Travelers Still Avoiding Carnival After ‘Poop Cruise’

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Months after the infamous “poop cruise,” in which Carnival Triumph passengers were stranded at sea for five days without working toilets, Carnival Cruise Lines is still struggling to convince travelers to come back aboard its ships. Perhaps rock-bottom pricing and a new cruise passenger bill of rights will help the cause. But the fire that broke out aboard a cruise ship yesterday in the Bahamas — this one owned by Royal Caribbean, not Carnival — probably won’t make it any easier to coax passengers aboard.

In the immediate aftermath of the Triumph debacle in February, travel agents and industry analysts were saying that cruise sales remained strong, giving the impression that the whole episode would blow over and it would soon be business as normal. But it soon became apparent that the Triumph would severely hurt Carnival Cruise Lines not only because it was an especially ugly incident, but because it appeared to not be an isolated incident. A series of problems on Carnival ships—technical malfunctions, port stop cancellations, mechanical failures—followed the Triumph, apparently (and understandably) causing a falloff in bookings on Carnival cruises. The company was forced to discount cabins to fares of under $50 per day in order to boost occupancy.

As of last week, consumer confidence in Carnival still seemed to be an issue. Four-night cruises to Canada out of Boston were available starting at $159 per person, while five-night sailings began at $199—for an average of just $40 per night. That rate is for an inside cabin (the cheapest, arguable worst room on the ship), and taxes and government fees are extra. The total for the $199 rate for a couple comes to $564, which is still quite a deal.

Well, it would be quite a deal if the cruise went off without a hitch. After several high-profile problems have affected Carnival sailings in recent months, however, many travelers seem to be worried enough to steer clear of the Carnival brand, even at bargain prices.

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Toward the end of May, Carnival announced that it was lowering its earnings forecast for the year, largely because in order to juice demand it has had to keep cruise prices low. In light of Carnival’s latest fire sale prices—and the fact that summer and fall are generally considered fairly slow seasons for cruise bookings—it looks like the company’s rates aren’t going to rebound anytime soon. What’s especially amazing is that, as the industry publication Travel Weekly reported last fall, Carnival was anticipating a long period of heavy discounting even before the “poop cruise” was dominating cable TV news:

“Broadly speaking, I think it’s fair to say that in order to keep demand going, we have been and will continue to have a fairly heavy spend in promotions and sales,” Carnival Vice Chairman Howard Frank said. “That seems to be driving the business.”

Pricing isn’t the only aftereffect of the poop cruise. In the wake of the string of ugly Carnival incidents, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) led a movement to pass a Cruise Ship Bill of Rights, ensuring passengers that they could, for example, disembark at port if a ship cannot provide basic provisions (like working toilets). Last week, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) adopted a cruise passenger bill of rights very similar to the one proposed by Schumer.

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The association represents 25 major cruise companies, and each will post the rights on their websites. While Schumer applauded the action, he was concerned it didn’t go far enough. Here’s a snippet of the statement he released, published in the Daily News:

“While I believe that this passenger bill of rights is a step in the right direction towards increased accountability for the cruise industry and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its passengers, I still have many remaining questions, both on the content and how the bill of rights will be enforced,” Schumer said. “I will be asking the industry to respond to a set of detailed questions, and will continue to insist on changes to ensure the safety and well-being of their passengers.”

(MORE: Ugh, More Travel Fees: Not Wanting to Be Left Out, Cruise Pile on New Charges Too)

The cruise bill of rights sounds like big news, but it probably isn’t. In many ways, it’s business as usual for cruise lines, who have been unofficially following these guidelines for years. “The Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights codifies many longstanding practices of CLIA members and goes beyond those to further inform cruise guests of the industry’s commitment to their comfort and care,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA, in a press release listing the “new” rights.

29 comments
UleNotknow
UleNotknow

"... taxes and government fees are extra." Don't stop there. There are also tips for services.

ADisorda
ADisorda

"loyal to Carnival and a shareholder".  Ahhh, yes.  I see damage control happening here.  Carnival stock was a sweet ride for a while.

