Yes it is possible to attend your college 30th reunion and then go on to Sao Paolo for two days of frenetic business without checking a bag, but it’s not easy.
OK, I admit it. I’m biased. I genuinely believe Princeton University is the greatest place on earth. Two days of hot, sunny weather surrounded by lots of friends and family did nothing to disabuse me of this notion. Running along the path by Lake Carnegie in such weather was a highlight, and there were many others along the way. I have a new resolve to see more of my college roommates in different parts of the country. Three of my law school roommates were there as well, two because they went to Princeton and one because his daughter was graduating from Princeton. On Sunday morning we assembled 18 of the 29 members of the Vacation Gang.
After a fly by in Manhattan for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary dinner, I was off to Brazil to attend the first ever Seatrade South America Cruise show. After flying all night I took a helicopter from the airport flying above Sao Paolo’s awe-inspiring traffic and made it to the cruise executive panel discussion with 30 minutes to spare.
The panel included my counterparts at MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, our largest competitors in Brazil, not to mention in Europe. It was an important opportunity for the cruise industry to articulate to the Brazilian government the challenges that will potentially undermine the impressive growth the market has had in recent years. These challenges consist of a lack of infrastructure (piers and terminals), costly operations and bureaucratic processes such as those related to visas for crew and foreign guests. It’s not possible to tell immediately if the dialogue will have an impact. The Brazilians are riding high on the strength of their new President, economic growth, ascendant currency and upcoming World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016). There is a sense that cruise ships may be helpful as temporary hotel capacity during one or both of these mega-events. My involvement with the show concluded the first night with a dinner with Brazil’s Tourism Minister.
The following day started with a run in a Central Park like setting in downtown Sao Paolo. My colleagues recruited a personal trainer to run with me. I figured I was having a good run when he couldn’t keep up. That’s not a problem my personal trainer at home would ever have. In case you think all Brazilians go to bed at 6 a.m. and get up after noon, I can tell you there were a ton of people walking and running in this park before 8 a.m.
In addition to meeting in our Sao Paolo office, media interviews and a lunch with top producers, we enjoyed a musical performance by a group of disadvantaged youth that our Brazilian colleagues try to support in various ways. The founder of this wonderful charity is one of our musicians who plays in a band onboard one of our ships in Brazil during the season. The children, many of whom are orphans, are from a nearby city. For a number of them, the trip to our office was their first ever trip to Sao Paolo.
The drive back to the airport only took an hour. Last time it was over twice that. Congratulations and thanks to Ricardo Amaral, our Group Managing Director in Brazil (plus Mexico and the rest of Latin America) for arranging a successful whirlwind visit.