Triumph Has Landed

| Thursday, 14 Feb. 2013

Carnival Triumph is finally in the Mobile Alabama Channel

Wrapping Up Triumph

As the ship nears the Mobile Alabama harbor we are starting to get a clearer picture of the conditions on the ship. Naturally stories vary, with the most heated rhetoric tending to come from the people with the least cruise experience, and the calmest voices coming from people with plenty of cruise experience.

All in all, some passengers expressed true fear at moment when the fire occurred in the engine room, understandably. The fire was reported to the passengers, even though it had been extinguished and did not spread beyond the engine room, but as one person interviewed on CNN (the network had non-stop coverage all day Thursday) related; they had been told during the obligatory safety drill that "fire is the biggest danger at sea." And this is a fact, since a fire at sea leave people with no place to run. Yes, you are surrounded by water, but that won't stop the fire from destroying a system onboard that sustains life.

In this case, that is exactly what happened. The fire destroyed the electrical system which in turn brought down the air conditioning, and even more critical, the toilet system. It also stopped the ship from moving since propellers are also driven by the electrical system on the ship.

Passenger Comments

As the ship got closer to land it soon became possible for passengers onboard to phone in and make comments to CNN about the conditions onboard. I watched all day, enduring hours of CNN anchors repeat the words "stench," "sewage," "repugnant," "putrid," etc. Then as soon as the ship was close enough to receive pictures we didn't see the "ship from hell" pictures we expected with "sewage dripping down the walls," etc. They never materialized. All we ever saw were some pictures of red bio-hazard bags, some sitting in boxes waiting to be picked up and disposed.

The End-Game

Carnival had to make arrangements for all of the passengers, including rebooking flights or arranging transportation back to Galveston where the cruise originated for the people who had driven to the ship. Passengers were also given the option of being coached to New Orleans where there are hotel rooms waiting for them, and from there they could fly home.

Carnival agreed to reimburse every guest for the cost of the cruise, plus $500. They also paid for any non-refundable transportation costs (delayed flights home, for example) and offered everyone onboard a free cruise on Carnival in the future.

Naturally, this last part was the butt of many jokes by the uninitiated, but to be sure there are many experienced cruisers who will be very happy to have a free cruise, and if you don't yours I will gladly take it off your hands.

Passenger Comments

CNN repeatedly referred to this as a "public relations nightmare." One picture that gained a lot of attention was of Carnival Corporation CEO Micky Arison at a basketball game for the Miami Heat - a team that he owns. Arison argued that since he owns the team he also has a responsibility there - however the team was not stranded at sea without heat and plumbing.

Early passenger comments pretty much all praised the crew - I heard no complaints about them. They also said most passengers got along very well with very little arguing. Early reports of people hoarding food were later explained as people taking extra food for people who couldn't stand in line for several hours as was sometime required.

But once again, when asked people repeatedly cited "the head office" as the people they were angriest with. The reasons were somewhat vague, but were largely about logistics such as "why didn't they send another boat to us" or "why didn't we go to a closer port?" In fact, there are good answers for both of those questions, including immigration laws and natural factors like wind and sea currents.

Carnival has offered about as generous compensation as I have ever seen from a cruise line, however I do understand the frustration of the people who needed better communication with people on land to take care of pets, kids, jobs and other matters left on land which people did not expect to be late in getting back to manage.

One of the biggest logistical factors is getting all the people off the ship once it docks. To speed up that process Carnival and Customs and Immigrations officers get on the ship long before it landed. That way people could get cleared and be ready to leave as soon as the gangway is down. This is often a factor that can slow down disembarkment pretty significantly, and so that is a big help.

Difference in Passenger Experience

The people who had the worst experience were most likely the people on the lower decks who were the same side of the ship as the direction it was listing. The reason is that any water, and in some cases sewage backing up in toilets, gravitated towards those staterooms. These were also the rooms closest to the smoky fire, and farthest away from fresh air from staterooms with balconies and other open decks that are placed above the hull line.

The people in veranda cabins had the best situation. They were closest to the top decks where the food was located and they had access to more fresh air. Most likely, they weathered the entire situation pretty well.

Disembarkation was predicted to take as long as four hours, although I am not sure why. The biggest problem may be merely that too many people start pushing to get off the ship. I have seen that situation get out of hand so let's hope that is not the case.

Business in Future

Many people are wondering if this will affect the cruise industry very much negatively. In my experience many people sees these incidents as an opportunity to pick up a bargain. If memory serves me correctly, that opportunity can be fleeting so book that bargain as soon as you see it.

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