Carnival Cruise Lines has had a rough go of it in 2013 with the drifting Triumph, tugged Elation and marooned Dream. In yet another blow to the Miami-based company’s waning image, it announced this week that it would have to cancel 12 more sailings scheduled for the spring due to extensive repairs on the Triumph and a delay in the return of the Sunshine.
The cruise line issued a statement late Tuesday saying the cancellations were the first implementation phase of its fleet-wide comprehensive operational review, scheduled to last through 2014.
The world’s largest cruise company first announced the review at an annual cruise industry conference in Miami last Tuesday, claiming it would assess its 23 ships in the wake of the fire on the Carnival Triumph last month that left passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for days while the vessel was towed back to the U.S. mainland. On that ship, food was scarce, cruisers baked in the sun with no air conditioning and human waste was reported running down the hallways. The incident led to significant criticism of the cruise operator and a class-action lawsuit from passengers.
Carnival Cruises president and CEO Gerry Cahill assured that the new probe would look at the prevention, detection and suppression of fires, engine room redundancies and which facilities might be provided and run off of emergency generators.
“This review is very comprehensive, it will take us a little bit of time to complete it, but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization,” Cahill said. “It is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with solutions that we can implement across our fleet.”
Carnival canceled 10 cruises out of Galveston, Tex., on the Carnival Triumph due to the review. The cruise line said the ship would not return to service until June 3, adding that any guests on the affected voyages will receive a full refund, reimbursement for nonrefundable transportation costs and a 25 percent discount on a future four- to five-day cruise.
The revamped Carnival Sunshine (formerly Carnival Destiny) will remain in a dry dock until May 5, following the cancellation of two European cruises. Guests scheduled to sail on these voyages were offered a similar consolation package.
“The changes we are implementing [on the ships] are focused primarily on improvements to better support continued power and hotel services should unexpected issues arise,” Cahill said Tuesday. "In addition, we are applying new learnings and making enhancements in the area of fire suppression and extinguishing.
“Our team of experts has worked virtually around the clock to determine the best set of solutions and rapidly develop an effective implementation plan for both of these ships. Moving forward, we will have the ability to source materials and schedule improvements much more expediently, thus minimizing the scheduling impact on other vessels.”
Despite these assurances, the spate of bad press has started to ware on Carnival. In its earnings release last week, the company said advanced bookings for 2013 were behind the same point last year.
The problems began, in earnest, last January with the sinking of Carnival-owned Costa Concordia. Cruisers returned to the sea in 2012, but they were often coaxed to do so with steep discounts. That’s precisely why Carnival has lowered its earnings estimates for the remainder of the year, noting that further discounting will push revenues down while repairs will drive costs up.