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I have come down with a terrible cold as I write this. I’m coughing and hacking away, nursing cups of hot tea drowned in honey in a desperate attempt to rid myself of my newfound illness. My condition, however, isn’t helped by the fact I keep seething over the media “coverage” of the incident aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Triumph.
You’ve probably heard that on Sunday, the 1999-built Carnival Triumph suffered an engine fire off the Yucatan coast which rendered her unable to proceed under her own power. As ships essentially derive their hotel power from the vessel’s diesel engines, this has had an impact on the ability to run necessary hotel operations onboard.
Read: air conditioning, elevators, and in some cases, toilets, are inoperable. Meaning that onboard the ship, the conditions are less than ideal, and certainly not what the brochure promised.
But I’m beginning to think that the one-sided and sensationalistic news coverage I’ve been reading this week has caused my current illness. In that case, I want to stand in line, too, with my hand out, waiting for a freebie from Carnival.
I’m being sarcastic, of course, but consider this: a quick search for “Carnival Triumph” on Google brings up the following:
- Worst Experience Ever! - NBC News
- Stranded ‘shantytown’ is pulled toward Mobile, Ala. - The Daily News
- Newlyweds onboard the Carnival Triumph – WRKG News
- 4,000 Carnival Triumph Passengers Sharing Five Toilets - International Business Times
The last article is quite the headline from a publication that, you’d hope, would offer a more measured take on the incident. Instead, it’s a piece filled with little facts and held together largely by descriptions of the “mass vomiting” (the article’s words, not mine) taking place onboard. The article prior to that seems to suggest that the newlyweds onboard are somehow worse off than everyone else, simply because they’re newly wed.
Even McDonalds is grateful none of its 350 employees onboard as part of an employment incentive program were “injured.”
But perhaps the most revealing article online is this one, where the author muses about why the over three thousand guests couldn’t simply be offloaded – at sea, mind you – to another “empty” cruise ship. While the proposed idea alone should be enough to make even the heartiest lawyer squirm, it demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge that seems to be prevalent throughout: people don’t understand the cruise industry, or how it operates. It’s very different from an airline, where a broken plane can be replaced with another plane. Carnival doesn’t just have “empty ships” lying around, waiting to serve as backup.
Now – I have no doubt that conditions onboard are downright awful. That’s not in doubt. But out of all these articles, I’ve seen a one-sided description of how hard-done-by all these passengers are.
No one’s talked about the crew.
The nearly 1,100 crew onboard the Carnival Triumph are living and working under the same conditions that passengers are. Their accommodations, aside from the senior officers, are located deep within the hull of the ship and far away from the balcony staterooms and suites most guests are accustomed to.
There are engineers and technicians working in machinery spaces that have soaring temperatures on the best of days – let alone without functioning air conditioning.
The bar stewards, stateroom attendants and front-of-house personnel all have to show up for work, in uniform, under these same challenging conditions, ready to be given an earful from the most vocal passengers. I’ve already seen quotes comparing the incident to Titanic (bizarrely inaccurate), Costa Concordia (unfair), and Carnival Splendor, probably the only accurate comparison of the bunch, as she suffered a similar debilitating engine fire in 2010.
Little care also seems to be paid to the lengths to which Carnival is going to in order to gain control of what little it can: they’ve arranged for 100 busses to meet the ship in Mobile, and over 1,500 hotel rooms in nearby New Orleans – enough to house every one of Carnival Triumph’s guests, on the cruise line’s dime. They’ve mobilized a team of 200 support personnel in Mobile, and chartered flights between there and Houston.
This, in addition to everyone at the line’s Miami headquarters who is operating on little or no sleep.
But you don’t hear about that. Instead, there are ample descriptions online ranging from the vague to downright gross about feces-covered walls, mass vomiting, no food and free booze. How accurate those descriptions are is anyone’s best guess.
Few articles I read mentioned that Carnival Legend and Carnival Elation came alongside to provide meals and provisions, while still at sea. Fewer still mentioned that 900 passengers aboard Triumph lacked passports, which would have made disembarkation in Mexico an absolute nightmare.
Today, guests will disembark Carnival Triumph and the world will hear how awful everything was. It’s just too bad no one’s reporting on how well the crew of the ship – the family that lives and works together – handled the situation.
From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow.
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