From the lobby of Carnival Corporation’s headquarters building in Miami, Florida, Carlos Orta describes the recent installation of a thirty-five-thousand square-foot Fleet Operations Center (FOC), which houses a seventy-four-foot video wall—allowing Carnival to monitor real-time conditions of the company’s 103 ships—and foreshadows many more innovative installations and services to come.
Indeed, Carnival is reinventing the guest experiences at sea with amenities equivalent to that of land-based resort, including IMAX Theaters, high-end retail stores, water parks, and the “Ocean Medallion,” a wearable device that provides guests with real-time customized experiences based on their preferences.
“Ultimately, everything we do at Carnival—whether you’re on the ship or in corporate affairs—is about exceeding our guests’ expectations,” Orta says.
The multibillion-dollar company made headlines in 2016 as the first cruise line to return to Cuba in nearly forty years. “We achieved over fifty billion media impressions as a result of our inaugural sailing to Cuba,” says Orta, who also serves as the Spanish spokesperson for Carnival Corporation.
Orta, who first envisioned a career as an architect, got a chance internship with a state senator that first propelled his professional life as a relationship-builder in public service. He got his start in South Florida politics working for two Florida State Representatives and later as executive director of Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation, where he led the largest bipartisan legislative delegation in the State of Florida. “To be good at your job in public service, you have to be a great listener,” Orta says. “You know the phrase; ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.’ You have to understand where everyone is coming from, what they need to resolve, and how they want to get there. You may not agree, but you need to understand their point of view.”
Orta is at the helm of Carnival Corporation’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. “Our competitive advantage comes from the diversity of our leadership team and employees,” says Orta, who is Cuban-American and the company’s vice president of corporate affairs.
And that’s a major responsibility given Carnival Corporation is the world’s largest leisure travel company. Its workforce is as diverse as the nearly 12 million guests who sail aboard its cruise ships annually, seeking unforgettable vacation experiences. The diversity of thought of new hires across Carnival Corporation and its ten brands have also helped provide unique onboard and shoreside experiences for guests at more than seven hundred ports of call around the world.
Carlos’s ability and experience in leading government and community relations, public affairs, and diversity and inclusion at the local, state, and international levels have been instrumental in his success as vice president of corporate affairs. His career trajectory during the past three decades as a D&I champion at global Fortune 500 Companies—such as Anheuser-Busch, Ford Motor Company, and Waste Management Inc.—has led him here.
Thanks to the insights of tens of thousands of employees from more than sixty countries, Carnival is well-positioned to serve guests from a myriad of ethnic and cultural groups. “D&I is the key to innovation and a business imperative for us,” Orta says. “We’ve developed relationships with diverse minority groups, including African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ communities, among others, which didn’t exist before, and I’m very proud of that.”
Under Orta’s leadership, Carnival developed a D&I multicultural advertising campaign titled Diverse Destinations, Diverse Leadership, which has yielded multiple awards and accolades and featured almost two-dozen Carnival Corporation colleagues—from manager level to the C-suite. He is at the center of these developments, applying decades of experience to usher in a new era of diverse thinking that’s making waves across the industry.
Orta’s knack for civic affairs and public policy helped him climb the corporate ladder at Ford Motor Company, where he grew from assistant regional manager to contributions program manager, governing a $10 million budget and managing almost two hundred philanthropic programs across the United States. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to regional manager of eleven southwestern states, where he lobbied for key local issues in the world of manufacturing and business while chairing Ford’s local philanthropic community relations committee.
Orta has also left an indelible legacy advancing D&I in the nonprofit sector. From 2006 to 2014, he served as president and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) in Washington, DC. Through his visionary leadership, HACR blossomed into one of the most influential nonprofit advocacy organizations in the United States. At HACR, Orta created several new programs and initiatives and an award-winning documentary series called Insider Game. Under his leadership, the organization more than doubled annual revenue, from $1.1 million to $2.5 million, and nearly doubled corporate memberships. And all this happened with a laser focus on the organization’s mission to grow Hispanic inclusion in corporate America.
He shares his expertise and passion for giving back by volunteering and serving on dozens of nonprofit boards, including the Board of Directors of Leadership Florida, the Business Advisory Council of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the Latino Donor Collaborative, among others.
In May 2018, Orta became chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce (GMCC), coming full circle since completing the chamber’s Leadership Miami program and then chairing the program five years later. He is one of few Hispanic executives in the country leading non-Hispanic organizations, and he cites that opportunity as a turning point in his professional development. “I learned how to manage different points of view,” he says. “In all my travels, I’ve seen firsthand all the good work chambers do for their communities, and now it’s my opportunity to give back.”
As a member of Carnival Corporation’s Inaugural Global Diversity Council, Orta is a staunch advocate for Carnival to continue leading D&I solutions in the cruise industry to encourage an inclusive global workplace and competitive business advantage. His strategic guidance on D&I has set Carnival on a course to continue leveraging a talented workforce and drive bottom-line growth to the forefront of its operations and to the consumer. “When you bring people together from different backgrounds and experiences, you’re going to get a better result,” he says. “That is our goal at Carnival.”