Cruise Ship Fires: An Open Letter to Cruise Critic's Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Richard LiffridgeCarolyn:

I read your recent article in the Conde' Nast Traveler entitled "Ironically, the Costa Allegra Fire Gives Me More Confidence in the Cruise Line." 

You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."

Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess.  The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins.  As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"  

Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads.  It was "like being in an oven," she said.  The couple became separated.  'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said.  Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.

After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.

Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.  

Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising.  But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.

Educate yourself.  Take a moment and read the MAIB report on the fire that killed Mr. Liffridge.  Read our tribute to Mr. Liffridge and take a moment and look at some of the photographs of Mr. Liffridge and his family. Read our article: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires: Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."  

Tell your readers the truth.  

Jim Walker

 

March 6, 2012 Update:  Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement: 

"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned.  That was incorrect.  One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."

Today, Ms. Spensor-Brown was back to shilling for the cruise lines after a story was published about a NCL cruise line assistant cruise director who was arrested for child pornography and sexually abusing a 16 year old girl.  She decided to blame the parents:

"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . .  You're still responsible for your child."

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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Will B. - March 4, 2012 9:55 AM

I would say that travel agents, when asked specific questions regarding tragedies at sea, should always answer honestly. There's no two ways about that. I do not believe, however, that travel agents should specifically go out of their way to say "Hi, good morning and thank you for calling. People can be hurt or die on a cruise ship, how may I help you?"

Much of the media reachout is to gain new customers to cruising. I cannot think of a single company that says "We'd like to tell you about the negative aspects of [our industry]." It would simply be better not to advertise at all. But that's not going to happen. Airplane mishaps occur, but the number of accidents is lower than if everyone that, say, flew from NYC to LAX every year drove instead. Yet we see ads and email campaigns for airlines all the time. There *will* be more airplane accidents and there *will* be more mishaps at sea. There will be more "stuck accelerators" on cars, or bad tires, etc.

There is no question that vacationing on a cruise ship is an incredible deal for the price paid (food, hotel, travel to destinations) that you cannot get in another travel package. In addition, travel agents have no direct control over the safety on those ships directly, other than participation through CLIA, etc. Many travel agents rely on their income of booking cruises and related arrangements. Should they simply give up their whole business and go to work for, say, a paper company? That industry chops down trees and not all of them plant new ones. Humans simply have a footprint in this world, most of it bad. There is almost no industry anywhere that has zero "bad aspects".

In addition, there's always "buyer beware". With the prevalence of the internet, *everyone* has a chance to do a little research for themselves. You cannot expect any industry to push it's negative information, but through your own diligence you can ascertain "what aren't they telling me". In the end, going on a cruise is a decision you make; there's no travel agent putting a gun to your head and demanding you go, packing you off with lies and misconceptions.

cumme - March 4, 2012 10:07 AM

jim, thanks for all the info, the public needs to hear about this.
I came across an article where a crew member stated that lifeboats are for passengers and life rafts are for crew incase of an emergency ! This news shocked my husband and myself. .. We felt as if crew are not important. Can u perhaps give any info regarding this. the article was on costa concordia's crew giving feedback.

Jim DeGrazia - March 4, 2012 10:22 AM

Jim, Thank you...keep exposing those cruise line lies and dirty little secrets.

Jim Walker - March 4, 2012 10:49 AM

Will: Good points, but I'm just asking people not to lie. Jim Walker

meg - March 4, 2012 1:53 PM

i like to know how she left out that info..in fact i posted it on Cruise Critic's Facebook page...Cardiac Arrest...right...I would venture a guess that the fire/smoke/fumes may have been a contributing factor...

Granted, these incidents won't stop me from cruising, though none of the lines under the umbrella of Carnival Corp really enthrall me...BUT I have cruised enough to know what to do and where to go...and I am going to be on an open deck....regardless of what was said.

I really wish the media would learn how to spell G-O-O-G-L-E and that they'd check their facts....

Gabs - March 4, 2012 5:29 PM

Will, would you be ok with airlines advertising themselves by saying that "no plane has ever crashed"? Flying is safe and accidents do occur, but that statement would still be a lie, wouldn't it?

Toniann - March 5, 2012 10:44 AM

I never realized how shady the cruise industry can be and exactly how much gets swept under the rug. They should be shedding light on a lot of these issues and taking responsibility for what goes on but instead they leave passengers, family members, and the general public in the dark so that they protect their squeaky clean image of the best way to vacation. I see cruising entirely different than I did even a month ago after reading many of Mr. Walkers blogs and while I understand everyone feels differently about cruising, I refuse to put another dollar into this dishonest industry.

Billy Kidwell - March 7, 2012 6:38 PM

I went on a Carnival Legend Cruise on October 23, 2011 to October 30, 2011.

1. The dishes and glasses were filthy.
2. The food was tainted, especally the meat some of which tasted spoiled.
3. We were battered and bruised as the ship kept cruising in, and out the edge of Hurricane Rita.
4, Carnival refused to honor it's advertised ship warranty and took use to our first port at Baliese where the airport was closed due to the hurricane, and the stores were all boarding up.
5. The ship caught on fire in the kitchen however Carnival refuses to tell us how bad it was.
6. Me, my wife, and daughter got sick with the worst virus I have even had in my life, constantly throwing up SEVERELY!
7. In the cabin next to us my elderly brother with cancer, and his wife, had the same virus and were deathly ill constantly throwing out.
8. A number of other passingers and crew told me they were deathly ill too.
9. My wife was tossed out of bed the ship was tossing so much in the hurricane and she suffered very large massive bruses I took pictures of.
10. A large number of items I purchased on the ship were stolen from my room. Only Carnival had access to my room.
11. After returning I went and read the CDC Vessel Sanitation Reports at the CDC website and found that for years the Carnival Legend has not properly tested the ships water, and had dishwashers that have clogged jets and do not wash or rince. The ship is filthy.

Carnival Ships are so filthy they pose a very serious health risk to major American Cities. I am sending a letter to the CDC demanding that they start being honest with the public about the filth on those disease-laden Carnival Ships.

From now on I will ONLY take Disney Ships.

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