Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There are ways for big corporations to handle very public disasters, and then there is the way that the Carnival Cruise Lines handled the Triumph disaster. For anyone who is not familiar with it, the Triumph was a cruise ship from Carnival that had mechanical failures, leaving it stranded out at sea. That would not have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that those mechanical failures also shut down a lot of the essential systems such as the toilets and power.
The ship experienced problems just off of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. There was a fire in the engine room which caused the ship to stop suddenly and a majority of the essential systems to shut down. The huge cruise ship, with its 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members was drifting in the current of the Gulf of Mexico.
The first attempt to pull it to a port in the United States was cut short when the toe line snapped. Finally, after almost a week adrift at sea, the ship was brought to port by a couple of rescue tug boats.
When the fire happened, it knocked out the septic systems along with the power. Keep in mind that, when you have no power, you have no air conditioning. It gets hot on the Gulf of Mexico, especially when 4,200 people are crammed into a 14-story cruise ship. With the septic system not operating, the food running low and the air conditioning out of commission, things got ugly on the ship really fast.
This is where it gets dicey for Carnival. The company’s initial response to the problem was actually very commendable. The company is reimbursing every passenger the cost of its cruise, giving each passenger a voucher for a free cruise (preferably on a ship that works), is paying for all of the emergency transportation needs of each passenger and giving each passenger $500 in cash for their inconvenience.
If Carnival had left it at that, then everything would have been fine. There probably would have been lawsuits filed by passengers, but the feeling of malice that exists between the passengers and the company would have been greatly diminished if the company had just kept its mouth shut.
In this day and age of smartphones with cameras, it is really hard for companies to deny the inconveniences they cause customers when things go wrong. That is why it is always best for the company to admit that there was a problem, offer its solution and then shut up.
Some of the passengers were able to call family members using various means, and that is when reports of rooms flooded with raw sewage and horrible conditions on the ship started to surface. While you really had to feel for the people on the ship, these kinds of conditions are unfortunate, but inevitable, side-effects of the power and septic losses. If the company had just let these reports go, then the public would have just accepted the problems as part of the crisis.
At the peak of the reports from people actually on the cruise ship, the president of Carnival held a press conference where he tried to refute the claims made by the passengers. In other words, he called out his passengers in public. He insisted that only a small portion of the toilets were not operating and that the conditions aboard the ship were greatly exaggerated. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to suggest your suffering passengers are a bunch of liars.
When the boat finally docked, things got worse for Carnival. There are now reports that food riots took place on the ship and many of the crew members were more interested in fending for themselves than helping some of the sick and injured passengers. One couple was promised that they would get off the ship first because the husband had a heart issue and, when it came time for an orderly departure, the crew was nowhere to be found.
Now Carnival is going to feel the full wrath of the court of public opinion. The cruise line called out its passengers, and then the crew abandoned the passengers when the passengers needed them the most.
It was certainly not the “Love Boat,” and it was definitely a clinic in how not to handle a very public corporate disaster.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident and not a traveler if the high seas. His column appears every Wednesday, even if he is stranded in the middle of nowhere. He can be reached at email@example.com, but he isn’t interested in your Triumph horror stories.George N Root III is a Lockport resident and not a traveler if the high seas. His column appears every Wednesday, even if he is stranded in the middle of nowhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, but he isn't interested in your Triumph horror stories.