My week at Cruise Shipping Miami had me socializing with the cruise shipping set, including various "worker bees" at Carnival Cruise Lines. I am unable to divulge their private comments as to what is going on within the company and their ships, but their woes have been heard not only by me as the sympathetic ear, but U.S. cruise passengers...
As reported in the Daily Business Review and every television station in South Florida recently, federal inspectors cited Carnival's FASCINATION cruise ship in February for flies, dried food waste and a roach nymph, U.S. health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said inspectors with the agency's Vessel Sanitation Program gave the 2,056-passenger ship a score of 84. Anything below 86 is considered unacceptable, the CDC said on its website.The CDC conducts surprise inspections twice each year on cruise ships that dock at U.S. ports. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said it is rare for a Carnival ship to fail an inspection. The violations included low levels of chlorine in the ship's water park and a missing sneeze shield over the salad bar, the newspaper reported Thursday. A fly was spotted at the hamburger grill and dried food waste was found under a kitchen counter. Four to six small flies and a "roach nymph" — or larva — were found around the drain below the room service juice dispenser, the report said.
Guliksen said all issues were resolved within 24 hours of the inspection.
This latest news has come out after a year of damage control for Carnival Cruise Lines. Foregoing further discussion of the COSTA CONCORDIA disaster, Carnival's passengers and crew this year faced the "cruise from hell" aboard CARNIVAL TRIUMPH after an engine room fire left the vessel adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with 4,200 passengers aboard, resurrecting stories of the CARNIVAL SPENDOR's 2010 debacle.
Disabled TRIUMPH being towed to harbor off Mobile Bay, Ala. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file)
Then CARNIVAL ELATION had to be escorted by tug because of a problem in its steering system. CARNIVAL DREAM (a dream class ship at 128,000 tons, the largest ship yet built for Carnival Cruise Lines I have been on) experienced power interruptions at the island of St. Maarten, stranding more than 4,000 passengers. CARNIVAL LEGEND ended up limping home to Tampa at reduced speed because of an issue with one of its propulsion units. In the past few weeks alone, three of the cruise line's giant floating playgrounds have experienced embarrassing malfunctions that have at least inconvenienced, if not angered, many passengers.
Christopher Muller of Boston University's School of Hospitality tells CNN that the latest wave of issues at Carnival appear to be a management problem. "They are doing something wrong with preventative maintenance," he says. "Carnival has so many working ships that to say the fleet is in distress is maybe a little bit broad, but clearly something is not right."
Carnival has blamed the problems aboard the CARNIVAL DREAM on a malfunction that occurred in the ship's emergency diesel generator during a routine safety test. The CARNIVAL LEGEND's problems, though at sea not in port, appear to be more in the way of an inconvenience. One of the ship's two Azipods, a directional propulsion unit, was experiencing an unspecified "technical issue" that has forced the ship to reduce its speed. Even before the latest problems, questions have been raised about the cruise industry in general and specifically Carnival, the largest line in the industry.
These incidents are the latest in several headline-making issues for one of the world's leading cruise lines. Four of the company's 23 ships have had problems in recent months. The cruise line has offered affected passengers refunds and discounts on future cruises. It faces a class-action lawsuit related to the TRIUMPH's last cruise, when passengers reported that food was scarce, cruise goers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning, toilets overflowed and human waste ran down the walls in some parts of the ship.
The problems have also prompted one U.S. lawmaker to propose a "Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights." Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said he was asking the cruise industry to voluntarily sign on to a list of guidelines, including the right to backup power if generators fail and the right to disembark a docked ship "if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided on board." Schumer also called on the International Maritime Organization to investigate whether cruise lines are following existing guidelines and whether existing standards are being enforced by countries where cruise ships that serve U.S. passengers are based. "Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," Schumer said in a statement. "This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."
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