From being called the “Spam cruise” to having its staff labeled as liars, the Carnival Splendor is now sailing on less favorable PR waters. Carnival Splendor was on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Nov. 7, from Long Beach, California when a fire in the aft engine room ended the dream of sailing for over 3,200 passengers. 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.
The initial response to the crisis, as seen from “outside” was timely and professional, but the reality was different for the passengers aboard Carnival. They had to wait hours and hours to receive food and water, and apparently, they were also kept in the dark about the extent of the fire. In crisis situations it is standard procedure to give passengers only the information they need, to avoid panic and chaos, so the Carnival Splendor staff only followed the rules. And they managed to bring everyone back alive and well. But when Ignorance comes to play, Value gets a secondary role.
It’s the curse of the luxury cruiser, I suppose, to have on board a number of spoiled brats, who cannot be satisfied by the mere thought of being alive. A lot of the moaning and groaning had to do with the food, despite the fact that the US Army managed to bring supplies in time. But there were some highly intelligent life forms aboard who had to criticize these supplies:
“If you could see the things they put on sandwiches,” one passenger told CBS News. “Seriously, this could be the only cruise ever where people lost weight instead of gaining weight.”
And then there is the Spam issue. Apparently, the people cruising with Carnival Splendor, even in front of death by starvation, are too good to consume Spam and Pop Tarts. Spam was never passed on to passengers.
“We gave our food order to a supplier, not the Navy. The Navy kindly delivered the goods, (and) Spam was not on the list,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told USA TODAY. “However, we told the supplier to substitute as necessary if they had difficulty getting everything we were requesting on very short notice and so that’s how the Spam ended up within the supplies that were delivered.”
Then there are those who saw a business opportunity in what was almost a tragedy. Lissa Letts, who doesn’t know anyone who participated in the cruise, made some T-shirts that feature the message: “I Survived the 2010 Carnival Cruise Spamcation.” And sure thing, they sell.
These are minor issues, in my view. Carnival Splendor should be celebrated, not attacked. The cruiser will give its passengers full refunds, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise. If anything, this is good PR. The negative PR that will follow, has a lot to do with those passengers who want a bit more from the trip. A “Next Stop the Daily Show” message waived by passenger aboard the Carnival Splendor as the cruise ship arrived in San Diego Harbor might just give you the answer to what “bit more” these people want.
M&C Saatchi PR has been an outside agency helping the company with communications, solely in the UK.