By Paul Motter
The recent Carnival Splendor crisis showed the larger non-cruising public something we dedicated cruisers already know - that a major reason cruising is so popular is because of the amazing crewmembers.
I was in San Diego to watch and speak to departing Splendor passengers, and everyone said the crew was amazing. I was on the radio on Saturday and asked if I thought this incident would lead to discounts due to slowing demand. We in the industry already know that it won't, but I had to find a logical reason to explain why it won't.
What other tourism business compares to cruising for the quality of personal service? I said "If you heard this incident happened at Disneyland would you say you'd never go to Disneyland again?" Of course not, because everyone knows that Disney is a great vacation experience and such an accident would be a pure anomaly.
That is how the vast majority of cruisers feel about cruising - not only does the cruise industry have an exemplary safety record (which never gets mentioned during media reports of these events) - but cruisers know that ship workers are among the most dedicated in the world and they truly respect that.
We have had rare incidents of fires on ships and ship losing propulsion power. But this is the first time I have ever heard of a ship losing all power to the point where almost nothing onboard was working. But I never heard the media mention that fact.
They were all over the "cruise from hell," angle, as always, and many reporters were even saying "I will never go on a cruise." That kind of reporting is purely coming from a lack of knowledge, and why is it that every time a cruise ship has a crisis the media never call in a cruise industry expert to put the events into perspective?
We cruisers were not at all surprised to hear the Carnival crew did a fantastic job, we already know cruise crewmembers are the best in the world. But while every passenger I heard interviewed cited the crew and ace Carnival Cruise Director John Heald as having done a fantastic job of keeping the guests informed, reassured and even in good humor about the events, the media didn't seem to care about those statements - being far more interested in the "spam" angle.
I watched some of the first person videos people had taken onboard during the blackout, and every time a video camera hit the face of crewmember they smiled and waved. Many of them stopped and talked to the camera, telling us what they were doing, whether it was delivering ice or forming a human chain to get food from the galley up to deck ten where passengers were assembled.
The people who cruise regularly all said they would definitely be taking Carnival up on the free cruise offer they gave every guest as compensation. By the way, Carnival also paid for flights home for everyone, and gave them the option to stay in San Diego for an extra day with a paid hotel room (Hilton) and even meal vouchers.
My interview with first-time cruise Barbara Dillon pierside as she came right off the ship showed that even a first-timer could be so impressed with a crew during a crisis that she said she would definitely cruise again, and she even tipped the room steward. She also mentioned the heroism of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, who contribute to the exemplary record of the cruise industry on almost a daily basis.
As I said on the radio, I didn't hear a single person say "I'll never cruise again." Every experienced cruiser said "this was an accident and this doesn't change my mind about cruising one bit."
This Carnival crew showed what crewmembers are famous for - all the time and under all circumstances - keeping the passengers as happy and comfortable as humanly possible, even under the most challenging and extraordinary circumstances.
Splendor cruise director John Heald has an epic firsthand account of his experience in his personal blog. He mentions a few things he wishes he had done differently. But every officer, staff and crewmember was improvising - there is no handbook on what to do in case of a systemic failure of ship power - it has never happened before.
I just think it is too bad that the courage and commitment of the crew during every "cruise from hell" crisis gets lost in the television media coverage. When Captain Sully landed a jet on the Hudson River the media didn't focus solely on the negative points. They focused on the heroism of Captain Sully and the fact that he was the exception to what commonly happens with airlines -planes crash and everyone dies.
But I have never seen a cruise crisis where the media notes that our modern western cruise industry has a spectacular reputation for safety with no catastrophic loss of life in recent history. The worst ship fire had just one tragic fatality. That is very sad, but an exemplary record compared to every other form of mass transportation; trains, cars and planes, all of which have had horrific accidents.
Discuss the Carnival Splendor crewmembers here: Carnival Splendor Crew