The Lady Behind Carnival Cruise Line – Introducing Ann Sherry


Since 1972 Carnival Cruise Lines has been blazing a trail in the industry. From launching next generation mega-ships to cleaning up at industry award nights, the line is considered a true leader in contemporary cruising. Of course, every global institution needs an inspirational head and today, Carnival’s Australian arm is fronted by CEO Ann Sherry. She’s an incredible woman and to celebrate her achievements, we’ve put together a sneak peak at a recent interview featured on leadership discussion TV programme, The Bottom Line.

Carnival ship

Small town girl, big ideas

Born in 1954, Sherry grew up in a gender divided society, where prospects for women were seriously lacking. Sherry was having none of it and from an early age, decided that the only way to instigate change was to take action.

A woman at the top of her game

Sherry is no stranger to the public spotlight, with an impressive portfolio of high profile positions preceding her appointment as Carnival Australia CEO. During her 12 years at Westpac she took on the roles of Chief Executive Officer at Westpac New Zealand, CEO of the Bank of Melbourne and Group Executive of People and Performance. These positions in themselves represented a huge step forward for women’s rights in Australia.

“When I was approached about the job at Westpac it was at an interesting time.  Bob Joss had just come to Australia from the US to run Westpac, he’s publicly said “where are the women in this sector” and everyone knew he’d put the word out, you know “find some women who can come into this place and start to change, get more diversity in the leadership team”.  He was very clear about the absence of women in leadership in the organisation was not a good thing,” recalls Sherry.

Prior to her commitment to commercial and retail banking Sherry was appointed as First Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Status of Women in Canberra. Reporting directly to the Prime Minister as UN Australian ambassador, Sherry developed cutting edge policies and programs designed to empower the women of Australia, and the world. Today, she’s CEO of one of the world’s largest cruise lines, yet she still manages to juggle a handful of non-executive roles including Chair of Safe Work Australia, Chair of Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) and Deputy Chair of the Tourism & Transport Forum.

The call of cruising

2007 saw Sherry at the height of her career yet despite her success, she wasn’t satisfied.  There was a new prospect on the horizon… Cruising! Interestingly, it was fellow Carnival colleague Katie Lahey who inspired her to take on the role.

“I probably wouldn’t have even contemplated the job if Katie Lahey hadn’t been already made Chairman of Carnival Australia and she and I have worked together for many years in many different sectors as well and we literally ran into each other on a street corner and she said “what are you doing?” and I said “I’m thinking about coming back from New Zealand… and she said “oh have I got a job for you. “

Ann Sherry

While some may have shied away from the fact that the Australian cruise market was significantly underdeveloped back in 2007, Sherry saw it as an exciting new challenge, explaining that she “looked at what was happening in other parts of the world and thought “you know everywhere else this is booming.  Here it is dead as a door nail.  We’ve got to be able to do at least as well as they’re doing in other parts of the world” so there’s nothing but upside.”

The bigger picture

While she may be currently fronting Carnival Cruise Lines, Sherry hasn’t lost sight of the bigger picture for Australia as a whole. “In our current environment we need more people to step forward and I guess I, there’s a lot of community discussion about the absence of, you know where’s the big idea and where’s the ambition for Australia.”  Living in the present is important but she also maintains that to move forward, the nation needs to develop robust 20 year plans and think about where the country fits in with Asia, what happens when resources are depleted and what the future holds for the next generation.

Looking forward to the future

When asked about the “Ann Sherry bucket list of professional ideas or personal ones,” Sherry came up with a profound response. “The world needs changing.” From building better tourism relationships with Asia to cementing the prosperity of Australia’s long-term economy, her position as CEO of Carnival Cruise Line has empowered her to do just this.

Truly inspirational stuff from Miss Sherry!

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Image sourced via Carnival Cruises Media Centre,Asean Cruise News and Cruise the Seas Travel & Media. Credit: Carnival Cruises, Asean Cruising and Cruise the Seas Travel & Media

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