Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing

carnival cruise

Carnival Cruise Lines fleet of FunShips have plied the oceans of the world for over 40 years, enabling travelers to sample a variety of destinations and cultures. Many of those travelers might not have ventured out of their own back yards without the affordable, normally safe and secure travel option largely pioneered by Carnival. Reporting this week from Cruise Shipping Miami, the South By Southwest of the cruise industry, Gadling was on the scene when the story broke: another Carnival ship in trouble.

Just days before reports of Carnival Dream, her passengers and crew stuck at the dock in St Maarten, Carnival’s President and CEO Gerry Cahill participated with other cruise industry leaders in a keynote panel discussion.

Addressing February’s Carnival Triumph incident, when an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, Cahill updated the crowd on hand for the annual State of the Industry discussion. A signature event of Cruise Shipping Miami, last year’s event was dominated by the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding. Costa Cruises, like Carnival Cruise Lines, are sister brands along with others that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.

“I can assure you since this fire has occurred it has been the number one priority for both Carnival Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation,” said Cahill of a comprehensive safety review in-progress on the entire Carnival fleet.

Bringing in experts in fire safety, naval architects, marine engineers, electrical engineers, experts from shipyards and more, Carnival seemed committed to raising the bar on safety as never before. The U.S. Coast Guard determined the cause of Carnival Triumph’s fire to be a failed fuel return line, one that had been properly maintained at correctly scheduled intervals.

“This review is very comprehensive, it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Cahill “but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Doubling down on safety protocols while the detailed fleet review continues, Carnival is taking nothing for granted.

carnival cruiseCarnival Dream‘s six massive diesel-electric engines offered over 84,000 in horsepower and were functioning properly. But before going to sea, all systems on the ship are tested and one of those is backup power.

Carnival Dream’s backup system did not pass the test. So with the Carnival Triumph incident fresh in their minds, the failed generator became a “no sail” issue. That’s the good part of the story. Carnival could have allowed the Dream to sail the over 1,100 nautical miles back to Port Canaveral; the ships propulsion system worked.

But taking a page from recent history, a mechanical issue that might not have caused concern before came under the microscope, much like Carnival Cruise Lines, if not the entire cruise industry.

What if some other unknown, unanticipated mechanical breakdown occurred half way between St Maarten and Florida’s Port Canaveral? Carnival has clearly adopted a laser-focused concentration on safety, looking for any issue that could disrupt what should be a fabulous FunShip cruise.

Dream Event Incomplete, Here Comes Another One
Just a day after Carnival Dream was held at the dock (the cruise line equivalent of being grounded, much like the Boeing Dreamliner recently), Carnival Legend was recalled to the port of Tampa, citing propulsion problems. The engines were working; the ship just did not have the ability to go fast enough.

This issue might sound a bit more familiar to frequent cruise travelers. Reduced propulsion issues happen with a bit more frequency on cruise ships from multiple lines and for a variety of reasons.

Design flaws aside, moving parts wear out and these engines and the propulsion systems they provide power for are moving all the time, every day of the year.

carnival cruiseEven docked, ships engines are running, albeit at a reduced speed or with a different fuel, for environmental impact reasons. A handful of ships can “plug in” to a shore side power grid but the amount of reduction in emissions is debatable (the power still comes from somewhere) and plugging in only reduces emissions while in port (there are no extension cords).

In the case of Carnival Legend’s recall to port, that move too might not have happened pre-Triumph. Ships with limited (but reliable) propulsion issues commonly run modified itineraries that do not require the drive system to be quite as vibrant.

Carnival Cruise Lines and its sister cruise lines are not taking any chances. They have brought in experts to look for issues not thought of before and are taking quick action when safety concerns come up.

“It is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with solutions we will implement across our fleet,” added an obviously committed, apologetic and humble Cahill.

The Big Question
But the ugly elephant question in the room is, fairly: “OK, so maybe these things are freak accidents or an abundance of caution. Why are they all happening to Carnival Cruise Lines?”

Results from third-party sources indicate that Carnival Cruise Lines is operating at a level that meets or exceeds that of regulatory organizations world wide, including the very picky U.S. Coast Guard. Believe that, and the negligence hat does not fit.

