A Three-Hour Tour: Cruise Industry Faces Flood of Questions

On Valentine’s Day, the Carnival Triumph that had lost power four days earlier, finally sailed into Mobile Bay. The ship returned more than 4,000 travelers to land, along with a flood of new questions about cruise line-safety.

A fire in the engine room knocked out power out to the entire ship, and passengers on board told tales of over-flowing toilets, sickening odors and food shortages. Carnival has since apologized to the passengers and offered a compensation package including a full refund, discounts on all future cruises and $500. Carnival canceled the Triumph’s next 14 voyages, a move affecting an estimated 60,000 travelers.

As Carnival searches for answers on what went wrong, this event comes a little more than a year after the Costa Concordia, owned by Costa Crociere (whose parent company is Carnival), sunk in Italy, killing 32 people. Two months after the shipwreck, another Costa Crociere ship lost power in the Indian Ocean, creating more questions.

Despite the current negative perception of cruises, David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations at World Travel Holdings, who had more than 1,200 clients aboard the Triumph, said the company has handled the situation as well as they could.

“I’m not sure what more they could do,” Crooks said.

And among all of the stories and questions regarding cruise-ship safety, Crooks said his agency has not seen a decline in bookings, adding “actually, we’re having a pretty good week.”

How do you think Carnival has handled the situation? Would you trust them with your vacation?

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8 Responses to A Three-Hour Tour: Cruise Industry Faces Flood of Questions

  1. Devon Shaw says:

    I agree with Crooks’ statement, I’m not sure there’s anything else they could have done. Accidents happen, and while it is extremely unfortunate that cruise guests had to endure it, I think they were more than compensated enough for the inconvenience. There’s not much you can do in those situations and I think Carnival handled it as best they could. I’m sure they are speedily searching for the cause of the problem so they can prevent it from occurring on future voyages.

  2. Lita Patrick says:

    I think the cruise ship article is a perfect example of a current public relations crisis. This incident calls for crisis control management. I read an article on the site insurancejournal.com that reported Evan Nierman, a South Florida – based public relation crisis management expert, said he thinks the chairman and chief executive, Micky Arison, of Carnival should have taken a more prominent role in the company’s response. The following is what the article said Arison communicated:

    Arison finally offered up his first public apology for the troubles aboard the Triumph in two postings on Twitter on Friday. “We are very sorry for the difficult conditions experienced by our guests on #Carnival Triumph,” Arison wrote.

    “But glad that all guests are off safe & sound. I want to thank all the @CarnivalCruise team members for their tireless efforts,” he wrote in a second Tweet.

    I agree with Nierman, Arison should have taken more of a leadership role when dealing with the crisis. Although they have not found the cause of the ship’s disastrous events, someone needs to take responsibility and communicate that to the public. This will help gain trust and a way to be seen as a dependable/ reliable company. Transparency and communication are key in this situation.

  3. Kayla Pologa says:

    At one point or another it’s inevitable that companies, be it in the travel industry or elsewhere, will face a crisis. How the company chooses to deal with these issues shows the power behind the organization and the strength of rebounding capabilities.

    For the cruise industry, and Carnival specifically, these crises happen far too often, however, by all accounts the company handled the dilemma with the best PR approach possible. They took to their corporate Twitter account and YouTube channel to answer questions and provide updates on the status of the ship as well as being proactive in the responses to family members’ questions of those on board.

    Despite the fact that Carnival mitigated this crisis, they have opened a new can of worms for the industry as a whole.

    I was looking into this issue and actually found some interesting statistics. The cruise business is a highly attractive way to travel, plus all the food you can eat really appeals to the U.S. consumer, 75 percent of the market in 2004.

    As of 2006, Carnival is the world leader with 12 lines, 80 ships and 6.8 million passengers. They had one-year net income growth at 21.7 percent and sales of $8.7 billion. In 2003, they acquired U.K.-based rival P&O Princess, placed orders for 15 additional ships and a new $470 million ocean liner, Queen Victoria.

    For the industry, or simply just Carnival, to come back stronger than ever many are saying that what Carnival should respond with is to simply do nothing. Do not advertise the safety or cleanliness of their ship or how Carnival remains a worthy travel outlet. Bringing these issues to light will only put unnecessary concern in future traveler’s minds, thus keeping them from cruising on board.

    In this situation, there is not much that can be done except wait for the clear waters and smooth sailing to return for the industry.

  4. Alexa Chrisbacher says:

    I think Carnival has done well in handling this situation. Taking responsibility for the crisis was a great step, but their treatment of the passengers on the cruise was an even better choice. It seems so often that in situation involving safety and travel, companies pander to public opinion instead of compensating and apologizing to the people negatively impacted. Confronting safety issues and offering passengers a range of compensation are, I believe, responsible for Carnival’s steady success amidst controversy.

  5. tmmaguir says:

    This situation definitely could have used some crisis management. I don’t think David Crooks should have said, “I’m not sure what more they could do,” only because there are people who feel they could have been compensated in a more effective way. The concept behind this situation is reminiscent of BP’s crisis in that there was no “backup plan” for something going monumentally wrong. Personally, I feel like a crisis plan and compensation techniques (in case something did go wrong) should have been established and in place prior to any of this happening. The most effective PR crisis management are the situations you don’t catch on the local, nightly news … or in this case, worldwide news. People are going to be incredibly skeptical of Carnival at this point, especially after all of the negative feedback. Maybe it is time to re-brand and put some potential crisis plans into place during the time when those 14 cruises won’t be setting sail.

  6. Tessa Turnbow says:

    In this situation, I think Carnival did the right thing in refunding the passengers for the trip as well as giving them discounts for future vacations with the cruise lines. However, I think to have avoided the situation all together they should have taken more time after the initial incidents to figure out what the cause of the problem is. Even if they thought they had figured out the problem, they should have had a plan in case something happened again, which it did. As a result of all of these problems they have experienced, I would not trust them with my vacation. They have a history of unsafe conditions and seem to have done nothing to prevent them.

  7. Josh Skalniak says:

    I think Carnival could have handled this crisis much better. First, $500 per person is not nearly enough to repay for the four days of hell that those passengers experienced. I don’t think any lawsuits will be successful because of waivers signed by passengers when they travel, but that’s not the only thing the company needs to worry about. They need to worry about their future brand as well. If I were the CEO of Carnival, I would see this as an opportunity to show the world how great of a company Carnival is. I would go above and beyond to not only show the passengers that Carnival cares but also the rest of the world. Instead of thinking as this crisis being a money pit that only hurts the company, I would think of it as an investment for the future.

  8. Daniel Rasmussen says:

    I think Carnival did a great job with this crisis. They knew there was nothing they could do but admit their faults, and that’s exactly what they did, without wasting any time. Last night during the Oscars, I already saw a Royal Caribbean ad for their “biggest sale of the year”… it’s a shame that the industry has to suffer but situations like this are unavoidable and they did the best they could in a very tense situation.

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