There’s more to Josh Leibowitz, CSO for Carnival Corporation and senior v.p. for Cunard North America, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit. Though Josh’s first trip as a child consisted of a road trip from Las Vegas to L.A., his most recent trip was a Transatlantic sailing from London to New York on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Though at first he wasn’t sure how he would fill his time while out at sea for seven consecutive days, he now adds it as a must-do experience for travelers. We’ll let him explain in this edition of the Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A series.
Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
Our first trip vacation-wise, that I remember, was probably to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. We grew up in L.A. and Las Vegas was in our backyard. Back then, I think it was pretty straightforward, we were allowed to run around the hotel and do pretty much whatever we wanted to; I was 7 years old. They had arcades and pools—it was more like a resort.
What’s your most vivid travel memory?
I think the most vivid travel memory to me is the faces of my family when we are doing something fun—the smiles. It’s a certain feeling that we all have when we are traveling together where we’re in this kind of boundless place. We don’t have any constraints; we don’t have to be anywhere. It’s that feeling of freedom and happiness.
What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
For me it was actually related to this company—Carnival Corporation with 10 brands. I love the people that I got to know in this company; we have an incredible amount of diversity with our team around the world. Our 10 brands are so unique that for me it was all about the opportunity to work with people that care deeply about making guests happy, and giving them an incredible experience. And, especially working on the Cunard brand, I feel an incredible sense of purpose and connection to history that is really unique in a travel brand. My family all came over from Europe by ship with the turn of the century and now this Cunard brand that I’m a part of connects me to that history and meaning.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We went to Hawaii—to the Big Island, Maui, and Lanai.
What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
The Queen Mary 2 crossing with my wife; we went from London to New York. Honestly, I didn’t know quite what to expect; we weren’t sure what it would be like. It was far and away the most incredible travel experience I’ve ever had. Seven days at sea—it’s an absolutely must-do experience because you take travel and you really change it from an experience of, ‘I have to go to this place, I have to go this place,’ and you turn it into an experience. And when you’re out at sea like that, you’re just forced into a different mode of life, and we all need to do that. Take a week and go experience what it’s like to just be and to live. It’s the cleanest, most pristine place in the world—to be in the middle of the ocean.
Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
I’d like to go to the Norwegian Fjords, sailing out of London or Amsterdam. Of course, my youngest girl thinks that’s where “Frozen” was filmed.
Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
If we see something we like, then we like buying it on vacation because then it has a double effect. It brings back a really nice memory. It’s like a memento—it’s a memory stimulant.
You can tell us—do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
We’ll often collect decks of cards; that’s fun to do.
What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
If it’s a really long trip and it’s leisure, I catch up on movies. And this may sound corny, but we actually try to replicate family movie night at the house—we’ll all get the same movie and press play at the same time, and that way we can watch it together and talk about it. We try our best to do that.
If it’s a business trip, I’m usually trying to clean through e-mails. I try to write. I write a blog on work/life balance and sometimes I’ll have a moment of inspiration and I’ll write on the plane. Sometimes I’ll talk about Cunard, or cruising, or travel in general. You can find it on LinkedIn.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My family for sure. They’re all my favorite.
If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
Well, there’s just no place like home. I have to say that’s a hard one to answer. I definitely love water views, and I love iconic views. Obviously, a cruise ship achieves the water views. When I stay at a hotel or I’m on a cruise ship, I always pay a lot of attention to the view. So if I’m in the Old City of Jerusalem, I want to see the Old City of Jerusalem. If I’m in Lake Como, I want to see the lake. And I find that it’s worth the premium because it’s really special to wake up every morning and see that. I like to be facing the sun, too; if I can get the sun exposure that’s great.
But with my Carnival hat on, I would say the Queen Mary 2 Duplex Suite in the back, which is really spectacular.
What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
We’re both vegetarian and we were on a Holland America ship and the master chef knew we were vegetarian. He was from India and he prepared for us this incredible feast of food that were his favorite recipes. It was just a great food memory.
Strangest…oddly, the best Chinese food I think I ever had was in Delhi. And it was kind of ironic that that was the case. It was strange that I was having the best Chinese food of my life in India. But in terms of true strangeness, I don’t know.
What can’t you travel without?
Recently, my wife and I went up to New York City, and I remember we bought a few things before we left. But that is kind of ironic because we were going to the city with the most of anything we could possibly need. So, at some level, what do you really need? Whatever you need, you can actually get where you’re going.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
We met some great people on the Queen Mary 2 crossing. We met a couple that had been married for over 50 years. And before they went to bed, they both stood up and they sang a little routine. You remember the scene in the “Sound of Music” when they sing, “So long, farewell..”? It was basically reminiscent of that. They didn’t sing that song, but they sang like a little song about going to sleep and it was so cute watching the two of them: To be married 50 years is one thing; but then, to have the confidence and the comfort to do that.
Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Tropical beach. I really like the heat actually. I don’t dislike the cold, but I really like the heat. Like summer in Miami I’m fine; I love it.
City or countryside?
That is changing. I would say up until the last few years, 100 percent city. But I’m becoming a little more countryside. It’s just cleaner and quieter—it’s a change of pace, less traffic, and you get to meet really fascinating people.
We were just doing a walk in Lake Como and we met this couple as we were walking. We weren’t sure which way to go, a this Italian couple, who must’ve been in their 80s, came outside, and the woman could tell we didn’t know where we were going, and she spoke to us in Italian. That was sort of this countryside experience where people stop and talk to you. I will say, as I’ve mentioned, that waterside or seaside is more important to me than anything. I love being by big bodies of water. I really love the water; it’s just very calming.