York Castle alum Dave Chang making waves in cruise sector
... wants to see more students exposed to industry
Some 1,400 team members at Carnival Cruise Line report to Jamaica-born ‘Yorkist’ Dave Chang, but the status has not gone to the head of the senior vice-president of contact centre, sales, and services of the world’s largest cruise company.
Instead, the humble York Castle High School alumnus returns to Jamaica at least twice per year; sustains a scholarship programme for five to seven students at his alma mater; and lectures in travel and tourism, rewarding honour roll students with a tour of a cruise ship.
But his proudest achievement yet is “going back to Jamaica and funding the Chang Scholarship Fund, which I did for my father, and if you should hear my dad’s story you would understand”, the cruise line executive who left Jamaica more than three decades ago told The Gleaner.
Chang, who leads a broad team responsible for driving revenue and customers for the renowned cruise line, has taken his ‘people first’ mantra to the next level, making significant contribution to the island.
Born in the hills of Alexandria, St Ann, the father of two, who will address graduates from the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) during their ceremony on Thursday, hopes to pair students from his alma mater with the higher-learning maritime institution.
“In my last conversation with Dr Andrew Spencer (president, CMU), we have talked about meeting up and partnering and starting to really educate children at the high-school level about the opportunities at CMU, and what it can do for their career, not just Jamaica, but outside, if they are afforded the opportunities,” Chang revealed.
Just before the pandemic crippled leisure travel and tourism, Chang received permission from Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy to take 30 honour roll students and 10 faculty members on to a vessel for a day.
“I felt the students at York Castle all the time drive past Ocho Rios, Falmouth, and Montego Bay and see these big ships but never really get to taste the experience. I thought they must be wondering, ‘What does that taste like?’,” he stated, giving the reason behind the three-hour session, which included a tour then lunch, with many excited students snapping photos and sharing them on social media.
“That, to me, was the highlight ... of my career. There was a child that I will never forget who walked up to me and asked if she could take some of the ship food home. That was powerful,” Chang noted.
Reminiscing, he said it was often food taken for granted, at times going to waste.
“And you saw that child saying, ‘Can I take some off?’ and we couldn’t [give her]. And I remember saying to her, ‘Listen, the fact that you are here right now, it means you are doing extremely well in school.”
Having sat in her seat at one point in his life, Chang said he was moved.
Then came the pandemic, putting a spoke in the wheel of that project.
“But I will never forget that I was one of the kids on the ship, so I must do it for others because it really exposes them and just shows them something that they don’t typically see. And it is a great part of tourism,” he added.
After not visiting Jamaica for two years because of the pandemic, Chang returned a month ago and spent five days with his father. Relating that trip generated so much warmth in his voice, one could imagine what an escape to freedom felt like.
They went to visit a holistic doctor in Kingston, connected with friends in St Ann, and visited their favourite restaurant, the Ultimate Jerk, across from the Green Grotto Caves in Runaway Bay.
“I was there almost every night. Music a play, curried goat, Red Stripe and my dad’s new favourite drink, ginger wine,” Chang revealed.
The jerk centre, he said, became their link-up spot, where they would chat, laugh, and meet up with friends, plus a couple of the students who they sponsor at York Castle High.
Chang’s relationship with his homeland can only get better, and he credits Carnival for changing his life considerably. The senior vice-president who heads the sales division said that that area is probably the most lucrative of all the positions that he oversees, adding that there are quite a few Jamaicans on his team.
“We have a diverse team. I am very proud of that. We have been able to surround ourselves with such a great diverse group of people, it has actually helped me to achieve some of what I have achieved,” he told The Gleaner.