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As ordeal at sea ends, cruise line still faces challenges

February 15, 2013

The vacation nightmare of the broken-down Carnival cruise ship that slowly made its way to land has created a business crisis for the company, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Pulled by tugboats, the ship called Carnival Triumph finally arrived in Mobile, Ala., last night, ending a four-day ordeal that started when an engine-room fire knocked out power, leaving more than 4,000 passengers stranded without air conditioning, working toilets or adequate food.

"We pride ourselves on providing our guests a great vacation experience," said Gerald R. Cahill, the CEO of Carnival, before boarding the ship last night to apologize to passengers. "Clearly, we failed in this particular case."

Meanwhile, in a move described by The Huffington Post as "tone deaf," @CarnivalCruise tweeted the following as grimy passanged disembarked from the crippled ship, "Of course the bathrobes for the Carnival Triumph are complimentary."

Carnival will investigate the accident with outside agencies, and the company complies with all safety standards set by the International Maritime Organization, a spokesman said. The company has tried to make amends with passengers by providing full refunds, $500 and discounts on future cruises. Carnival officials reportedly were there to receive passengers in Mobile, and the company arranged for their travel back to Texas, where the cruise had originated.

But the fallout extends beyond those on board to tens of thousands of other travelers, as the company announced it was cancelling 14 scheduled voyages of the Triumph. The episode has also focused further attention on cruise-ship safety, little more than a year after the wreck in Italy of the Costa Concordia, a ship owned by a unit of Miami-based Carnival, a crash that killed 32 people.

"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates in New York, told Reuters. "Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival. You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day." — Greg Beaubien

For further reading: Lessons From the Costa Concordia Disaster (The Strategist)


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