Maybe the other cruise lines have higher standards. That dog won’t hunt either. Carnival Cruise Line is just one of the Carnival Corporation family of brands that also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard Line, none of which have Triumph-like events in their history.

Still, bad things happen to good travel options and cruise travel is no exception. Like the hotel fires that occurred with some frequency in the first half of the last century, right now is a time when cruise lines are addressing safety concerns as never before.

Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com put it well in a recent Huffington Post article:

“One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the industry over the past 24 years is that policies and procedures are constantly evolving. Nothing is etched in stone and improvements will always be made, especially when safety is concerned.”

When thinking of the post-Truimph era of cruise travel, who better to pioneer raising the bar, creating new protocols regarding the issue of safety than the organization that created the industry in the first place?

While shoddy journalism by a whole bunch of news organizations clearly focus on sensationalizing the story, I’d hate to forget the contribution to the world of travel that cruises have made. Carnival Cruise Line is shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong. We hope their efforts keep that door to the world of travel open to those who might not otherwise have seen it.


[Photo credit – Chris Owen]

Grounding Of Costa Concordia Brings New Rules For Cruise Travel

Costa ConcordiaAfter the grounding of Costa Concordia in January, the governing organizations of the cruise industry ordered an Operational Safety Review both in response to the troubling Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. Now, the review is complete and has resulted in three new policies that promise to address safety concerns.

These three new policies, which go beyond international regulatory requirements, address safety issues related to passage planning, personnel access to the bridge and lifejackets. Each of these three policies will be reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration at their next session in May.

“As highlighted by these wide-ranging policies, we continue to take proactive measures to improve the safety of passengers and crew across the globe,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in a Wall Street Journal statement.

The three policies answer questions asked about specific topics concerning the Costa Concordia grounding:

Passage Planning – The topic of “passage planning” came up concerning reports that the captain of Costa Concordia had chosen to take the ship off course as a salute, a show of respect, for a retired captain that lived ashore.

Under the new policy each passage plan is to be thoroughly briefed to all bridge team members well in advance of its implementation and it is to be drafted by a designated officer and approved by the master.

Personnel Access To The Bridge – At one point in the investigation of the Costa Concordia grounding, it was believed that unauthorized personnel were on the navigational bridge at the time of the incident.

To minimize unnecessary disruptions and distractions on the bridge, the new policy states that bridge access is to be limited to those with operational functions during any period of restricted maneuvering or when increased vigilance is required.

Lifejackets – Although there were plenty of lifejackets on board Costa Concordia, the nature of the accident caused some passengers and crew members to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have one.

Under the new rule, in addition to the statutory requirement of carriage of lifejackets for each person onboard, cruise lines have adopted a policy of carrying additional adult lifejackets.

The number of additional adult lifejackets to be provided must not be less than the total number of persons berthed within the ship’s most populated main vertical fire zone. This ensures that the number of lifejackets carried is far in excess of the number of persons actually onboard the ship.

These three rules are in addition to a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. That new policy was released previously and also consistent with the industry’s announcement January 27 of a complete safety review in response to the Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures.

The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

Under the new muster policy:

  • A mandatory muster of all embarking passengers will happen prior to departure from port.
  • Late arriving passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  • The policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review also included a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code.

“We look forward to working collaboratively to identify any additional operational issues that will achieve our longstanding goal of continuous improvement and innovation in shipboard operations and safety,” added Duffy.

[Flickr photo by darkroom productions]

Cruise lines focus on fitness and health

cruise lines health and fitnessDriving a stake in the heart of a “College Frat party-like” reputation that has dogged them for years, new Carnival Magic may finally turn the tide for Carnival Cruise Lines. The line is adding unique fitness choices and continues some healthy lifestyle options infused with their Spa Carnival program. Joining other lines with a similar focus, new Carnival Magic promises to continue a trend of adding more active options for cruise passengers

When new Carnival Magic sets sail May 1st, outdoor fun and fitness will be promoted as never before. Several new features will take the spotlight. Combined with the line’s ongoing Spa Carnival program, this new ship may very well set the bar for at-sea fitness options.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of guests who want to start or continue a fitness regimen or enjoy some personal pampering while at sea” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Called “SportSquare” the new area on 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic will feature SkyCourse, the first ropes course at sea and the first ever outdoor fitness are seen in the cruise industry.

