The ship of the damned, Carnival Cruise Lines Triumph, lurched into port last Friday after days of horrendous conditions at sea. The luxury cruise ship suffered a fire early into its voyage and lost all power, leaving nearly 4,000 passengers and crew in the dark, with limited food and water, no air conditioning in sweltering temperatures, and toilets that quickly overflowed into the hallways.
There was little surprise that after the ground was kissed by passengers, lawyers were called, and as early as Sunday, lawsuits were being filed against Carnival. The first claimed Carnival “failed to provide a seaworthy vessel and sanitary conditions” with the plaintiff seeking compensation for “physical and emotional harm, anxiety, nervousness and the loss of enjoyment of life.’”
Carnival’s fine print states that the cruise line “shall not be liable for emotional distress and mental suffering.” However, that doesn’t cover physical damage. A second suit now cites physical injuries, including severe dehydration. It’s likely these will spawn further suits; one passenger mentioned during a morning show interview that she’d broken her ankle in the dark. Lawyers are at the starting line.
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Carnival Cruise Lines. The cruise from hell may be over for the passengers, but it’s ongoing for a company still reeling from the ship-aground disaster in Italy.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Taking action speaks louder than simply saying “I’m sorry” . Carnival Chairman and CEO Micky Arison apologized via loudspeaker on the cruise liner when his defeated Triumph was towed into port, but passengers were in no mood. An indication of what could have been done came when passengers took time from detailing wretched conditions to praise the crew for taking good care of them, when they were suffering even more. The issue at sea went on for days with those aboard Tweeting about worsening conditions. What else might have been done? Why not airlift more food and water, no matter the cost? Or, make a bold and unprecedented move to show how much the CEO cared by airlifting him onto the ship and joining the passengers in hell. What a PR impression that would have made! He might have been as uncomfortable as his fellow passengers but that might have paled in comparison to the questions he now faces from Carnival’s board as it fends of a flotilla of lawsuits.