive a Le Vian gemstone with the option to upgrade to a piece that complements their style.

Kate Spade and Michael Kors join the Carnival portfolio onboard Horizon; below, a solid sunglasses range in the same store

In a first at sea, the partners have exclusively developed (for Carnival ships) the Rock Envy with Crystals from Swarovski experience in the jewellery store. Here, guests can work with Starboard’s team to custom-design their own Swarovski bracelet as a keepsake of their cruise. Other leading jewellery names include Alex and Ani, BB Becker, Kallati and Lulu DK.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Life is an experience that combines shopping opportunities for high-end spirits, watches, sunglasses and fragrance with a fun evening out. Here, men can learn to tie a bow-tie, perfect their own signature cocktail, choose a gift for their partner and source ideas for a date night for them and their partner.

Retail ambassadors introduce the Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Life, an engaging way to demystify some luxury brands that appeal to the male consumer

Other highlights include an expanded wearable tech offer (brands include Fossil, Citizen, iTouch, Movado, Michael Kors, Connect and TAG Heuer), a strong fashion watches range with Daniel Wellington, Invicta, Bulova, Citizen and others, plus a sunglasses range that includes Ray-Ban, Gucci, Prada, Oakley, Maui Jim, Costa Del Mar and Guess. There is also a strong core category duty free store offer, Carnival logoed merchandise and a Cherry on Top candy store.

Neumann said: “We think cruise retail is the most exciting retail in the world, and we are at the forefront of retail. We know that retail on land is going through difficult transformation and we are forging that path of the future.

Going big on branding: Victoria’s Secret splashed across one of the central atriums of the ship before it sets sail

“We mark our 60th anniversary this year. We now operate on over 90 ships, across over 360,000sq ft of space and with 750 brands. Those brands see that they can tell their story onboard in a different way. The Victoria’s Secret experience is not replicable anywhere else. The watches shop is a first of its kind at sea and you’ll see brands like Hublot, Breitling, Michael Kors and Kate Spade on offer. People want to learn the stories behind these brands.”

As part of a multi-year agreement, Starboard now manages retail services on nine Carnival ships including Carnival Horizon.

As reported, Starboard is delivering many first-at-sea concepts for its key cruiseline partners. In 2017, Starboard debuted new concepts in Asia for Dream Cruises’ World Dream. These included the first Tiffany & Co. boutique on an Asian ship, featuring a High Tea with Tiffany luxury campaign. The company has since expanded its Tiffany partnership with a boutique launch on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.

A recently executed retail agreement with Costa Cruises includes retail operations for Costa’s first ship purpose-built for the Asia market, Costa Venezia, launching in 2019. (Starboard will also be the retail partner for Costa Smeralda, the line’s new-build for the European market.) Starboard is also the exclusive partner for Royal Caribbean International in Asia, currently operating on three vessels in the region and expanding its roster with Spectrum of the Seas’ Asia debut next year.

*We’ll bring you extensive interviews with William Butler and Beth Neumann in coming days, plus a full review of the new Carnival Horizon retail offer with more images, audio and video.