Propulsion Problems on World’s Largest Cruise Ship

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise shipAs cruise ships get bigger and bigger, one question keeps popping into our heads:  when is it too big??  Apparently that question has not yet been answered as cruise ships continue to grow.  But with continued growth, comes continued problems.  And now the latest cruise ship problem comes from the current world’s largest cruise ship.

Should we be shocked to hear that the largest cruise ship in the world suffered from propulsion problems? Hmmm, probably not. This has been one crazy year for the cruise industry, complete with ship mechanical problems, several ship fires (who can forget the Carnival Triumph debacle in February), overboard accidents, sexual assaults, and not to mention, a number of crimes. So, you’ll have to excuse us when we show a lack of shock after hearing that Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas experienced a few mishaps of its own over the past few weeks.

While RCCL has yet to release the details of the incidents, what we do know right now is that three Azipod units, podded electric propulsion units, were affected. As a result of the issues, the Allure had to slow down from its max cruising speed (22.6 knots) and has been forced to make shorter port stops over the past three weeks.

So, let’s recap. There are problems with the Allure of the Seas’ propulsion system. The problems have been around for THREE WEEKS. And it appears that Royal isn’t fixing the issue, why?

Probably because it costs too much money – money the cruise line might be more poised to spend elsewhere, like in marketing all the fun and exciting things to do onboard or investing in a slew of even more entertainment options to add to the already existing two-deck dance hall, ice skating rink, 7 “neighborhoods”, and 25 dining options. Instead, cruise guests have to make do with shorter visits to the ports they were so looking forward to seeing.

A typical cruise vacation onboard the Allure of the Seas can run well over $800 – and that’s just for an interior cabin and for four days of cruising. Multiply that with about 5,400 passengers cruising at any given time and, well, you’ve got a lot of revenue for Royal.

But while we, as experienced maritime attorneys of the firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., see a huge problem in the fact that this propulsion issue has been going on for three weeks, Royal sees it as just a tiny little glitch. You know, no big deal at all.

In fact, according to Cynthia Martinez, the director of Global Corporate Communications for RCCL, the ship only has a “small restriction on her top speed.”

To some, this “small restriction” might be a minor nuisance, but to others, who spend their hard-earned dollars thinking they are going to get the full amount of time in port they paid for, this is just simply unacceptable. Just to give you an idea of what’s been going on with the port visits,  guests onboard the Allure of the Seas spent one less hour in Nassau, Bahamas and THREE less hours in St Thomas. No, we wouldn’t call that a “small restriction”. Not by a landslide.

Martinez went on to say that the rest of the ship’s equipment is “fully operational” and that “there is no impact…on the safety of our guests and crew”. But how accurate is this statement, exactly? Is Martinez right to let passengers and crew members think they are totally safe from harm? Or is there really a greater risk of danger no one is talking about?

The answer to that question can be found in the aftermath of a ferry accident back in 2010. In May, 2010, the Staten Island Ferry, the Barberi, crashed into a pier at its terminal after the operator was unable to slow the vessel down. The cause of the accident? Crew members weren’t able to get the ferry’s drive system to work properly. An investigation later revealed issues with the ferry’s propulsion units, but not before several passengers were thrown onto the pier from the impact, suffering injuries.

It’s a miracle no one was killed in the ferry boat crash, but this is just one of the many times propulsion problems have been at the root of a maritime accident. The ship set sail on a new voyage this past Sunday, probably with the propulsion issues.

Yet, as horrific as it sounds that it appears that Royal has done little or  NOTHING to fix the issues, this isn’t the first time we hear about problems with the Allure and its sister ship the Oasis Azipod units, it’s just the first time Royal admits to them.

These days, it seems like you have to twist the cruise industry’s proverbial arm in order to get anything accomplished as far as maintaining shipboard safety. Hopefully we won’t report back with a follow-up story about how the Allure of the Seas was involved in an incident  because of defective propulsion units.