Behind the Fun Provides Business Insights

By John R. Aberle | Business Lifestyle

John Aberle’s Meme using his picture of the Carnival Miracle off Cabo San Lucas for the image
Jun 19

You may have heard me mention that a business lifestyle is one of the six pillars to business success that makes the journey worthwhile. Interestingly, having a business lifestyle is neither all business nor all work. The idea is to be aware wherever you are of lessons that you can learn and then apply to make your own business better and more profitable. A great example of this is to take the Behind the Fun Tour like we did on Carnival’s Miracle.

John Aberle’s photo of the Behind the Fun Tour Promotional Poster outside the Excursions Office

Behind the Fun Tour Promotional Poster

Although Carnival forbid us to take pictures or do recordings on the tour, I did make a few notes and a lot of observations. See what insights you can gather from these notes to benefit your customers, your employees and yourself.

Behind the Stage and Entertainers

We started behind the stage and then met with the lead entertainer also. We got ask questions and find out more about their lives on ship. The entertainers hire on as a team. Their contract runs 7.5 months after which they get a month off if they want to return to a ship. Some days are 10 to 12 hours as they have additional duties besides performing.

While fire is a problem for any theater, at sea it is especially dangerous so they take extra precautions, like using cold pyrotechnics. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing.

John R. Aberle’s photo of The Carvery in Carnival Miracle’s Horatio’s Restaurant

The Carvery in Carnival Miracle’s Horatio’s Restaurant

Galley (Kitchen)

From there we went to the main galley, which is the main kitchen, on cruise ships. Reebello, the head sous chef chatted with us and answered our questions. We got some insights into the scale of food preparation his team must do.

They spent $320,000 on food for a cruise of 7 days. All of which they buy in the US so that it is USDA approved. Further, they comply with the Center for Disease Control regulations and guidelines, such as the different temperatures for meats, fish, and poultry.

As might be expected of anything that runs as efficiently as this kitchen, Carnival’s galleys have well designed systems to ensure quality and consistency. For instance, Reebello showed us the pictures that they use to train new chefs on the how plates are to look when they are served.

Among those guidelines is the one that says food is only allowed to be on the buffet line for four hours after which time it is pulled and dumped into the pulper. The pulped food will eventually be dispersed into the ocean when they are far enough out to sea.

He has approximately 45 minutes to get 2800 to 3000 meals served, an impossible task without well designed systems. They can have up to 2,650 guests on the Miracle.

Moreover, the Miracle has eight kitchens and 120 chefs. The kitchens are divided into different sections each of which is headed by its own chef.

John R. Aberle’s Collage from his pictures of the Chocolate Extravaganza Station

Chocolate Extravaganza Station Collage

Management of that many chefs and that many meals can be a challenge. For instance, he can pull a pastry chef to help in another section, but he can’t pull someone from a different kitchen section to serve as a pastry chef because the pastry chefs are artists. (See the pictures of the food art that they prepare.)

Carnival Miracle's Chocolate Buffet Collage

Carnival Miracle's Chocolate Buffet Collage

Being the “Fun Ships®,” they put tremendous attention on making the customer’s experience positively memorable in every way. For instance, we met the chef, Ernesto, who does the watermelon carvings. This artist has been with them for 20 years. He can do a simple carving in 10 – 12 minutes while a complex one like the Indian chief’s head takes him 18-20 minutes.


Juan Peres, the Stores Manager, oversees 11 stores. He explained that they have four hours to turnaround the loading and unloading of the ship:

  • Recycle materials offload first
  • Luggage offloads next
  • Food loads third
  • Luggage loads fourth

In total, they load 350 to 400 pallets every week. (As Dorothy & I disembarked, we noticed that their forklift moves four pallets at a time with extra-long tongs because the pallets

are all horizontal so as to load straight into the loading bay.) This requires staging the bins of recyclable materials near the loading bay to be able to grab them quickly for offloading.

There are three freezers:

  • Meat​
  • Poulty
  • Fish

He supervises several refrigerators too.

