Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Carnival Triumph Turns to Defeat as Tugs Tow, Families Fume, and Passengers Perspire

I wrote here February 12 about the awful conditions onboard the Carnival Triumph cruise ship. A fire cut propulsion, water, power, and sewage systems, leaving the ship to drift in the Gulf of Mexico until two, now three, tugs pushed it toward Mobile. Departure and destination for what was to be a four-day cruise was Galveston.

I said at the time that Carnival appeared to me to be doing all it could to make passengers comfortable and seemed fair in how it promised to compensate customers. O'Dwyer's blog yesterday wasn't as forgiving as I was. (http://www.odwyerpr.com/blog/index.php?/archives/5812-Crippled-Ship-Hobbles-Carnival-PR.html)

"Gulf of Mexico. Crisis. Social media takes over story. Tarnished brand.

"No, we're not talking about BP this time. Carnival Cruise Lines is the global company facing a steady stream of negative press since its cruise ship Triumph suffered an engine fire Feb. 10 and lost most of its power with 4,200 tweeting, Facebooking and texting passengers on board."

O'Dwyers went on to say Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference two days later, which, ABC News noted, was the first time a company representative had spoken publicly. Waiting more than 48 hours is unacceptable. Cahill should have been under the bright lights on Sunday when the cruise stopped cruising.

During the time warp between the fire and news conference, there was plenty to fill the digital universe and provide reporters with something to report. "Passengers on board were more than happy to share their deteriorating experience with the outside world. Word that some were sleeping on deck to avoid the heat and smell inside the ship, and that plastic bags were being used for bathrooms traveled widely."

Carnival updated its website message Wednesday. "We are currently finalizing travel arrangements for guests from Mobile. Carnival Triumph guests were given the option of boarding buses directly to Galveston or Houston, Texas, or to spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans, where they could rest before flying out on private charters the next day. Carnival will cover all travel related and incidental expenses."  (http://www.carnival.com/core/faq.aspx?icid=CC_Footer_88)

Carnival has reserved approximately 100 motor coaches, more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms, multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday, and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.

There are 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew on board, according to Carnival's statement.

Besides bearing all these expenses, Carnival has had to cancel 14 upcoming cruises on the Carnival Triumph through April 13. Booking is overwhelmed by phone calls, so "As a convenience, guests can rebook their cruise on carnival.com and then provide Carnival with the new booking information by clicking here."

Carnival must be getting good at crisis communications because, so far anyway, it's still in business. In 2010, the Carnival Splendor suffered a similar problem in the Pacific and had to be towed to San Diego. Less than two years later, the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia was one of the biggest PR disasters of the year. Carnival did all it could to separate its name from the Costa Concordia, and as a result, most casual observers probably never realized who the parent company was. An industry-wide push followed -- Burson-Marsteller and Fleishman-Hillard worked with Costa and Carnival, while APCO advised the cruise ship sector's trade group -- to fix the damage from daily images of the Concordia on its side and reminders of the body count.

The company is treating Triumph victims as well as can be expected, I still believe. How much future business it may lose from this series of crises will determine if Carnival can continue operating in the same business form as it has been.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog, great content! - Adrian (Toronto, Canada)