Though the incident was a truly unfortunate one, please consider the number of cruisers and other visitors that participate in cave tubing excursions without incident. As a Carnival passenger in January 2008, I and my companion participated in the cave tubing excursion through an independent tour operator (not the cruise line). Our group of 8 was escorted by a fantastic guide! We remained together the entire time and were "connected together" to go through the cave as a group. Several of the other tour operators had participants going through the caves "alone", and that seemed very dangerous to me even then. I think that it is as safe as the tour operator makes it (not just about making a buck as many tour operators worldwide are focused on). I booked through the individual tour operator based on ratings on tripadvisor.com. Initially concerned about the high cost of the Carnival excursion, I was pleasantly surprised with the increased level of service I received for the fewer dollars I spent. Please consider this when making a decision about this amazing experience!
Unfortunately, "what happened"...was that the cruise lines (not just Carnival) groups are so large....they do not "link".
When you go on a private excursion, you are "linked" to a guide. This prevents you from floating off into an area where you don't need to be.
The guide controls you the entire time.
Now the cruise line tours will say "hey link up with someone"....but the private excursions make a TRAIN and you are linked the entire time.
This is the only safe way to do this excursion.
Linking also prevents even the scary times like brushing up against a wall that may have a spider on it etc.
It also needs to be added that the private excursions had pulled their tours for that day....due to the fast water from recent rains.
COMPLETES THE FLEET
If it is Carnival and it floats....we have sailed it!
Hubby ... DIAMOND (every ship except the Carnivale)
Me ... DIAMOND (every ship starting with the Tropicale)
20 year old son ... DIAMOND (every ship starting with the Tropicale...he is the only DOUBLE Milestone under the age of 21)
24 year old son ... DIAMOND
Oh... I'm not afraid of an itzy bitzy spider. Or a big one. Just the really dangerous ones like they have in Australia and a few other places.
I went with a cruise ship tour last December (after the accident) and felt perfectly safe.
After the accident, the government came up with all kinds of new standards (supposed to be effective January - after my tour), including hard hats for everyone. I hope that wasn't implemented, or at least not fully.
Frankly, if I were to do it again, I would choose a private tour, not from a safety standpoint, but because those groups were small enough that in slack water the guide would push, pull, or tow the linked group - less work for me!!!! I do think the quality of the private tours is higher than the ship tours.
We went with an independent company as well and were really happen when our guide had us get out of the water so that the cruise tour could go through. He had started us at a lower point because he said that because of the water level goin higher wasn't safe. We watched people come down and get sucked around a big rock. Our guide went and saved several people until he saw a guide that was with the group. He yelled at them to have someone be there to help their people. I was glad I was with him and a couple of other people because he really was worried about our safety and kept us all together. He always knew where we were.