'Stench cruise' fallout: Will it create a stink for Carnival and the industry?
Carnival will take a hit from the 'stench cruise' ordeal, and the industry will scurry to reassure potential customers. But the impact on the growing sector should be short-lived, experts say.
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Passenger Julie Billings told NBC News that the experience “was like post-natural disaster, but stuck on a boat with 3,200 other people, and those poor workers trying to clean up after everyone and deal with everyone freaking out.”Skip to next paragraph
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Passengers also praised Triumph’s crew – roughly 1 in 4 of the people on the ship – for their hard work to make the bad situation bearable.
“They got everyone back,” says Dan Askin, senior editor at the online publication CruiseCritic. But it was “obviously a deplorable situation on the ship.”
He says such incidents are not common in the industry, although the Triumph case is bringing other past cases into memory, such as a 2010 parallel involving another Carnival ship, Splendor, that had to be towed back to port.
Mr. Askin says the company reported no adverse effect on pricing for bookings in the months following the Splendor incident. The company still bore a cost of about $65 million in compensating affected passengers and being unable to use the disabled ship for a time.
Cruise aficionados will take the event in stride, Klein predicts, while the industry might have a tougher time in the months ahead luring first-time customers.
An online poll, conducted by CruiseCritic from its reader base Feb. 12-13, found most people saying “no” to the question of whether the Carnival Triumph fire would “put you off cruising.” Of more than 3,000 respondents, only 11 percent said it would affect their behavior – split between some who “won’t book one for a while” and some who “doubt I’ll cruise again.”
The Triumph incident will be investigated, which in some cases can result in new regulations, Askin says.
Carnival estimated this week that the Triumph setback will cost 8 to 10 cents per share in earnings during the year’s first half. That would translate into a hit of as much as $78 million. The company’s share price has fallen from about $39 just before the news, to about $37 Friday afternoon. That’s nearly a 5 percent dip.
CEO Gerry Cahill was on hand to apologize to customers as the ship docked in Mobile. The company is offering passengers a full refund of their cruise and transportation costs, plus $500 and a “future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage.”
The company has also canceled 14 Triumph sailings, keeping the ship off-line through April 13.
But on Friday, the home page of the Carnival website was about business as usual: “Book your Euruopean cruise early,” it beckoned in one headline, “for the dream vacation you’ll always remember.”
“Quite honestly the industry seems to weather every storm, as a whole at least,” Askin says.
Globally, the cruise industry employs some 753,000 people and has “nearly $100 billion in economic impact,” the Cruise Lines International Association reports.