What can a PR pro learn from Carnival Cruise Lines?

March 6, 2013

By Will Krugman, intern

Accidental camping – that’s what I would have called the recent Carnival Cruise disaster. Let’s say you paid for a Caribbean cruise, got to enjoy about half of it then decided to just stay in the last port you visited. You ditch the tourist trap town where they dropped you and live in the wilderness in the Yucatan Peninsula. You sleep under the stars, nobody can tell you what to do, and the lack of constantly buzzing electronic devices puts you into a relaxed state of mind.

MP&F_Carnival_post

These don’t look like stars to me.

In reality, an engine room fire cut power to 3,000 passengers, forcing them to live on a powerless boat for the next few days. Even if you wanted your luxurious first-world customs, you couldn’t find any for leagues.

What is a cruise line supposed to do when one of its ships loses power at sea, basically turning the ship into a floating desert island? It’s not as though you can pick up your bags, snatch a cab and head to the airport.

Maybe the lesson learned isn’t “Wow, that company really screwed up,” but more “You know what – that cruise line knows how to make a problem not worse.”

Let’s face it, things could have gone worse for Carnival; but they did not try to cover up the story or shift blame. Besides the obvious disaster, the only other negative press came from its owner going to a Miami Heat game a few days into the crisis. Otherwise, they treated the ordeal as though it was a big deal and gave the passengers fair compensation.

Passengers on the Triumph received a full cost of trip and transportation refund, 30 percent off the next cruise, and $500 extra. That adds up to another completely free cruise. As if they hadn’t had enough already.

Carnival can take comfort in knowing they treated their customers with respect. Next time you find yourself in a hole, first remember to stop digging.

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