Carnival's "Moments that Matter" Marketing Campaign is Offensive and the Timing Couldn't Be Worse

Last week the public was transfixed on the incredible spectacle of the "parbuckling" project which, at a cost of $800,000,000 and rising, finally but successfully righted the capsized Costa Concordia in the port of Giglio.  

The major news networks offered live streaming video of the event. Social media, especially Twitter, provided non-stop, second-by-second updates of the stricken Carnival-owned Concordia emerging from its watery grave.   

Although there was some excitement that the Concordia didn't break-apart and topple into the sea, the expressions of success were muted by the fact that the Carnival ship was still a crime scene relevant to Concordia Cruise Missingthe criminal proceeding against disgraced Captain Schettino, as well being the tomb of passenger Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello (photo left), whose bodies have not yet been recovered. The images of the salvaged cruise ship showed what appeared to be a stained, stinking, and grotesquely warped ship still partially submerged in the water.

A sad sight.  

The following day, incredibly, Carnival launched a new marketing campaign, called "Moments that Matter." The television advertising depicts U.S. families walking by picture frames showing wonderful moments on a Carnival cruise ship. (You can watch the video below.)  A voice says:

“We never forget the moments that matter. We hang them on our walls. We share them with everyone. And hold onto them forever.”  

For a second, I thought that perhaps this was going to be a tribute to the 32 dead passengers and crew from the Concordia. But it had nothing to do with the Concordia disaster. In fact, the advertising was intentionally designed to try and take the public's mind away from the Concordia and everything which has gone wrong with Carnival, and that's saying a lot, over the last several years.      

I thought to myself how inappropriate the ad was. Certainly the timing was terrible. The Concordia with dead people aboard is being raised and Carnival is hawking cruises with a sentimental ad like this? The smiling U.S. citizens in the video certainly don't look like the dead people and missing people from the cruise ship. If you think of cruise ships sinking, capsizing, and catching on fire, aren't the "moments that matter" getting off of Carnival Moments that Matter - Cruise Disasterthe ship alive?

The image which comes to me instantly is a photo (right) of two young women surviving the Triumph debacle and cheering in their robes when they were finally ashore in Mobile.  

And what exactly is a "moment that matters?" I think I know. But it's certainly not frolicking around foolishly on a bargain-basement-fare Carnival cruise ship which flies a flag of convenience, underpays it's non-U.S. crew, and avoids virtually all U.S. taxes.  

The timing of the newly trotted-out ad was terrible, at a minimal. And at the worst, the ad was insensitive, manipulative and offensive.

I'm not the only one disturbed by Carnival's efforts to sell cheap cruises by trying to take us away from the images of the deadly Corcordia, and the Carnival Triumph poop cruise, and the disabled Carnival Splendor with a U.S. aircraft carrier dropping provisions from navy helicopters to the rattled guests on the ship below. 

The New York Times published an article about the new Carnival marketing scheme. The newspaper interviewed travel and marketing experts who were highly critical of the ad campaign. The Times published:

John Greening, a professor of branding and marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said the campaign was premature. Carnival “needs to let more time go by. It’s too soon to be promoting itself. They might do more P.R. efforts than advertising,” he said.

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who does research in trust recovery, said the campaign was lacking “evidence of any new procedures and processes that make Carnival a more effective, safe and competent operator.”

Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing, called the TV spot “trite and lacking in authenticity and credibility.”

"It’s almost as if Carnival is hoping that by watching its commercial filled with” smiling people, 'consumers’ memories will be magically erased of any memories regarding the series of unfortunate events that the line recently experienced,' he said. 

Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?

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 Cruise Line President Adam Goldstein - Grandeur of the Seas FireJamaica. 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.

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or discuss the issue on our Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas Catches on Fire

News stations in South Florida are reporting that a fire broke out early this morning aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing off the Florida coast.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the fire broke out aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas

The fire occurred on deck three on the 916-foot ship.

A NBC news station said that the fire was categorized as a “Class A” fire, meaning it broke out in solid Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Ship Firecombustible materials such as wood or plastic and did not involve fuel or other flammable liquids.

The cruise ship radioed for assistance. Another cruise ship, the Carnival Sensation, was on on standby to help the ship in case of evacuation. Passenger gathered at muster stations.

The fire was extinquished, although there are conflicting accounts of how long it took. A comment on the Cruise Critic site says that it took two hours to stop the fire.

A photo released by Royal Caribbean shows a huge fire and smoke residue on the stern of the cruise ship.

The Grandeur of the Seas was recently given a $48 million refurbishment and was based in Baltimore, according to the Royal Caribbean website.

The Grandeur was on its way to Coco Cay, Bahamas, when the fire broke out, according to a Royal Caribbean Cruises statement.  The ship is now in Freeport, Bahamas, where it will be inspected.  

Were you on the cruise? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

 

Photo below via ABC / cruise expert Professor Ross Klein:

Grandeur of the Seas - Cruise Ship Fire 

Giglio at Sunrise - Costa Concordia Lies Asleep

Last night I attended a pre-game party for the Miami Heat - Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game at a friend's house. One of the families was excitedly talking about leaving on Wednesday for a cruise to Italy.  Other families began comparing cruise stories to Italy.  I don't talk "cruise law" during social events.  I just listened.  

