Last Saturday, the Star Princess cruise ship called on Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to deliver supplies to residents after the area was devastated by Hurricane Odile. According to news reports, the Princess Cruises’ ship brought bottled water, milk and paper products, among other supplies.
“The residents of Cabo San Lucas form one big hospitality community that regularly welcomes our ships’ guests. We want to return that hospitality by giving back to them as they work to recover and prepare to receive visitors once again,” said Princess President Jan Swartz.
Though we applaud Princess’ decisions to assist the devastated city, we can’t help but wonder where this same sense of urgency and consideration was when another Carnival Corp. vessel, the Carnival Triumph, was in need of assistance?
The Carnival Triumph suffered a fire back in February, 2014 as a result of a fuel leak. The fire subsequently caused the vessel to lose power while it was sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving over 3,000 passengers stuck at sea without working air conditioning systems or toilets. Passengers were also left with meager food provisions, with several guests recalling they only had cucumber sandwiches to eat for most days. Even worse, the ship became a breeding grounds for bacteria and other potentially life-threatening diseases after sewage and waste began overflowing from deck to deck.
These were the conditions passengers on the Triumph had to suffer though for not only one, but FIVE days while the disabled ship was towed. At no point did Carnival request the assistance of another vessel to either evacuate passengers or to at least supply the ship with provisions. No other Carnival Corp. cruise ship came to the Triumph’s aid either.
So, in essence, what we’ve gathered from Princess President Swartz’s statement, coupled with the actions – or, rather, lack thereof – on Carnival Corp.’s part following the Triumph fire accident, is that the cruise company values Cabo San Lucas’ “hospitality” and wants to “give back to them” because, as a port, they are able to provide the vessel with continuous revenue. But to that same token, can we then infer that the importance of a cruise passenger’s wellbeing is not as valuable, since the cruise company didn’t send any help to those who were stranded aboard the disabled Triumph?
From the standpoint of a maritime attorney, it’s pretty difficult not to arrive at such an assumption. After all, Carnival, the world’s largest cruise company, seemed to have all the resources in the world to provide to Cabo residents, but didn’t bother to assist its passengers when they were in need.
Furthermore, the discrepancy in the way Triumph passengers were treated, as opposed to the way the cruise company is reacting toward Cabo’s unfortunate hurricane devastation is another point that cannot be ignored. Firstly, Carnival could have very well sped up the process of getting passengers off the Triumph by having the vessel towed to the port of Progreso, Mexico, which was much closer and could have saved passengers at least two days at sea. Instead, the vessel was towed to Alabama, most likely because it would have cost Carnival too much to cover transportation costs for passengers from Progreso back to the United States. There was no sense of urgency from Carnival that any maritime attorney at our firm can recall to get the victims back home as quickly as possible.
Second, Carnival barely compensated Triumph passengers for their troubles and the accident, which a safety compliance notice later revealed could have very possibly been prevented had the ship’s operators installed spray shields on its fuel hoses, as they were recommended to. We can’t assume the fire broke out because Carnival ignored this safety recommendation, but it’s a pretty startling coincidence that the fire was caused by a leak in a fuel hose.
Again, while we applaud the fact that Princess took the time, effort, and consideration to provide relief to Cabo’s residents after suffering a natural disaster, it’s appalling that Carnival Corp. did not take similar measures to assist its own passengers when they were in dire need of assistance.
Our prayers are with the residents of Cabo, but also with future cruise passengers. Hopefully this same level of attentiveness provided by Princess will carry through to the manner in which all Carnival Corp. subsidiaries treat passengers.