News Column

Carnival Cruise Strands Passengers Again

March 15, 2013

Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel

A month after an engine fire crippled one of its ships stranding passengers in the Gulf of Mexico, Carnival Cruise Lines will have to 'rescue' passengers again from another stricken ship.

The South Florida-based cruise line on Thursday arranged to fly passengers on its Carnival Dream ship now stuck in the Caribbean home on private charters and scheduled flights.

The cruise ship, with more than 5,000 passengers and crew aboard, had to remain in port in St. Maarten Thursday after experiencing problems with a generator a day earlier when it was set to make its way back to Port Canaveral, Carnival said.

"The Carnival Dream has a technical issue with the ship's backup emergency diesel generator, which our engineering team is currently working on," the Miami-based cruise operator said. "At no time did the ship lose power and the ship's propulsion systems and primary power source was not impacted."

The ship, which left the Orlando-area seaport on a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise was on its last leg of the voyage when a malfunction occurred Wednesday during regular testing of the backup generator, Carnival noted.

In an address earlier this week at an industry conference in Miami Beach, Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill reiterated the cruise line's commitment to safety and said the company was conducting a comprehensive review of its entire fleet because of the Triumph incident.

On Feb. 10, an engine fire knocked out Carnival Triumph's propulsion and power, leaving more than 4,200 passengers and crew stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for several days. Passengers complained of limited power, overheated cabins and overflowing toilets as well as scarce food.

The ship was eventually towed to port in Mobile, Ala. Feb. 14, and since then investigations have determined that a leak in a fuel return line was to blame for the blaze.

"We have a very good safety record overall and the good thing is, we always, as an industry, try to learn from these things and we try to get better," Cahill said Tuesday during his address.

The review, which will take "a little bit of time" to complete will look at fire prevention, detection and suppression mechanisms, engine room backup systems and emergency generator capabilities, as well as changes that can be made, and how, Cahill said.

On Wednesday Carnival Dream passengers were able to spend the full day in St. Maarten, and have the option to continue doing so until their scheduled return home, Carnival said.

Passengers on the immobilized ship would receive a refund equal to three days of the cruise and a 50 percent discount off a future sailing. The cruise line also said it was canceling the ship's March 16 sailing and would give passengers booked on that cruise a full refund plus a 25 percent discount on a future voyage.

"Carnival made the prudent decision to conclude the cruise in St. Maarten and get the people back home safely," said Stewart Chiron, president and CEO of Miami-based industry website "There's no way they were going to risk another incident."

Carnival also stressed that all of the ship's hotel systems were functioning normally since 12:30 a.m. Thursday and that all passengers were "safe and comfortable." Still it acknowledged there had been periodic interruptions to elevators and restroom services for a few hours Wednesday night.

Those temporary disruptions might account for earlier passenger reports to CNN, which indicated problems with power and overflowing toilets in sections of the ship as it sat docked in St. Maarten.

"We are very sorry for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans and extend our sincere apologies," Carnival said.

Source: (c)2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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