Tag-Archive for » Cruise ship fire «

'It says right here in the fine print…'

In all the cruises we have taken, we have not read the ticket contract you pay little attention to until you're ready to board the ship. Not once. Nada. Sign here, initial there and let us take your picture and an imprint of your credit card. Contract? Incidental.

Why are we so delinquent?

Probably because in reading all that legalese, which would delay our getting on the ship, we would be afraid of finding something that could make us feel we shouldn't be getting on the ship. You know, the fine print…whereas and whereby and in case Cruise contractof and etcetera (yes, etcetera is probably there but we can't say for sure because we've never read it).

Everybody knows the contract is loaded in favor of the cruise line.

Maybe it's time things changed.

The investigation that CNN aired this week about the fire on the Carnival Triumph, whose passengers endured the famous "poop cruise" for five days before being towed into Mobile, included a few choice fine-print selections. Things like the cruise line does not guarantee your cruise will be on a "seaworthy vessel" or that you will be served "adequate and wholesome food" or that you will be housed in "sanitary and safe living conditions."

It's all about liability, of course.

Most of this is a mystery to the cruise passenger, unless something happens. Most of it is unnecessary, probably 95 per cent of the time. Most of it, maybe all of it, is never mentioned when the passenger is being sold on cruising.

However, maybe the time has come for cruise lines to be forced to identify these odious possibilities as a disclaimer. If tobacco companies have to print "this could cause cancer" on their cigarette packages, and drug companies have to list a pocketbook full of conditions their product could lead to, then why not cruise companies?

Then will we read the fine print? Not likely.

Carnival Victory
5 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand TurkHalf Moon CayNassau 
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49

The Triumph Fire That Refuses To Go Out


This week, CNN broadcast an investigation into the Carnival Triumph "tragedy" — the five days the disabled ship spent floating without power in the Gulf of Mexico, a cruise which has indelicately been labeled "the poop cruise." Don't expect to find that listed on any cruise ship itinerary.

Having read and heard much about this cruise over the last 10 months, there were two things that jumped off the TV screen at us, one of which we'll address today, and the other tomorrow.

In years of cruising and talking to cruise employees, specifically captains of the ships, the one subject that brings a sobering almost fearful look to their eyes is "fire." While there's a certain irony that fire is the greatest fear on a ship that's surrounded by water, it is by far the worst thing that can happen at sea, so you would think the people who maintain ships would go to the ends of the earth (or the horizons of the sea) to make sure there would never be a fire on a ship…as much as anybody can ever make sure.

Drew GriffinIn CNN's investigation, reporter Drew Griffin discovered (with the help of a Texas attorney), that the Triumph diesel generator where the fire began last February had been "overdue for maintenance" for more than a year, a fact stated time and again in Carnival's own documents. Also that the ship's technical condition was "out of compliance" with SOLAS standards (the acronym stands for Safety Of Life At Sea).

Fires can be accidents…even when faulty generators or fuel lines (also mentioned in CNN's investigative report) are the cause. In the case of the inappropriately-named "Triumph" it certainly appears that somebody at Carnival — a technician, a mechanic, an inspector, a manager or somebody up the food chain who counts the bean$ — dropped the ball.

Or the fire extinguisher.

Tomorrow: What's in your contract?

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
4 nights
February 6, 2014
Tampa (return): Cozumel
Inside: $364
Cost per day: $91

'Splendor' Wrong Word for Report

As the investigation begins into the horrific plane crash in San Francisco this month, one of the possibilities is that the accident was due to pilot error, but it will of course take time.

The investigation into the fire that left the Carnival Splendor drifting off the coast of California is now complete — it took close to three years — and "pilot" error was duly noted.

Specifically, the guilty party was an unnamed "bridge watch stander" who reset the fire detection systems after they were triggered by smoke detectors. This meant, according to the report, that the fire could have been put out right away if the water mist fire protection system had been activated.

Instead, the fire spread and burned off and on for seven hours, leaving more than 3,000 passengers on a ship without power for three days.

