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TPG honors Larry Pimentel, who 'raised the bar' for cruising over a long career

Dec. 18, 2020
6 min read
TPG honors Larry Pimentel, who 'raised the bar' for cruising over a long career
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Once in a while, a leader comes along who is brilliant, creative and compassionate.

Larry Pimentel is such a person.

He has been a driving force in luxury travel for more than three decades, building four successful cruise brands and creating marketing programs that have become industry standards. An educator and mentor at heart, he is the go-to guy when a travel company wants to appeal to affluent travelers. This is why Pimentel is being recognized as the recipient of The Points Guy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, part of Cruise Week at the 2020 TPG Awards.

When you get on a small ship for a “yachting experience,” that’s thanks to a concept Pimentel promoted when he helmed small-ship luxury line SeaDream Yacht Club. When you hear about cruises offering “Destination Immersion” and promoting longer stays in port, that’s Pimentel too — and how he sold guests on Azamara, Royal Caribbean Group’s upscale brand.

He was similarly influential as top executive at Carnival Corporation’s ultra-luxury brand Seabourn and the venerable Cunard Line.

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“Larry is one of the true icons of the industry,” says Edie Rodriguez, who was head of sales at Azamara, and later served as president and CEO of luxury brand Crystal Cruises. “He is a charismatic leader and a visionary.”

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group’s chairman and CEO, calls Pimentel an “original thinker” who helped “raise the bar” for the whole cruise industry.

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“I have known Larry as a competitor and as a colleague, and I can attest that it’s much better to have him as a colleague,” Fain says.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Larry Pimentel ran four different cruise brands -- Azamara, SeaDream Yacht Club, Seabourn and Cunard Line -- over a long career in the cruise business. (Photo courtesy of Azamara)

Hoping to preserve jobs for his Azamara team, Pimentel resigned his position as president and CEO of the boutique cruise line last spring – just as Royal announced a reduction of 26% of its shoreside staff.

Shy at first about doing departure interviews, Pimentel emailed a few parting thoughts.

“[Every] crisis has a beginning and an end,” he wrote. “Focusing on how the cruise business pivots is essential.”

Of Portuguese descent and with deep roots in Hawaii, Pimentel headed to California for college, then launched a career as an educator, rising quickly to run the social studies department at one of the country’s largest private schools. Hoping to give the kids a wider world view, he started organizing student trips. Then, still in his 20s, he formed a successful venture in airplane charters.

Pimentel returned to Hawaii to work in travel, and was tapped to run startup Classic Hawaii, which he turned into a highly-regarded luxury tour company.

“He did it by doing what he would continue to do throughout his career, innovating and breaking down barriers,” says Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, the exclusive high-end travel advisor network.

“Larry’s hands-on and highly-personal approach meant that he used to personally inspect every ‘ocean-view room’ at partner hotels to make sure they accurately met that description, which led to the recharacterization of more than one room,” Upchurch says.

Related: 6 reasons you’ll want to book a balcony cabin on your next cruise

Recruited by Carnival in 1992, Pimentel served as president and CEO of Seabourn and later Cunard too. He left after a decade to helm SeaDream, a company he also co-owned, before joining Azamara in 2009.

At Azamara, he was tasked with reinventing a product that was based on two (and later three) 690-passenger R-class ships that had been built for defunct Renaissance Cruises. He came up with a destination-focused approach to cruising, believing that by staying late and even overnight in ports, guests would have the opportunity to delve deeper into local culture and have more meaningful people-to-people experiences.

The idea expanded to leaving the ship for overnight stays on land. Enthusiastic about the programs, Pimentel personally led some outings. On a port call in Oman during a Middle East Cruise, he and guests slept in a Bedouin community in the desert – albeit in Louis Vuitton tents.

Pimentel is recognized by many as a generous mentor. “Larry has probably hired, groomed and promoted more women to executive positions within our industry,” says Bruce Setloff, who worked with Pimentel at all four cruise lines and was also his partner in a separate, highly-successful private company focused on full-ship charters.

Setloff says another thing to know about Pimentel is that he is a great family man and devoted friend.

Pimentel is also someone who openly shared his own personal tragedy. In 2000, his first wife died from a rare lung disease, leaving him with two kids to raise. He shared his experience of returning to work with other CEOs in a column in The Wall Street Journal, saying he was glad he went back early and that finding empathy from coworkers was “positive energy.”

He became passionately involved with the Children’s Bereavement Center, an organization focused on life after loss of a loved one. Today he lives with his wife, Sandi, in Key Biscayne. They have five adult children.

Pimentel is a founding member of The Luxury Marketing Council in New York. Often tapped to speak and lecture on luxury travel topics, Pimentel’s numerous honors include Commander of the Order of Merit, the Republic of Portugal.

For his career-long contributions to the cruise industry, TPG is honored to present Larry Pimental with this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Larry Pimentel. (Photo courtesy of Azamara)

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees