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Cruise Safety Concerns: Is Carnival Doing Enough?

Carnival Cruise Lines has built a loyal following with its advertised guaranteed lowest rate policy, but are customers safe to step aboard after Carnival’s seemingly unending woes?

Carnival Dream’s generator problems, Carnival Legend’s sailing speed malfunctions and Carnival Elation’s steering issues: which of the cruise ships is next in line for a breakdown?

In the past week, these three ships experienced technical malfunctions. This is coming on the heels of last year’s Costa Concordia incident and this year’s notorious Carnival Triumph engine fire that left passengers trapped on board the malfunctioning ship with overflowing sewage, infamous ketchup sandwiches and three-hour waits for functioning toilets.

This week, Carnival announced that the Carnival Sunshine will begin later than originally scheduled, resulting in the cancellation of two sailings. In addition, the Carnival Triumph will not be back in operation until June, cancelling an additional ten sailings. Carnival has announced it will give guests full refunds, reimburse transportation costs, and give a 25 percent discount for future 4-5 day cruises.

To quell additional concerns, Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill announced the beginning of the “first implementation phase of its fleet-wide comprehensive operational review.”

Cahill noted, “The review will be focused primarily on improvements to better support continued power and hotel services should unexpected issues arise. In addition, we are applying new learnings and making enhancements in the area of fire suppression and extinguishing.”

Carnival’s troubles have reached as far as the U.S. Congress. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Chairman Jay Rockefeller was the first to speak up, arguing that the malfunctions were just the most recent of numerous troubling events involving cruise lines. In 2010, Congress enacted a bill that required additional cruise safety measures targeting crime prevention. Now Rockefeller plans to push through another bill targeting redundancy capabilities before the end of his two-year term.

One possible solution would be to create a safety “report card” that functions much like the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, a free online report that grades cruise lines on their sanitation standards. While the VSP functions much like a restaurant’s health inspection, there could also be a similar test to address and correct the technical safety issues.

When it comes to cruise safety, the bottom line is that statistic show cruise vacations are relatively safe compared to other forms of travel. In addition, Carnival responded to the problems by canceling sailings and upgrading–a direct effort to ensure a safe cruise experience for all involved.

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By Ashleigh Whelan for