On SkyCourse around 20 guests at a time can strap into a safety harness and choose from beginner or intermediate courses, traversing across rope bridges, swinging steps and beams suspended above the top deck, called the Spa and Sports deck. 20 different elements on the ropes course are each named after a notable bridge in the U.S.Sky Fitness features stationary bicycles, elliptical and rowing machines, punching bags and Sports Track offers an 800-foot-long jogging path that surrounds the entire area. A multi-purpose space for basketball, volleyball and soccer, along with a six-station Vita exercise course plus ping pong and foosball tables are there too.

“We’re literally taking fun and fitness to a new level with SportSquare. Whether you’re climbing our amazing new ropes course at sea, doing some fresh-air cardio or just taking it all in, there’s something fun for everyone to enjoy, day or night,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

Combined with the line’s ongoing Spa Carnival program that up to 50% of their guests take advantage of, SportSquare continues a focus on fitness . The ongoing effort weaves a focus on fitness and nutrition into everything from youth programs to dining options.

The 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic, sister ship to Carnival Dream, will debut in Europe with a series of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises in May. Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Magic will sail seven-day Caribbean service from Galveston, Texas.

AOLTravel’s Fran Golden reports “Carnival Cruise Lines is sweetening the pot on Europe cruises this summer with free upgrades and onboard credits of up to $300 per cabin, for reservations made by Jan. 30.”

There will be three Queens in New York today

Three queens in new york“Yeah so what?” one might ask. These three queens, Cunard Line ocean liners Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, will all meet up in New York today for the first time.

The line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2 will arrive and dock at Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth will sail up the Hudson and dock at the Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan.

“In January, 2008, Cunard Line’s first Rendezvous of their three Queens took place. It was quite exciting as it was the first time Cunard had three ships with Queen in the name and all three were together.” said cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron CEO, CruiseGuy.com adding “It was the last time for many to see Queen Elizabeth 2, as she would depart the fleet later that year.”

The Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth will have sailed in from Europe, doing what Cunard calls a “tandem crossing” where the ships sail side by side.

All three were expected to be passing under the Verrazzano bridge about 6:00 am today then spend a day in port before sailing by the Statue of Liberty to enjoy a fireworks salute to the famous ships before sailing off around 6:40 Eastern time.

“This time, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria meet the brand new Queen Elizabeth amid fanfare fit for royalty. New Yorkers love these types of events and what’s bigger than three Queens passing by the Statue of Liberty amid a gala fireworks show? QE2 had a very special place in New Yorker’s hearts as the ship made countless visits during her 39 years in service.” said Chiron.

We can watch live via the Queen Mary 2’s onboard web cam right now.

Image courtesy Cunard Line

$ billion cruise port “not ready” for ships on the way

cruise port not readyRoyal Caribbean’s new cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica looks “more like a bomb went off on the site than a high-class tourist trap” says the Jamaica Observer today after a recent site visit.

That’s bad news for cruise passengers set to start visiting the new port January 7Th off Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.

“The port facilities, especially the shops, are not ready. I would say the earliest they would be ready is about mid-March, and fully operational around late April, and the terminal building, a hundred per cent open at the end of June (2011),” said Jes Olsen, project director for the Dutch construction firm in charge of building the pier.

That’s about a year behind the originally projected opening date. Still, Royal Caribbean will send the first ship, Navigator of the Seas, to the port January 7Th. The Falmouth project was built to accommodate giant Oasis and Allure of the Seas beginning May 2010. Those ships won’t call in Falmouth until March.

“It is a very huge project. It’s a ‘design/build’ project, where the developer has certain things in mind and he can change his mind along the way. Also the unknown factors, we had a lot of coral to move which delayed the start-up of the project. We moved about 140,000 live corals.” adds Olsen.

With nothing to do at the port itself, the guests who disembark will have little choice for activities off the ship other than ship-sponsored shore excursions. Plans for setting up a temporary craft market on the site have yet to materialize.

Jamaica Observer photo