Carnival Splendor PR Response to Fire Crisis

Carnival Public Relations


Carnival Splendor was on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Nov. 7, from Long Beach, California, with an itinerary including stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But on Monday morning, the vessel’s scheduled day at sea, the dream of cruising the Mexican Riviera ended abruptly, when the crew had to battle a fire in the aft engine room. The fight with the flames took hours, but the gods of the sea were on the side of the people: the blaze that left the vessel adrift was contained, with no injuries to its 3,299 guests and 1167 crew. Unfortunately, the damages terminated the ship’s current voyage.

An accident is an accident, and although the danger is over for the passengers, ship and crew, Carnival Splendor has to deal with a number of PR issues that could damage the Carnival Cruise brand if not handled professionally. But the company operating the vessel, a British-American owned cruise line, based in the Doral suburb of Miami, Florida in the United States, is a veteran in the business. In service since 1972, Carnival Cruise can manage a PR crisis like no other cruise line. For starters, the fast response to the fire crisis brought a number of merit points. The crew managed to contain the danger with no injuries.

Then, the operating company provided timely information to the media, with updates on the company site, transparent media contact information, and more. But the most important “PR move” is that guests on the current voyage will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Other companies would not be as upfront with such issues – they’d deny responsibility in front of “accidental” damage. It’s reassuring to see that a cruise company is ready to take a heavy loss to keep its good name with the customers. So reassuring, that, in all honesty, if I ever go on a cruise on the Mexican Riviera, Carnival will be my cruise line of choice.

We are not talking peanuts money here. The ship reportedly transported 3,299 guests, which already is more than its official 3,006 passenger capacity. The crew did everything humanly possible to ensure those passengers were safe after the incident. The fire caused the main generators to shut down, and the ship has been functioning on auxiliary generators since. Although key hotel services aboard, like air conditioning, hot food service, and telephones are not available, the crew managed to restore toilet service to all cabins and public bathrooms, as well as cold running water. Bottled water and cold food items are being provided – the ship is not “dead at sea” as described by the sensationalist media. It’s just dealing with a crisis.

But over 3000 passengers, who are not trained for such incidents, make the whole situation a bit edgy. To keep them safe and comfortable, the ship’s crew continues to actively work to restore other services. I suspect, without passengers, the crew would only focus on restoring the main generators. Tugboats are on their way to tow the vessel to Ensenada, Mexico. However, if power is restored, the ship will return to its home port of Long Beach, Calif. under its own power.

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