LNKnowles
LNKnowles

I would much rather have been on the Triumph that on the RCL Barbeque of the seas.  The Triumph fire was immediately extinguished, the Grandeur fire burned for over two hours.  The captain says he mustered the passenger in an "abundance of caution" - no, he was planning to lower life boats because he was afraid that the fire would not be extinguished.  According to passengers who were  on board the Triumph, the only feces present in places it shouldn't have been would have been intentionally left there.  They all report conditions were not as bad as the media reports.  The folks on the Grandeur were fortunate that the ship was new enough to have the required redundancies in place for the generators to come back on and power the ship.  Had that not happened and they were further out at sea, it could have been quite disastrous.

I also find it interesting that no national news has published anything about the brand new Norwegian Cruise Line's appropriately named Breakaway.  The ship which was launched this month experienced problems during high winds on a return trip to New York which caused the dividers between stateroom balconies to rip off the welds and slam against the ship.

Stop focusing all your attention on Carnival report real news that people care about.  Those people who do not cruise, won't start and the ones who do will continue to do so.  From what I have seen Carnival ships continue to sail full, as do most other cruise lines.

PointsinBlue2
PointsinBlue2

Carnivals customer/agent services gets a big NO from me and my client.  After they booked the Triumph for the stated first sailing after the "poop cruise" and then broke loose from the repair dock, I expected there would be another cancellation.  Carnival issued a letter that stated it would honor the price and give a 25% discount plus $200 on board credit.  So, trying to book the third time with the promissed deal customer service refused to honor their letter.  My client canceled and then it took over 6 weeks to get the refund with so many excuses I lost count.  My client will NEVER book Carnival again.  And this AGENT won't either.  Bye bye guys! 

MichaelPiccolo
MichaelPiccolo

Lay off Canival for god's sake! What you are NOT reporting, is that carnival has instituted a $300 million program to make sure that in an event that one engine room failure, the other engine room is redundant and un affected, and will maintain hotel services like toilets, elevators, and hot food! Also not reported is the incidents among other cruise lines that happen JUST as frequently, but since Carnival is the largest line and creates the most revenue, the Maria automatically wants to vilinaze them. It is more safe to get on a Carnival ship than it is to take a seat on an airplane. I have taken 8 carnival cruises ( one on the carnival triumph herself) that have all transpired, incident free. I have number 9 booked, and working on plans to book number 10 on the fabulous Carnival Sunshine, a sister ship to Carnival Triumph. Just look at the cruise ship incident history found online and you will see that all the other companies have incidents too and just as frequent, that don't make media headlines altho not usually as catostrophic as triumph. Why does our news always want to make villains out of successful companies?

MichaelPiccolo
MichaelPiccolo

Lay off Canival for god's sake! What you are NOT reporting, is that carnival has instituted a $300 million program to make sure that in an event that one engine room failure, the other engine room is redundant and un affected, and will maintain hotel services like toilets, elevators, and hot food! Also not reported is the incidents among other cruise lines that happen JUST as frequently, but since Carnival is the largest line and creates the most revenue

MRK
MRK

My wife and me booked one of the bargain Carnival New England tours for later this summer. We have been on 3 cruises between us. Can't wait. I am sure some people who have had the misfortune of being on a airplane with mechanical problems well short of a crash never fly again. Their choice. 

gumshoo
gumshoo

If you gave me a free trip and included airfare you could not get me on one of those floating cesspools.  Floating gluttony with no thinking involved... woo hoo.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

In any kind of travel things can and might go wrong.  The recent RCCL and Carnival troubles amount to a very small % and they have amounted to huge inconvenience rewarded with refunds and future free cruises.  Sign me up.  I have been on five cruises and found each just awesome, from the relaxation of letting others get you there, great food whenever you want, good fun (shows, games, pool, sauna), opportunities to see places you have not seen, meet new people.  I'm sure that the industry will step up its maintenance programs and cruising will be as safe and as fun as ever.  No, I do not work in the industry.