Digging deep into Carnival Corporation pockets to address the safety concerns of cruise travelers worldwide, Carnival Cruise Lines is looking to put the past behind them. Today announcing a multi-million comprehensive safety program, the cruise line that just can’t seem to get ahead of the game is taking a different approach: changing it.
“This review is very comprehensive; it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill. “But you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”
Today, the fruits of those efforts were revealed, with Cahill noting, “by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations.”Called the Operating Reliability and Guest Comfort program, the focus is deep, promising to tackle three major areas of concerns to travelers:
Enhance emergency power capabilities- Each ship will have a new, emergency generator that will provide 100 percent of stateroom and public toilets, fresh water and elevators in the event of a loss of main power.
Improve the level of operating redundancies- All ships already have two separate, redundant engine rooms. But new modifications will include a reconfiguration of certain engine-related electrical components.
Introduce new fire safety technology- Fleet-wide, Carnival will invest in the newest and most technically advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems, upgrading the existing water mist systems.
On the guest comfort front, Carnival will expand the availability of hotel services for the comfort of its guests if a shipboard event involves the loss of main power.
“The overall program of enhancements across the fleet, including Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships, is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million,” said Carnival Corporation spokesperson Lanie Morgenstern in an email.
Included in the announcement was a new video featuring Cahill and Carnival Corporation chairman, Mickey Arison. Accused by the Boston Globe of paying more attention to his Miami Heat than the heat passengers on the Carnival Triumph endured without air-conditioning, Arison goes on the record, describing where safety fits into Carnival’s plans.
Not even close to what the headline could be misconstrued as, two queens from Cunard Line, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary met for a historic Cunard Royal Rendezvous. What’s significant is that one is now a hotel while the other is a cruise ship. Thousands of travelers from all over the world were on hand for the event and fireworks ensued.
Fans of Cunard Line (called Cunarders) and maritime history buffs lined the shores of Long Beach Harbor for the event as the Goodyear blimp hovered overhead and the two ships exchanged a traditional whistle salute.
Queen Mary entered service as a passenger vessel in 1936 as the grandest, fastest ocean liner in the world. Sailing through WWII as a troopship, Mart transported as many as 16,000 soldiers at a blazing 30 knots (cruise ships today do 20-something). Queen Mary went back into passenger service after the war until 1967 when she became a “floating hotel,” parked in California ever since. A new Queen Mary 2 honors the original, designed for transatlantic crossings.
Much younger Queen Elizabeth, launched in 2010, is also the new version of a ship previously holding the same name. While capable of transatlantic crossings, this ship lacks the heavy plating on her hull and the propulsion system of Queen Mary 2. Still, the 90,000+ ton ship will carry over 2,500 passengers.
A narrative of the ships’ histories was simulcast on both ships and ashore by Everette Hoard, commodore of Queen Mary who called the two queens, “the most famous ships since Noah’s ark,” in the video below.
This is not the first time Gadling has reported queens hooking up in a historic way. “There Will Be Three Queens In New York Today” told of Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, meeting in New York for the first time in 2011. But that too was not the first meeting of Cunard queens.
“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
Also of historic significance, this is not the first time for a rendezvous between queens named Mary and Elizabeth. The original meeting came during the original Mary’s last transatlantic crossing before being transformed into a hotel.
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 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.
Even 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.
“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.
Last minute gift time is upon us and those waiting until the last minute to buy are looking for ideas – quickly. Well, here you go.
Onboard Credit – cash to spend on the ship – is always a welcome gift if your cruise traveler already has a cruise booked. You’ll need to find out their booking number, the name of the ship and the date it sails to make the order via most major cruise lines.
Internet time and other bon voyage gifts are available and can be bought right now with that same booking number/ship/sailing date information. Packages will vary from line to line but most offer them to be purchased in advance as they do bottles of wine, chocolate covered strawberries or other gifts.
These don’t have to cost much either. Bon Voyage Cakes from Carnival Cruise Lines start at $7.95. Royal Caribbean has a handy insulated water bottle holder for $13. Cruise lines also have thoughtful gift packages for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and weddings that offer great value and make for a memorable sailing.Lunch with your travel agent can be one of the best ever gifts. Many agree that a good travel agent on their side when planning travel is a smart move. But finding a good agent can be a challenge for those that do not have one.
Getting to know a trusted travel professional can reap your traveler benefits now and come back to credit your gift-giving prowess years into the future. On this lunch, go along yourself and get the conversation started by recalling trips your good agent has helped with in the past.
A good book is always a pleasure to receive as a gift. Make it a book about maritime history and your die-hard cruise traveler will thank you sincerely. “Cunard Line: A Fleet History” by Peter Newell might work.
Too cruise-oriented? Your cruise traveler who likes to read at sea will appreciate a best seller or two … or seven. Many read a book or so each day of their cruise vacation that appropriately allows such time. Current, relevant travel writings by someone who has been to the same places your cruise traveler has booked will result in knowledge gained. Guidebooks may or may not have similar success.
Travelers with tablets and smartphones will like a gift card from their favorite book supplier. Still, there’s something about sitting on the deck of a cruise ship as it plies the ocean with an actual book in your actual hands that actually, physically turn the pages.
Need more ideas? Check this CNN Travel Gift Guide video:
This June 5 is a big event in the UK as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne. Cunard Line will bring Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations to a close with the first ever Cunard Royal Rendezvous in the fleet’s home port of Southampton, England.
Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will be brought within close proximity of each other as a fireworks and special effects display will light up the evening sky. Queen Mary 2 will then lead Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria in single file down the Solent, a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England, as all three ships set out on their celebratory Jubilee voyages.
This is not the first time the three Queens of the Cunard fleet have met. In 2011 they met in New York City, but the first meeting of the three queens was in 2008.
“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 Stewart Chiron CEO of CruiseGuy.com. “It was the last time for many to see Queen Elizabeth 2, as she would depart the fleet later that year.”
Guests sailing on board Cunard ships will enjoy a Commemorative Dinner followed by a Grand Ball. Cunard will also screen live BBC World News coverage of the celebrations across the fleet beginning at 9:00 a.m. (GMT).