It’s been the worst couple of years for cruising and the troubles are pretty much centered on one cruise line: Carnival. Peter sat down with Cruise Critic’s Carolyn Spencer Brown to look at how the PR nightmare started and if the cruise line is sacrificing safety for cost-efficiency.
Peter Greenberg: The cruise industry is continuing to experience fallout from all the incidents at Carnival. What is the general feeling on Cruise Critic in this situation?
Carolyn Spencer Brown: We did a poll on Cruise Critic and we asked people if Carnival really had a problem or whether it was just bad luck. It was an even 40-40 split for answers. It’s probably a little bit of both, but I find it mystifying that people would think that this run of mechanical problems is bad luck. I think that’s crazy.
PG: No, there could be a system problem. In addition, Carnival gets my award for the worst PR handling of a situation I have seen in many, many years. This isn’t the time to go under a bunker and they did. They couldn’t get ahead of that story.
Anytime you’re dealing with the service industry, it’s not the delivery of service. It’s how you recover when something goes wrong. That’s how true heroes are made. That’s how people end up loving you because of the way that you handled it.
This is a situation that just kept on getting worse and worse and worse and I would think that Carnival probably had four distinct time-date opportunities to save the day and get it right. And they didn’t.
CSB: This is important to note, though two and a half years ago, when Carnival had the Splendor fire out in the Pacific that was potentially their worst situation. But they had so much information coming out telling you what was happening. Passengers were being informed on board which they weren’t being on the Triumph. Carnival already handled this situation once and in adverse circumstances.
The first time a ship fire happens, you get a pass. It could be an accident. The second time…it’s not such an accident.
PG: Any captain would tell you that the worst thing that could happen at sea is fire. They did the right thing. They shut off the air conditioning system, they closed the water-tight doors, and they hit the fire-suppression system.
There was only a breakdown in communication. If Carnival had reacted to the PR as fast as they reacted to the fire, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.