Selling with Maurice Zarmati

June 12, 2008 -

John Heald

I had a few jobs before I went to work for Lloyds of London and eventually in 1987 Carnival Cruise Lines. I worked for H.M. Customs doing something in an office…………I don’t remember much about that job except if I looked out the window in the morning I had nothing to do in the afternoon.
Then for three months I tried to forge a living selling vending machines to offices and pubs etc. This was something I was not designed to do.

Imagine Richard Simmons working on a building site and you’ll have some idea of just how bad I was.

God, it was a lonely existence. All day I was in the car on my own with nothing to look forward to except a lonely dinner and then bed in a faceless and grey hotel.

I actually looked forward to asking people for directions just so I could talk to someone. And at night, in the hotel bar I showed early symptoms of being a Cruise Director and chat with other salespeople, even though most of them were very strange and probably had sample bags full of body parts.

As for the job itself, well, it was hell. We all know that the biggest problem with asking a girl out is that she might say no. We’ve all been there when the prettiest girl at school says she’d rather go to the movies with a skunk than you. Well, that’s what it’s like being a door-to-door salesman: you lead a Billy No-mates existence, being rejected eight or 10 times every single day. …………… social life and working life were now one in the same………….I had the social standing of herpes.

I have nothing but respect for the men and women that do it today but I just couldn’t handle the constant sound of the door being slammed in my face.

Oh, I went on lots of Close that Deal! — selling courses run by the big guy that looks like Jaws from the James Bond movies…….Tony something or other and I read books on human behavior, learning that someone’s eyes are a window to their soul and to never eat beans before trying to close a deal.

And so, armed all this psychobabble, I’d drive hundreds of miles to a factory in Edinburgh where the conversation would go like this:

“Hello, would you like to buy a vending machine that distributes hot tea and coffee?”
“No……….bugger off.”


I know there are good salesmen who really can sell snow to the Eskimos and a Hummer Twin Turbo to Al Gore. I read just the other day about a car dealer who invited two Jehovah’s Witnesses into his house; they left 20 minutes later with a 10-year-old Pontiac.

But I couldn’t do it.

This brings me on to the biggest asset a sales person can have. It’s more important than driving a flash car or how many of the “self help” videos you have seen. The single most devastating weapon in a salesman’s armory is………………………. a decent product.

For many years Carnival had a chap working for them who was an extraordinary sales person and who had a pretty decent product to sell. Now, he is in charge of another very decent product…………..Costa Cruises’ North America operations.

Maurice Zarmati left us a few months ago and I thought we should catch up with him and see how he is enjoying his new title of President of Costa Cruises – North America.

1. It’s been several weeks since you left Carnival Cruise Lines for Costa Cruises.
Before we chat about your exciting future just one quick question about the past. Can you describe your feelings as you left your office at Carnival for the last time?

Bitter sweet and very mixed emotions. When you spend close to 40 years of your life growing up and working with such fine folks as yourself you get a sense of losing a piece of your family. My consolation is you’re still part of the big family and I sure do miss everyone.

2. So, tell us about your new job?

It’s exciting, it’s challenging and it allows me to discover new paths to improving occupancies and yields. It is a spectacular company to be with.

3. We know Costa has a massive presence in Europe. What can you tell us about the fantastic Costa operation in North America?

We have an approximately 130 people and we are a mini cruise line serving global destinations with a tremendous Italian flair. Our challenge is to communicate it more efficiently and to make Costa a more mainstream name to North Americans.

4. What do North American guests enjoy most about the Costa experience?

It’s Italian, its la doce vita, its bellissimo and you feel like you’re in Italy no matter where you’re cruising.

5. Knowing you as I do and your love of good food and wine I am sure you have discovered a fantastic gastronomic world on a Costa ship. What then are your favorite onboard discoveries so far?

The overall Italian ambiance is superb. The big lounge with huge dance floor is unique. The Italian style service, quality of the food and hospitality is over the top. Let’s not forget the Italian orchestras – very cool.

6. The word “Costa “conjures up elements all that’s best about Italy. What true “Italianisms ” can be found onboard that North American guests will truly love?

Fabulous Italian salads, pomodoro with basilico range of appetizers truly Italian as in grilled vegetables with olive oil. Breads and pastries like Veneto – overall quality of service in restaurants and bars truly European/Italian

7. Are you speaking lots of Italian at work?

I speak Italian when I am in touch with Genoa and with the ships so the answer is yes.

8. Soon I will be hosting the naming ceremony on the Carnival Splendor. This is something I watched you do with your usual flair and brilliance. Do you remember the very first Carnival naming ceremony and can you tell us all about it?

The first I attended was Carnival 1976 given the Mardi Gras I believe was done while the ship was still in South Hampton with Lin Arison as Godmother. If my memory serves me right Carnival Godmother was Shari Arison. Brief ceremony dockside with small dais as I recall about 75 people in attendance.

9. Do you have a favorite Godmother and if so, why?

Dame Judi Dench – A fabulous lady in every sense of the word. After all she is James Bond’s boss.

10. Finally, if you could chose anybody in the world to be the Godmother of the Costa Pacifica, who would it be and why?

Mr. Foschi has chosen some spectacular Godmothers. I bow to his next great choice. I’m sure she will be spectacular.

Thanks Maurice. We wish you and Costa continuing success and thank you for all that you have done and all you will continue to do.

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.