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Carnival Splendor Returns to Service

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On a gray day in the Long Beach Harbor, Gerry Cahill, president of Carnival Cruise Lines, calls a press conference to discuss the re-introduction of Carnival Splendor to the Mexican Riviera cruise market. Exactly what happened to this important ship last November that required almost four months of service in San Diego and San Francisco remains a bit of a mystery, but we got a glimpse of the mood of the cruise line executive as well as the hero of the mishap, cruise director John Heald, who famously buoyed the spirits of everyone on the hobbled ship for three and a half days.

First to take the stand for today’s press conference was head Carnival spokesperson Tim Gallagher. He informed the assembled press, “if you are ‘shooting’ be advised that Carnival president Gerry Cahill is 6’4” – about this much taller than me.” But first he introduced cruise director John Heald.

John Heald took the mic and said, “and just so you know, while I may be 6’4” in this direction (indicating his waist), Mr. Cahill is also this much taller than I am.” Obviously, John Heald’s sense of humor has been anything but dulled by this recent event.

John Heald went on to say, “We are very happy to have all of you here today to reintroduce the Carnival Splendor. In fact, we’ve prepared a special luncheon for you. In the next room is a tray of spam sandwiches for everyone.” Moans filled the air.

In fact, the SPAM issue was re-addressed by Gerry Cahill, but for now John continued, “I have been with Carnival for several years now. I started as an aerobics instructor.” I had to laugh. The closest John Heald has ever been to an aerobics instructor on Carnival was watching the music video “Let’s Get Physical” with Olivia Newton John on the crew channel. In any case, John continued….

“I was the cruise director on that fateful cruise and the first thing I want to say about that day is how proud I am of the crew, and the people on shore side, working for Carnival. I especially want you to know that this man (Carnival President Gerry Cahill) was the first person from the Miami office to reach the ship, and folks, I even saw him carrying baggage for people and putting it in taxis.” Heald then introduced Gerry Cahill who gave us a rundown of the sequence of events of last November 7th.

Cahill said he heard that the installed alarm system for the engine room sounded just about 1 second before the fire broke out – “obviously, not much of a warning,” he said. He went on to describe how the the captain and his fire-fighting team assessed and controlled the situation to the best of their ability, but they faced a few unexpected challenges.

Cahill also praised the crew who for almost four days had to keep all of the guests happy, hydrated and fed. The crew was forced to form a “human chain” just to move food from the provisions area on deck one up to the pool area on deck nine.

Gerry said the most emotional moment of all was after all the guests had left and he assembled the crewmembers in the main theater so he could thank them personally. He told them how almost every guest he met was not only happy, but that they also were full of praise for the crew. He said he ran into one regular Carnival cruiser who told him, “I have been on a lot of cruises, but I have never been as proud of any crew as I am of this one right now.”

He then wanted to tell us a little bit about the “SPAM story.” Cahill claims he was in his Miami office the night before he flew out and the head of food provisioning was in his office talking to the supplier giving food to the Navy to be delivered on the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier, Ronald Reagan. He had told them, “Whatever food you can manage to provide is alright as long as it isn’t going to spoil.”

The next thing they knew, after just one-half case of SPAM had been delivered to the ship, the prevalent observation being reported to the media was that guests were “living on SPAM sandwiches.” Cahill said the food and beverage manager was speechless, and as much as Carnival denied the SPAM reports, it was the meat that just couldn’t be killed.
Cahill continued to describe the process of assessing the extensive damage, saying that the problem had occurred in the aft engine room and involved the cabling coming out of one of the diesel engines. People had to work around the clock to fix the damage, including waiting for a new diesel engine of 218,000 pounds to be manufactured and delivered to San Francisco. The ship also needed two new alternators, each weighing 106,000 pounds. To restore all of the damaged cabling required installing about 110 miles of new cable.

Before the ship was returned to Long Beach for regular service it had to pass sea trials monitored by Lloyds of London (the insurance underwriters for the ship) and the Coast Guard. All together, Mr. Cahill estimates the damage just to Carnival Splendor comes close to $65,000,000; a staggering amount of money.

In addition, since Carnival has many ships in the Carnival fleet with similar designs, it plans to replace the fire safety switchboard system and add more insulation to the cabling on as many Carnival and other ships as necessary. As far as other cruise lines, Cahill said that Carnival Corp will be looking into the ships of every fleet they own in order to identify potential problems. An independent 18-member task team is now hard at work trouble shooting all systems to make sure all necessary upgrades are implemented.

The final report on the fire is still being discussed and investigated in San Francisco by the Coast Guard, Navy and other shipbuilding officials. At CruiseMates we have seen reports that have said the “failsafe Deluge System” had problems which caused it to fail, problems such as the wrong manual for the actual control panel that was on the ship, and that it contained incorrect information such as telling the crew to “turn” a valve rather than to “open” it. We didn’t get any definitive comments on that, but we will have more information soon.

In any case, it would wrong to assume there is any inherent danger in taking a cruise because of this fire. In fact, it did not cause any injuries and was not likely to. It did cause a lot of inconvenience, but not the kind a cruise line would be willing to risk again, so you can be sure Carnival is doing everything it can to fix this situation so that sailing on Carnival ships is as safe as any cruise line in the world.

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Comment from Sean Pajot
Time February 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Dear Motter: Excellent article! Always on point! Cruises rule!

Comment from kameron
Time February 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Hello; I just booked a cruise to hawaii on NCL through their website it is a 7 day cruise. I booked a penthouse suite. How can I get bumped up to a owner’s suite. This is my first cruise with my two boys. Any suggestions you may respond via

Comment from Joan
Time March 28, 2011 at 8:52 am

I have been assigned to deck 2 with a cove balcony on the nw ship, Magic. My travel agent thought that would be an ideal room for us. We are seniors. That may have been the reason for choosing this deck. I always thought th higherdecks were preferable. Could you give your opinion.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time March 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

While the cruise lines tend to charge more for identical cabins on higher decks, in truth most of us find the lower decks offer smoother and quieter sailing. You have a good location.

I personally really like the cove balconies. It is unusual to be so close to the water and to have a balcony. The only drawback may be if you have very high seas (not likely at all) they may seal your balcony for safety reasons.

Comment from Luxury Galapagos Cruises
Time March 28, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Some times due to some problems we have to take some strict steps but we should try to eliminate that problem. Carnival Splendor has also gone through bad phase but its really a good news that it is getting back on track.

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