The 51-page report made public yesterday came from the U.S. Coast Guard, and news of it was in The Herald in Miami, home of Carnival Cruise Lines. According to the newspaper it "faulted crew members for immediately failing to manually activate the water mist system; firefighting teams’ lack of familiarity with the engine room, which made the initial fire more difficult to find and extinguish; the use of portable dry chemicals and carbon dioxide extinguishers rather than fire hoses; the captain’s decision to ventilate the engine room before the fire was fully out and carbon dioxide fire suppression systems that did not work."

It could only have been more scathing if lives had been lost, and none were.

The Coast Guard made five recommendations, and by then Carnival had already spent $300 million in safety improvements on its 24 ships and formulated its own Safety & Reliability Review Board, with more than half its members from outside the company.

Unfortunately, all the safety systems possible can be undermined by one human error.

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
6 nights
October 25, 2013
Baltimore (return): King's Wharf
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $66


Concerns over Grandeur of the Seas?

The fire-damaged Grandeur of the Seas returned to Baltimore this week and one of the first questions that passengers' boarding the ship were being asked was:

"Do you feel safe getting on this ship?"

Think about that.

To begin with, fires on cruise ships are rare. Grandeur of the Seas has been out of service for six weeks following a fire near the mooring area at the stern. If there's any ship that would be ultra-safe, wouldn't you assume it to be one coming back from a much-publicized "accident?" It's not like you're fixing a car with used parts.

This is a ship that — incredibly — missed six cruises and there are 67 cabins and some public areas that are still not ready, because if repairs aren't done up to Royal Caribbean standards, affected areas won't be utilized. Cruise lines can't risk having fires to begin with, because nothing scares captains and passengers alike more than a fire.

To risk having a fire on a ship that just had one is almost incomprehensible.

So why would anybody feel unsafe on the repaired Grandeur?

On the other hand, one passenger reassured the Baltimore Sun by saying:

"We have confidence in the Lord that He will get us to the Caribbean for a family vacation and back safely."

Maybe strange answers are why people get asked strange questions.

Norwegian Jade
21 nights
November 27, 2013
Rome (return): OlympiaAthens, Izmir, IstanbulNaplesRomeFlorenceMonte Carlo, Toulon, BarcelonaValencia, Cagliari, Palermo, Naples
Inside: $1,129
Cost per day: $53

Maritime Lawyer Raises Questions

Like most people who cruise, we tend to accept the occasional accident or fire or incident on a cruise ship. Yet we do so without knowing what "occasional" really is.

Jim Walker thinks he knows. Walker is a well-known "maritime" lawyer, which means he provides a legal voice to anybody in the cruise industry who needs it, specifically passengers. He is probably a thorn in the side of cruise line owners and surely he keeps them on their toes.

Because of his vested interest, you can take Mr. Walker's criticisms with a grain of sea salt. After his latest opinion on the industry's safety record, however, the word that sticks on the screen is transparency.

Are cruise lines really transparent?

Walker thinks not. Attending a state-of-the-industry presentation at the Cruise Shipping Miami convention last week, he listened to cruise line CEOs say that the industry is "highly regulated" and that fires on ships are "very rare" and that cruising is the "safest, safest, safest" way to vacation.

Then he pointed out on his website — click here to read all of his comments — that there have been 90 cruise-ship fires in 23 years and that the U.S. really has no way of regulating ships that fly foreign flags, as 99.9 per cent of all cruise ships do. One contextual note about the fires:  We don't know if this includes fires like a cigarette in a waste basket or if all are of a more serious nature.

His research, vested as it may be, does cause all of us to wonder…

Are cruise-line executives completely honest or are they merely spin doctors? What kind of transparency is reasonable to expect? Is cruising as safe as we like to think it is?

Or have we left our heads in the sand on the beach of some sunny port?

Carnival Legend
12 nights
July 3, 2013
London (return): Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Amsterdam
Inside: $749
Cost per day: $62

  • Categories

  • Archives