Last year, when Carnival Cruise Line announced a new deal with Shaquille O'Neal, the partnership left many wondering what exactly was going on. Now, the company is moving forward with the next phase of the agreement, and it's clear this is more than just a one-off marketing gimmick.
Press releases by Carnival early last year confirmed the former NBA star and Orlando Magic star became the cruise line’s new "Chief Fun Officer." The marketing promotion created just the buzz the company was looking for, and Shaq was soon seen in Carnival commercials.
Shaq previously played for the Miami Heat, which is owned by Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison. In interviews, Shaq has mentioned that this previous relationship with Arison is what first opened the door to considering the carnival partnership.
Shaq is not only Carnival's new Chief Fun Officer, but he is also opening his own restaurant on select Carnival ships
By this summer, Shaq’s chicken sandwich restaurant, Big Chicken, was confirmed to be coming to two new Carnival ships, the Carnival Radiance and the Port Canaveral-based Carnival Mardi Gras. Shaq was a regular in Carnival commercials and press junkets, but on the boat most passengers still saw little presence of the celebrity athlete. That’s about to change.
Shaq's Big Chicken onboard the Carnival Mardi Gras
A new safety video featuring Shaq is now playing in all 34,000-plus staterooms throughout the entire fleet of more than two dozen ships, the largest cruise line fleet in the world. Carnival says the new video is about grabbing passengers' attention.
The move is similar to one that airlines are better known for where over-the-top safety videos featuring celebrities, special effects, and cross-promotions are quickly becoming the industry standard. From United’s Spider-Man: Far From Home themed safety video to Qatar Airways’ video staring FC Barcelona players, airline passengers have come to expect entertaining ‘on-brand’ safety videos. On cruise ships, where safety videos play second fiddle to mandatory muster drills, the videos have typically been an afterthought that most passengers quickly click past when they turn on their televisions.
“Keeping our guests and crew safe is our number one priority. Carnival is known for having fun, so we’ve taken a different twist on the typical safety video to engage with our guests and capture their attention in an entertaining way while still remaining informative, clear and directive,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.
"Who better to explain our safety procedures than our shipboard team members who work every day to keep our guests safe and happy – and, of course, our CFO Shaq, the best person to make safety serious fun."
Carnival Mardi Gras' new terminal at Port Canaveral
Alongside Shaq, the video also features three members of the cruise line’s entertainment team and even a few towel animals.
Shaq’s Big Chicken is one of four celebrity-driven restaurant concepts on the upcoming Carnival Mardi Gras. The ship will also include Emeril Lagasse’s first-ever restaurant at sea and two Guy Fieri restaurants. The Carnival Mardi Gras will set sail from Port Canaveral’s new Terminal 3 beginning in 2020.