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Does this Carnival Fire Mean Future Bargains?

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11.11.2010 Carnival Splendor Does this Carnival Fire Mean Future Bargains?
Carnival Splendor is a state of the art ship.
 Does this Carnival Fire Mean Future Bargains?

 It’s pretty rare that any cruise story makes the national news, and if it makes the screen crawls on the major cable news networks then it is really a big story. That is the status of the current Carnival Splendor story where the ship is hobbled at sea with nothing but emergency power – probably the biggest cruise “crisis” of the year.

A major reporter just asked me if this will mean cruise discounts in the near future. Never let a good crisis go to waste? Sorry, cruise aficionados are a hardy bunch of people, and travel agents are reporting that they are not experiencing any cruise cancellations as a result of this news. Real cruisers know that “ship happens,” and that even dire emergencies like this rarely lead to life-threatening situations. The worst it gets is a few days of inconvenience and an exciting story to keep your friends and relatives entertained for years. How many people can brag that they were rescued by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, after all?

How is Carnival handling the situation? Exceptionally well, like the pros that they are – giving everyone a complete refund, taking care of transportation expenses to get them home and offering a future cruise credit equal to what they paid for this cruise. You can’t say many other vacation entities would make sure their customers are so fully compensated.

Now, there is an unintended information blackout from the passengers due to a loss of power for Internet and cellphones, it is likely that at least someone will come off the ship and say “it was horrible; I was in fear for my life the entire time.” Right, cue the lawyers. But I guarantee you most people will say Carnival handled the situation extremely well.




Cruising is still by far the safest way to travel. In the ships of CLIA, the U.S.-based cruise industry association, a potentially life-threatening “crisis” such as this one is extremely rare, and there are no reported cases of injury onboard Carnival Splendor. Other cruises have had similar but still rare events, the worst being a fire that broke out in the passenger section of a cruise ship in 2006. One person died due to heart failure during that incident and two people had serious complications from smoke inhalation. That incident is remembered as one of the worst disasters in U.S.-based cruise line history because there was a death involved, although arguably indirectly. That fire was most likely started by a passenger throwing a lit cigarette from a balcony (against the written rule on all ships) which led to a series of unlikely events.

I am still wondering why a fire on one engine on Splendor would hobble the entire ship. These ships have six engines to supply electricity to everything, including the propellers. Obviously, the location of the fire affected the ability of the engine room to supply power to the entire ship, most likely burning some kind of crucial wiring nexus. The emergency power engine is apparently located in another part of the ship but it is not meant to supply more than minimum survival power. I am guessing this incident will lead to a few design changes where all power from the engines will not be fed through a single point in the future.




So, we should not minimize the situation. Things could have gone worse. I seriously doubt anyone would have been seriously hurt by this engine fire, but it is fortunate that the outside air temperature is in the 60s, and that the ship was within range of other ships capable of supplying it with fresh water and food. To be clear, such proximity to land is the case 90% of the time on all cruises, but many cruise ships also regularly schedule voyages where they cross the major oceans. If this Los Angeles-based cruise had been headed to Hawaii instead of Mexico this could have been a different story. Still, I have full confidence the crew would have been able to handle the same situation even further out at sea by finding extraordinary methods to supply food and water to the passengers.

So – don’t expect this situation to lead to any discounts in cruise prices in the future due to a loss in demand for cruises. Real cruise enthusiasts are a hardy bunch, and I am guessing the only people onboard that ship acting otherwise disagreeably are the amateurs who never considered what it really means to be on a cruise ship far out at sea. Regular cruisers will certainly be taking advantage of that future cruise credit. Historically, while these events are dramatic, they are statistically rare enough that the cruise audience remains ardently loyal and will continue to cruise without a blip in demand. However, there are some extraordinary cruise bargains out there right now anyway – especially in the “last minute” category.

Discuss Fire on Carnival Splendor

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