Carnival Triumph Being Towed To Shore After Engine Room Fire

Carnival TriumphCarnival Triumph was nearing the end of a four-night cruise when an engine room fire stopped the ship, about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Without propulsion and running on only backup generator power, Carnival Triumph will be towed to closest port where passengers will disembark and be flown back home.

Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the ship, posted a statement Sunday night on its website. Along with details on how passengers would get home, compensation they would receive and other pertinent information, the cruise line explained what happened and the current status of the ship.

The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. At this time, the fire is fully extinguished. There were no casualties or injuries to guests or crew. All appropriate authorities including U.S. Coast Guard have been notified.”

Meeting Carnival Triumph at the scene, another Carnival ship, Carnival Elation, transferred additional beverages and supplies to distressed ship as it drifted in open sea, waiting for a tugboat.

Expected to arrive in Progresso, Mexico, by Wednesday afternoon, passengers on board will make the best of what is now a free cruise with another free cruise coming in the future.

“All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise, along with transportation expenses,” reads the statement on the Carnival website. “In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.“Meanwhile, booked passengers preparing to depart on the next regularly scheduled sailing of Carnival Triumph are being contacted by the cruise line with the bad news. The next two sailings of Carnival Triumph have been canceled. Those passengers will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and any non-refundable travel expenses plus a discount on a future cruise.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it is. Gadling reported a fire aboard Carnival Splendor in November 2010. At the time, it was believed that the ship would be out of service for several sailings. But once repairs were underway, additional issues were discovered and some needed parts where not available, causing Carnival Splendor to stay out of service until February 2011.

We will provide updates as this story develops. Visit the Carnival website for the most current information.


[Photo credit – Flickr user Daniel Slaughter]

Crime in Mexico: cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint

Crime in MexicoCrime in Mexico has caused cruise lines to carefully assess whether or not they should be bringing business to the country. Recently, the situation has been improving as narco drug lord activity remains focused in areas where cruise passengers do not travel, and some of the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations ended this week without incident. Nevertheless, twenty-two cruise passengers recently robbed at gunpoint on a normally safe ship-sponsored shore excursion, is causing the travel industry to take another look at safety.

It’s not the first time cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint — that also happened in November of 2010 on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

“At the time of the robbery, the passengers were traveling to the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a well-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site on the southern Caribbean island,” reported CruiseCritic. The article reports that masked gunmen “put a tree across the road to block the bus.”

On a Celebrity Cruises ship-sponsored tour, the excursion was canceled indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation. No one was harmed, calls for increased security went out, and law enforcement in St. Kitts pointed to their nearly spotless record of being a safe destination for travelers.

Thursday’s incident happened in Puerto Vallarta, when passengers who came ashore from Carnival Splendor were robbed while on a ship-sponsored tour. Held at gunpoint, they were “stripped of cameras, watches and other valuables they had with them,” reports Informador. Here too, no one was harmed, calls for increased security went out, and the Shore Excursion, a seemingly harmless nature walk, was canceled pending investigation.

“Carnival also apologized to the passengers for the ‘unfortunate and disturbing event’ and said it is working with passengers to reimburse them for lost valuables and assist with lost passports or other forms of identification,” said CruiseCritic.

The incident once again raises questions about the safety of tourists in Mexico, an ongoing matter that concerns not only cruise lines, but hotels, resorts, and pending spring breakers set to go south of the border within the next 30 days.Earlier this month, The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Mexico, superseding last April’s warning. Cartel violence stemming from drug trafficking, specifically, violent struggles among the criminal organizations for control of trafficking routes, has resulted in a rising number of carjacking’s, kidnappings and gun battles throughout Mexico.

“U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico,” said the State Department in the new warning posted on their website.

Though crime is nothing new for Puerto Vallarta. Not quite a year ago, in May of 2011, Leonard Schell, a Canadian father of two, was stabbed 25 times in his Puerto Vallarta home and robbed of about $13,000, bank cards, and passports, as CTV.ca reported. “They cut him from his lip to his throat. It’s terrible, and just to rob money,” said Elba Ruiz, Schell’s wife.

Still, Mexican tourism officials claim they are the victims of an unfair media focus, concentrating on isolated incidents, not typical of what visitors to Mexico commonly experience.

Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board wants to prevent more scare-off-the-tourists bulletins such as one released in March 2011, when the Texas Department of Public Safety bluntly told travelers to, “Avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring Break and stay alive.”

“We believe that these travel alerts are too broad-based and making very blind statements about Mexico that do not reflect the reality,” Lopez-Negrete said at the time.

Really? Tell that to the 22 tourists robbed at gunpoint in Puerto Vallarta this week.

This latest incident of crime involving tourists in Mexico adds yet another legitimate reason for travelers to stay away from Mexico or at least exercise extreme caution when visiting.

Hotel guests and cruise passengers will have added concern as they normally experience a destination through a sponsored tour or excursion, promoted as the safe way to go. Tour operators are said to be vetted by the hotels and cruise lines, implying they are safe to travel with.

Hotel guests get picked up and dropped off at their safe hotel, for the most part without incident. Cruise passengers know that if the locally operated tour runs late, the ship will wait for them. Those going ashore on their own take a risk using unapproved operators. If their tour runs late, the ship will leave without them. But most of those also end with great memories of a beautiful destination they may want to visit again.

It’s a hot-button topic with Gadling readers as well, causing a variety of comments both in support and against travel to and in Mexico.

