Are the Last 2 to 3 Years of Cruise Ship Mishaps An Anomaly or a Trend?

Adam Goldstein Royal CaribbeanThis weekend, the Royal Caribbean Blog (an unofficial Royal Caribbean fan website) quoted Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein saying that the "last two or three years" of cruise ship mishaps are just  an "anomaly."

Goldstein made his comments to CNBC's Simon Hobbs who excitedly told the television audience that there was a disconnect between what the non-cruising public thought about cruising and what cruise president Goldstein told him in an exclusive interview:

"I having been in this cruise business for over 25 years now," Goldstein says. "My frame of reference is two and a half decades of an extraordinarily safe of track record of great duration. Tremendous attention to detail and training that prepares the crew and the officers to do everything that they need to do from to delivering satisfaction to the guests to being extremely safe and environmentally responsible." 

'Extraordinary . . . tremendous . . . extremely . . . everything they need." This is classic cruise CEO gobbledygook by CEO Goldstein. Over-the-top hyperbole in response to softball questions by a cruise friendly interviewer.  

But does CEO Goldstein really want to go back to the "good old days" of cruising 20 to 25 years ago? 

I don't think so.

Was Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry "environmentally responsible" 20 years ago as Goldstein claims?

I don't think so either.

The 1990's were the decade when Royal Caribbean was the environment's absolute worst enemy. Thousands of garbage bags washed ashore on Miami Beach and tar fouled the sandy beaches of South Florida and the Bahamas, while Royal Caribbean dumped waste and emptied its oily bilges from cruise ships sailing the pristine waters here in Key Biscayne to Glacier Bay in Alaska and back.

The Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean with its bilges open. Environmentalist-from-Miami U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno slammed the dirty cruise line. Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, including lying to the Coast Guard and the U.S. government. Before it was over, the U.S. Department of Justice fined the cruise line a record $27,000,000 and forced Royal Caribbean to admit that it was a corporate felon. 

Has the cruise industry make progress regarding environmental issues as Goldstein tells CNBC?

That's debatable. Just last week we reported on MSC Cruises caught throwing bags of garbage overboard into Brazilian waters. Just today MSC called itself the "Guardians of the Seas" but it won't Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship Firetalk about dumping garbage bags overboard.

But lets go back to 20 to 25 years ago, were there Carnival poop cruises back then?

Yes, and worse.

In 1995, the Carnival Tropicale, lost all power and families who brought their children aboard, couples honeymooning, and elderly citizens  bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated. The Carnival passengers endured the same disgusting circumstances as the Triumph.  Then a tropical storm, Roxanne, struck the ship. The cruise from hell turned into a ship of terror when the passenger thought that they were going to die. Carnival offered the traumatized passengers a $40 credit because the ship missed ports in Grand Caymans and Mexico.

Were there other fires and disasters back in the late 1980's and 1990's too? You bet.

Some of the most publicized incidents in the 1990's involved Carnival's Ecstasy (above right). It caught fire in 1996 and again in 1998 shortly after leaving the port of Miami. If the fire had occurred thirty minutes later there would have been no fire boats to extinguish the flames. Local news helicopters from Miami flew to the scene and filmed the burning ship.

The next year, the Carnival Tropicale, caught fire again and the ship was adrift again in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for two days after the fire disabled the engines. This Oceanos Sinkingincident received national attention, particularly after passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions. The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."

During the ensuing investigation, the captain of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."

The 1990's began with the captain's abandonment of the sinking Oceanos (right), which made my list as the number 1 worst cruise ship video of all time.  

The 1990's also saw the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall, calling the cruise lines an "outlaw industry" which suffered from "bad actors." 

The difference between then and now is that the "good old days" of the 1990's did not have Twitter breaking embarrassing cruise news every day, or Facebook and YouTube hosting iPhone images and video of cruise ship disasters, or social media blogs, like this one, providing insight when cruise executives take you back to the past and try and pull the wool over your eyes.  

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