Carnival in Crisis…Again?!

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    Issues with three more ships raise serious crisis management concerns

    Just as Carnival escaped its position at the top of the news cycle following the drama surrounding the lengthy Triumph tow, another of its ships, Elation, reported steering issues and was escorted back to a nearby port by tugs.

    At that point, Carnival execs had to be, for lack of a better term, freaking out. Unfortunately for them, that wasn’t the end of it. The Carnival Dream was also forced to return to port as a result of generator problems, and (yes, there’s more) just yesterday the Carnival Legend experienced technical issues affecting sailing speed, forcing a change in schedule that skips the planned last leg of its journey in order to head straight home.

    What the heck is going on, Carnival??

    After the debacle that was Triumph, we would have done a full audit of all fleet vessels from top to bottom in order to reassure not only ourselves, but our paying customers, that every step had been taken to prevent a similar crisis from happening again.

    Well, either Carnival needs to hire new mechanics, or this simply wasn’t done. We do understand that sometimes bad things happen, regardless of the prevention effort put in, but systems on three different ships failing at nearly the same time is a bit too much to chalk up under coincidence.

    It does appear the company has learned one thing from Triumph, it immediately arranged to fly passengers of Dream home from St. Maarten, where it was stalled at port and flew singer Jon Secada out to perform for stranded passengers in the meantime.

    If Carnival was risking becoming synonymous with risky trips before, now that potential is off the charts. Just look at this sampling of comments from an LA Times article regarding the situation:

    Carnival fail comments 1

    What Carnival sorely needs is an actual crisis management strategy. Not just “pay off the passengers and play ostrich ’til the story blows over,” but a comprehensive plan to not only ensure that ALL of its ships are actually seaworthy, but also to communicate to stakeholders, travelers and the media exactly how this has been ensured, and why they should give the cruise line another chance.

    At this point Carnival itself is a sinking ship, and it’s going to take a lot more than buckets to bail the company out. Until company leadership commits to making things right, the embarrassment will continue.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]