Cruise fans have largely praised Royal Caribbean's public relations efforts in responding to the fire which erupted aboard the Grandeur of the Seas early Monday morning.
Royal Caribbean tweeted updates from its new Twitter PR feed @RoyalCaribPR and updated its Facebook page. It uploaded one photo showing a portion of the damage to to fire stricken cruise ship (a good PR move) and one image of cruise president Goldstein inspecting the damage once the ship arrived in Freeport. But most of the of the photos Royal Caribbean released were of the cruise president and executives meeting with cruise passengers at the port and on the cruise ship.
The question I wondered was where are the photos and video of the fire? We have handled other cruise ship fires. There are usually videos taken by passengers which quickly find their way to the media and/or are posted on YouTube, as in the case of the deadly Star Princess fire off the coast of Jamaica. You can't comprehend a ship fire until you have seen the flames and billowing smoke and listened to the frightening sounds surrounding such an event.
The first information released about the Grandeur fire was that the fire was limited to deck 3. But in truth, the fire damaged decks 3, 4, 5 and a portion of 6 deck and burned for 2 hours.
So where are images of this 2 hour multi-deck fire?
A video report by ABC News states that the cruise ship's crew tried to stop passengers from taking pictures of the fire and chaos.
Carrie McTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"
I have seen Royal Caribbean try and stop passengers from taking photos of what the passengers though was a near collision between Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships which you can see in a video here. But some crew members responded that there is a policy against the taking of photos during a muster drill and that's why the crew interfered with the photography.
I am a big fan of "citizen journalists." I believe that photos and video taken by passengers and crew are an important part in telling the whole story of what really happens during ship fires and other cruise calamities. Even with Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, the fact remains that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO reassuring passengers than of the damage to the ship. Plus there are absolutely no photos or video released of the fire itself.
Better cruise PR is still cruise PR. The cruise line still wants to control the images you see and your feelings about the experience.
Two and one-half years after the Carnival Splendor fire, there have been no photos or video released of the fire or the damage to the engine room (or even a report) regarding the disabled cruise ship. Regarding the more recent Carnival Triumph fire, again there are no images released of the fire. I am aware of only one innocuous photo of the fire damage in the engine room which was released by the Coast Guard.
Secrecy like this is not a good thing. The American public should not settle for a few photos of a cruise CEO drinking ice tea with passengers in a cafe after a ship fire. The release of full and complete reports, photos and video are important to maintain a transparent and safe cruising environment.
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