  • Beer and sodas
  • Hard alcohol - this is a separate room designed to contain fire
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

The stores and different departments with inventory, like the bars and the shops, take a physical inventory weekly – without the aid of scanners.

Among the other stores (storerooms) that Juan manages are the following:

  • Beer and sodas
  • Dry goods (linens, towel, uniforms, etc.); paper goods plus office supplies
  • Retail shops
  • Photo shop supplies and cameras; artwork; spa supplies

NOTE: This list of storerooms is my guess as to how the additional stores broke out as Juan didn't spell it out.

Some departments also have spare parts. When you are at sea or in a foreign port, you can’t just run across town to pick up the part you need. Additionally, in the Engine Control Room, we learned that their Azipod® propulsion systems can take four to six months to get a replacement part so they carry spares of critical parts for when they are in dry dock, which is typically only four days.

Photo announcing Carnival Miracle’s Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends

Human Resources

If you think you have challenges with managing employees, look at what the Miracle must contend with. Dragan, our tour guide, is the deputy in HR. He gave us the following facts:

  • 950 crewmen from 40 countries
  • A crewman has no expenses on ship other than drinks, Internet, tours, and souvenirs so he could save his entire wages
  • They have no weekends off and no holidays

The HR department has five staff members responsible for a variety of things besides administering human resources:

  • Training, especially Safety Activities
  • Activities for the crew morale
  • Movie Night
  • Parties
  • Arranging for crew-only excursions
  • Providing 500 business courses
  • Language courses
  • Specialized courses, like the whale recognition course that all bridge crew must pass
  • Games and puzzles


When you enter your cabin on your cruise ship, or even when you stay at a hotel, do you ever think of the mammoth amount of laundry that must be done to ensure you have clean sheets and towels? The Miracle’s Laundry Department runs two shifts a day to handle their workload:

  • ​They have a 300-pound washing machine
  • Three each 100 pound compartments
  • Depending on load, it can take up to 45 minutes to steam wash laundry
  • They have 17 programs for running this washer
  • They wash 2000 towels a day
  • They also have smaller washes for blankets and other laundry, like uniforms
  • They operate six dryers
  • They have a huge commercial machine to dry, press and fold sheets. It does 2,000 sheets per day.

Did you notice all the places that well-defined systems were essential? How much of your business has clearly defined procedures with task sheets and pictures or diagrams to make it easier to train a replacement? You want such transitions to go so smoothly that customers never notice a drop in your level of service.

When you a look into what it takes to provide you with a problem free, wonderful vacation experience, it is really awe inspiring. Carnival’s Behind the Fun Tour opened my eyes to many things I never thought about, like needing a special room for hard alcohol to minimize the risk of fire. Or using cold pyrotechnics for spectacular stage productions while also preventing fire. Or having a chef to carve watermelon sculptures for the buffet area.

Living a business lifestyle can be lots of fun with fascinating experiences. It just means looking for ideas from unrelated industries that you can somehow apply to your own to improve your customer’s experience, reduce your employees’ workloads, and improve your profits.

Open your heart in selling,

John's signature in Rage Italic script

John R. Aberle

Aberle Enterprises


Next week, I will look at cruising with Carnival from the viewpoint of a marketer. This will be a fascinating look at add-on sales and up-sells. In the meantime, if you want to schedule your own business lifestyle vacation check out Carnival Cruise LInes for yourself.

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About the Author

I have a strong love for small businesses, especially brick and mortar companies. After an 18-year career in sales and marketing, I started my own service company, which I grew in both sales and profits for the first five years. In my sixth year, the bottom dropped out of the printer market such that it made more sense to sell my assets and return to Southern California. There I went to work for an international small business consulting company. I spent over three years on the road with them helping small businesses to become more profitable and better managed. I then started my own company specializing in sales and marketing consulting, coaching and training. My emphasis is on heart-centered, relationship selling that empowers prospects to make their own choices.