In response to a photo gallery run not long ago titled Mexico’s Safest Destinations, one reader commented:

“It was not the sight of 4 armed guards loading ATM machines that scared us but the fact that we were drugged at our resort and my husband ended up in a Mexican ICU, I can tell you first hand as a nurse, YOU DO NOT WANT to get sick in MEXICO.”

Considered safer than Mazatlan, where cruise lines have abandoned all calls, Puerto Vallarta continues to get ships calling from a number of lines and has a brisk hotel business. But, like the caution they urge about Mazatlan, the U.S. Department of State warns, “You should also exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in the remaining portions of this state.”

Readers disagree here too with one commenting:

“Puerto Vallarta is safe!? lmao I was chased back to my hotel by three drunk Mexicans throwing rocks at my head for no reason while I was on vacation. I thought it was safe and this was 6+ years ago.”

Still, many Americans and Canadians travel to and live in Mexico, without incident. Another reader, a New Yorker who lives in Mexico during the winter, has a different take on safety in Mexico:

“(I have) been coming to Mexico since 1970, never had a problem. Have owned a home in Cozumel for 6 years. My wife and I live here winter and spring, then summer and fall in Upstate NY I’ve told many of my NY friends it’s safer here than going a NY mall on a weekend. If you don’t go looking for trouble it won’t find you. But don’t let the word get out too much, we don’t want our beautiful little island to change.”

It’s a long, ongoing battle between those in favor of travel to Mexico who love the place and those against who urge caution; one not likely to end any time soon.


Flickr photo by HBarrison

Carnival Splendor back in service on the West coast, repairs complete

carnival splendor back in serviceCarnival Splendor, the ship that was in the news after it caught fire in November, putting an abrupt end to sailings of the ship from the West coast, will be back in service February 20, 2011.

Taken out for repairs in November, Carnival Cruise Lines announced at the time that all sailings between then and January 16th had been cancelled for repairs to be made. Later, the line had to push that date forward when repairs took longer than normal. Now, the ship is ready to resume normal operations, doing seven-day sailings from Long Beach, California.

“Carnival Cruise Lines continues to be the number one West Coast operator with two ships based in Long Beach year-round, as well as a ship operating seasonal itineraries from San Diego and Laos Angeles. We have more year-round capacity dedicated to the West Coast than any other cruise line and we are committed to maintaining our leadership position in this important market,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.Carnival Splendor has been throughly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and Lloyds Registry, a ship classification society, which monitored the progress of repairs during the ship’s dry-dock period.

“We’re obviously very pleased that the Carnival Splendor is returning to service and we’re looking forward to welcoming our guests aboard this fantastic ship,” Cahill said. “We would also like to thank our guests for their patience over the past few weeks, as well as our travel agent partners, the ports of San Diego and San Francisco and all of the government agencies, repair contractors and countless others who have provided invaluable assistance and support.”

Carnival will carry nearly 400,000 passengers a year between Carnival Splendor doing seven-day sailings to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Pacific coast and Carnival Paradise doing three and four-day Baja, Mexico itineraries.

Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines


Breaking: Coast Guard issues safety alerts in wake of Carnival Splendor fire

coast guard issues alertIn a Marine Safety Alert issued yesterday the US Coast Guard urges ship owners to verify and test their Fixed Fire Fighting systems to be sure they work right.

The two Coast Guard alerts “refer to the Carnival Splendor” and the fire that shut down the ship November 8, 2010 verified marine industry journal Professional Mariner.

Noting the ship’s crew responded correctly, the Coast Guard said the disabling fire was “responded to and extinguished by the vessel’s quick response team firefighters using portable extinguishing equipment.”

Where the alert part of this development comes into play refers to Splendor’s fixed firefighting system which had been recently inspected but failed to operate as designed. It seems the directions on how to operate the system and how it actually operates are different, what the Coast Guard called “a recipe for failure”.

The Coast Guard issued a strong recommendation for ship builders and owners to verify and test installations to insure they will “operate correctly during an emergency”.

As Gadling reported previously, propulsion systems, electricity, climate control, water and entertainment were all disabled, and the ship was stuck 200 miles off the coast of San Diego as a result of the fire.

Flickr photo by gnr

Carnival Splendor update: woes continue, ship out of service longer

Carnival Splendor updateCarnival Splendor, the ship that caught fire not long ago, putting an abrupt end to sailings of the ship from the West coast, will be held out of service longer than anticipated.

Taken out of service for repairs in November, Carnival Cruise Lines announced at the time that all sailings between then and January 16th had been canceled. In an update today that number was pushed forward to February 20, 2011.

“We sincerely apologize to our guests for having to cancel these additional cruises,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “We made our best effort back in November to estimate the necessary repair time with a strong goal of not having to modify it at a later point in time.”

As repairs were done, additional issues were discovered and some needed parts where not available.

“Unfortunately, as the repairs have progressed and we have discovered additional issues, it is now clear that we need more time. We know this is extremely disappointing for our guests and particularly disheartening for those who already had their vacations canceled once and are now being affected again.” Cahill added.

Guests booked on newly-canceled sailings will receive a full refund of what they paid or a future cruise credit of equal value in addition to a 25% discount and/or on board credit if they re-book on a future sailing depending on the ship and sailing date of the new booking.

Our friends over at AOL Travel have been in touch with the cruise line and have more details on the impact the new discoveries will have for future cruise passengers on the Splendor.

Flickr photo by DVIDSHUB