Any fan of NBA Hall-Of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal knows that the man knows how to have a good time.
After retiring with one of the most celebrated careers in professional basketball, Shaq has presented himself as an advocate for things fun, whether it’s DJing around the world, starring in commercials or busting on his co-host and playful rival, Charles Barkley, on TNT’s “NBA Halftime Show.”
These days, Shaq is bringing his joyful attitude to life as Carnival Cruise Line’s Chief Fun Officer.
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So with such an important and prominent role on the ship, what does Shaq as his main responsibility?
“I’ve been CFO for two years now, and it’s my job to ensure that people have fun on the ship,” explains O’Neal, who sat down with me before Carnival’s “Cruise Into Summer” media event. “I used to live on the beach across from a port, and I thought the ship was for old people, until I finally got on one. So I went to [them] and said, ‘You should hire me to tell people that you should choose Carnival and choose fun.’
“What [they] have always done is an unbelievable job of keeping prices affordable for people. It’s just my job to let people know that there is so much stuff to do on the ship. It’s not just go to your room, go out look on the water and go back into your room. There are restaurants, libraries, sport courts, putt-putt golf course, movie theater, comedy shows. It’s like the best Vegas hotel on the water.”
While he is getting the word out about how fun these cruises are, Shaq’s wildly popular Las Vegas-based fast-casual fried-chicken sandwich restaurant, Big Chicken, will be partnering with two of Carnival’s newest ships, the Radiance and the Mardi Gras, for the spring 2020 season. Both restaurants will include hit sandwiches such as the Shaq Attack, the Shaq Daddy and the M.D.E. Shaq’s Big Chicken will join the ranks of an impressive food lineup, including Emeril Lagasse’s Bistro 1936 on the Mardi Gras.
“[It’s] one of the top restaurants in Vegas,” says Shaq of Big Chicken, “I should know, because I have four of the top five in Vegas, which is great. Great chicken sandwiches ... it’s just great eating.”
While many people who plan vacations stress out about cramming in as much as possible into their trips, the CFO’s idea of a perfect cruise is one where you come with an open mind and go with the flow. And with the variety of activities onboard, that won’t be hard.
“It depends on what you want to do,” says Shaq. “If you want to make the day about eating? Every restaurant. If you want to make the day about having fun? Movies, sports court, pool. There’s just so much you can do. You want to get away from everybody? Library. You want to tell the kids to stay home and have a romantic night with the wife? Fine dining. I’ve been on the ship a couple of times. I’ve only taken the three-day cruises. I know how to not be seen on the cruise. I’ll go and rest during the day and come out at night. By the time I wake up again, it’s time to get off.”
Recently announced Carnival Cruise Line Cruise Director Matt Mitcham agrees with the big boss who he says, embodies the entire ethos of Carnival.
“I would say come with an open mind,” says Mitcham. “We’ve got loads of new things for you guys. Even if you’ve sailed before, come like it’s your first time. There’s so many new events and venues that we have. It’s going to be superexciting. Come to have fun. That’s why we choose fun.”
Now that the basketball season is over, O’Neal’s co-host on TNT’s “NBA Half-Time Show,” Charles Barkley, might need to find to find a position on the ship. But where would the Chief Fun Officer place a willing and able Barkley?
“He’d be downstairs in the toiletry department,” says O’Neal, “because he’s full of sh-t and he knows how to clean the sh-t.”
For more information and to book your next trip, head over to carnival.com.