By Travel Guy
By Bill Burke
Cruise ship passengers are a plucky bunch, undeterred from an ocean voyage by the recent Carnival Triumph power outage debacle.
In fact, bargain hunters looking for deals in the wake of the incident are having to stay alert to find them. Cruise bookings remain strong, according to industry experts, with the stranding of the cruise ship barely registering as a blip on merry-makers’ itineraries.
“There really has not been much of a buzz in our office,” said Janet Lanterman, founder of Seattle-based Cruise Specialists. “Bookings for the regular, good cruises are fine.”
An initial investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard found that a leak from a fuel oil return line sparked the fire. Carnival offered each passenger a refund, reimbursement for travel expenses, credit toward a future cruise and $500.
One passenger who sailed on the ill-fated cruise has already written a first-person account of the incident, “Triumph Over Calamity: What Really Happened on the Carnival Triumph,” for sale on Amazon.com.
Yet avid cruisers are ready to head out to sea. Why? Most see it as something unlikely to happen on a regular basis.
“An occurrence such as the recent Triumph debacle, while troubling, is rare,” said Rick Simard, travel consultant for the Travel Connection in Cranston, R.I. “Statistics show that well over 14 million people cruise every year. The problem is, the only time you hear of cruise line problems, like airline issues, is when there is a problem like this.”
Regular cruisers and agents alike show little fear of a repeat incident.
“Cruising is one of the safest vacations that you can have,” said Bob Newman, of CruiseExpertBob.com. “Most cruise ships are very safe and well maintained.”
And while the industry remains robust, there are a few bargains out there designed to get people to commit to a cruise.
“We are already seeing a host of onboard credits from lines that generally do not do that, such as Cunard, one of the largest luxury lines on the seas,” Simard said. “These onboard credits are generally highly sought after and a great perk that will absolutely push people to book.”
Simard said being stuck at sea, cost-cutting and a lack of caring from cruise line management are among the concerns voiced by clients and agents. While everyone on board was removed safely, Lanterman thinks Carnival could have been more aggressive in its response, offering better compensation.
“I’m not a fan of huge ships for many reasons,” Lanterman said. “But those people who want a fast, cheap getaway do like Carnival.”
Lanterman has a unique perspective on the incident. She lived on cruise ships for seven years as a nurse, and actually endured two similar incidents — once for two days without power and another for three days — aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norway. Though not necessarily ideal cruising situations, she remembers them a bit more fondly.
“The passengers came together and helped each other,” she said. “We took care of the older folks and we camped out up on deck as it was August in the Caribbean and very hot. I really do not recall the events with anything but good memories. We had a major campout, people were reimbursed and no one was hurt.”
Despite complaints claiming otherwise, Lanterman’s account isn’t unique. A passenger identified as “Scott” who sailed on the Triumph said it was “not that bad.” On the cruise industry site cruisecritic.com, Scott described the ordeal as akin to camping behind one’s home (with a squishy septic tank on the other side of the yard). He said there was enough food and many of the problems stemmed from passengers ignoring directions from the crew.
“The crew was great, we were treated well, food was plentiful, water was restored quickly and the toilet issue was a minor inconvenience,” he wrote.