Carnival Cruise Lines is looking to turn around its sagging fortunes after a series of highly publicized disasters have undermined its once sterling reputation with the paying public. With the Costa Concordia and Carnival Triumph incidents still fresh in the public’s memory, the company, which is now helmed by newly minted Chief Executive Officer Arnold Donald, will be spending at least $600 million to refurbish and upgrade its cruise ships.
Donald hopes that by taking these proactive measures, Carnival Cruise Lines can regain consumer trust and confidence, which should result in a return to robust bookings and a rebound in share value.
In assessing last year’s Costa Concordia disaster, Donald clarified that "It was not any infrastructure or systemic problem that produced the Concordia. It was a one-off unbelievable error in judgment, and it was a tragedy."
Carnival had only started to recover from the Costa Concordia fallout when a fire broke out in the engine room of the Carnival Triumph earlier this year. The engine was disabled, leaving the ship without power or running toilets for a few days, which resulted in several lawsuits and one of the worst public relations snafus for the largest cruise company in the world.
However, Donald noted, "Not only did no one die, no one was hurt, no one was sick, so there was no safety health issue involved with the Triumph at all."
Though it could have been much worse, the disasters could have been avoided—which is why Carnival is spending more than half a billion dollars to upgrade its current fleet. "In the highly unlikely event we should ever lose power again we’d be able to have a system to back that up and we’d have a process to keep from losing power in the first place." Donald stated.
To ensure that safety standards are set at the highest level, Carnival Cruise Lines has brought in former Coast Guard commander Mark Jackson as the new vice president of technical operations in April of this year. Jackson remarked, "What happened on the Triumph is horrible for our guests and we never want that to happen again, but unfortunately it’s something that we learned the hard way."
Rerouting the ships’ cables will be first priority, since the location of the cables were one of the main reasons the fire was able to quickly spread and take out both of the Triumph’s engine rooms. This way, Jackson explained, "If one room is lost, we don’t lose the other." Other measures include: increasing the number of water mist nozzles from 30 to 500, hiring a 24/7 patrol crew to watch out for oil and fuel leaks, and installing a 2nd backup generator that is far from the engine room to ensure that basic service and power remains enabled in the event of an engine room breakdown.
Despite the company’s publicized upgrades, the public remains slow to forgive and forget. Even with heavily discounted fares, most potential passengers are reluctant to book with Carnival. Fortunately, time can heal almost all public relations disasters, which is a good thing not just for Carnival, but for travelers who will be enjoying the resulting higher standard of value and safety for their money.