Carnival Cruises. A company once synonymous with fun, laughter, smiles, relaxation and wonderful memories. Now, the general public associates the line with danger and inconvenience, unpredictability and fear. Imagine deciding to take a cruise as the first vacation you’ve had in five years. Twelve hours in to the trip, the ship breaks down, power goes out, food runs low, and you end up using a plastic bag as a toilet. This is nightmare material, and it happened in real life a month ago.
It’s been one disaster after another for Carnival Cruises. From 2012’s Costa Concordia (a branch of Carnival) tragedy, to another ship stranded in the middle of the pirate-infested Indian Ocean, to the February Carnival Triumph “cruise from hell,” and three more Carnival ship malfunctions in the early March, Carnival Cruises is in the middle of a PR nightmare. And it doesn’t appear they will wake up any time soon.
In February, the Carnival Triumph was stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire, leaving about 4,200 people trapped for days on the ship without water and power and a small supply of food. Some passengers referred to the ship as a “floating port-o-potty.” Now, in the past two weeks Carnival is facing THREE additional situations with three separate ships. On March 9, the Carnival Elation was experiencing steering issues. On March 13, the Dream was stranded at the island of St. Maarten with power problems. And on March 15, propulsion unit issues caused an unwelcome interruption in the Carnival Legend’s itinerary.
So how is Carnival Cruises going to recover? The effect on the company, and the entire cruise industry, is catastrophic. A USA Today Poll shows that people are now scared of having a lousy time, but also risking their safety and well-being. The result? Travelers are much less likely to book a cruise. Thus far, the company has been using social media to update the public on logistics of its most recent misstep. In order to recover, Carnival needs to express concerns, provide solutions and consistently deliver reassuring messages as well as a reliable product. They need to be transparent and proactive. But how does a company of this magnitude even begin to remedy such a situation?