There were no discussions about cruise ship fires, groundings or disappearances at the party.  No jokes about "watch out for the rocks." No mention of the Costa Concordia crash.  It was as if the capsizing of the Concordia never happened.

This morning the sun arose over the little Port of Giglio.  There slept the Concordia, peacefully resting on her side. The terrifying screams of panicked Costa passengers have been replaced by the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean waters against Concordia's hull.  

 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Giglio Italy

 

Image credit: Giglio News webcam

Cruise Ship Sinks in Volga River in Russia - Up to 100 Feared Dead

Sinking of Bulgaria Cruise Ship - Volga River - RussiaNumerous news sources are reporting that a cruise ship carrying 173 passengers and crew sank in Russia's Volga river today. 

The sinking involved the Bulgaria cruise ship, which had 140 passengers and 33 crewmembers aboard.

To date, there have been reports of two confirmed dead bodies recovered and 96 people unaccounted for after the Bulgaria sank at 1358 local time (0858 GMT) in the Tatarstan region, 500 miles east of Moscow. 

A helicopter and two rescue vessels are reportedly at the scene of the sinking.

According to the Mail Online, the Bulgaria sank near the village of Syukeevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district near the region's capital, Kazan. The Bulgaria belongs to a local tourism company and was on its way from the town of Bulgar to the regional capital, Kazan.

The ship was built in 1955 in Czechoslovakia.

 July 9, 2011 Update

Russian authorities initiated a criminal investigation into the river sinking, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.  This Russian website identified the operator of the river cruise as  "Argo Rech Tours."  

There are conflicting accounts of the number of people missing.  The Russian website states that 169 people have been rescued, although most news accounts state that there are 80 -100 still missing. 

Bulgaria Cruise Ship - Volga River Sinking- Russia

July 10, 2011 Update:

Russian website has heart wrenching photographs of the survivors.  Updated information from Russia regarding the recovery efforts can be located here.

July 11, 2011 Update The Rianovisti newspaper in Russia reports that although the Russian Transport Ministry stated that the vessel had passed a regular "technical inspection" on June 15th and was certified for further use, investigators discovered that the ship "had a list to starboard and its engine was broken" when it left port.  It was "heavily overloaded with passengers."  There now appears to have been 196 people on the cruise ship.  Only 79 were rescued.  The video below depicts disturbing images of some of the deceased passengers.


 

Photo credits: 

Top:  Survivors of Bulgaria sinking - Rianovisti newspaper

Bottom:  AFP, Mikhail Mozzhukin 

Video credit:  The Guardian newspaper

Eye Witness Accounts: Oil Tank Explosion Panics Cruise Passengers / Independence of the Seas Quickly Leaves Port

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has an interesting story containing a passenger's account of events aboard the Independence of the Seas following the explosion at the port in Gibraltar.  Some of the accounts:

“People thought it was a bomb and started screaming. Parents jumped in the pool to grab their children, while others dashed to the kids’ club on deck 12 to see if their children were injured.”

"One crew member . . . heard screaming and saw black smoke; she thought one of the restaurants was on fire."

"At dinner that night, the explosion was on everyone’s lips. 'We thought it was a bomb,' one middle-aged passenger said. 'American ship in a British port – quite an easy target.'

All of the accounts we have read praised the captain and crew.  "Within minutes, the captain made an announcement, ordering everyone off the open decks and balconies, and sending a rapid response team up to deck 11 where the outdoor pools and bars were packed with young families making the most of the Gibraltar heat."

"Officers ran along the side of the dock to the stern of the ship, presumably to check for any damage . . .   Just four minutes later, we slipped our moorings and the ship sailed . . . Thanks to a quick-thinking captain, a major incident was averted." 

YouTube member "Kasbah89" posted a video of the fire.  It shows the Independence of the Seas quickly departing away from the burning oil tank and turning to head out of danger:

 

   

Were you on the cruise and have photos or video to share?  Please let us here from you.

Video credit:  kasbah89 / YouTube

Some amazing photographs can be viewed at David Parody's Flickr photostream here.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Ships Collide in Cozumel

In a prior article, I discussed how cruise lines can report on breaking news by using social media applications like Twitter and Twitpic and manage their reputations in the process.

Twitter was the first to report the collision between Carnival and Royal Caribbean's cruise ships at port in Cozumel. Neither Carnival nor Royal Caribbean used their Twitter pages.

Instead, Carnival employee @Dan85Poindexter was the first person to tweet that Carnival's Legend collided with Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas in Cozumel after the Legend's mooring lines were released.

Apparently, strong winds pushed Carnival's Legend into the Enchantment, causing relatively minor damage.  Some have characterized the incident as the two cruise ships "trading paint."

Another person on Twitter @enchantedtravel reported on Twitter: "RCCL damage not severe, no tears in hull, and have left for Belize City. Unsure re Legend." She then posted three photos of the collision: http://twitpic.com/jsnyw  http://twitpic.com/jso07 http://twitpic.com/jso18

In addition to the tweeting passengers, a resourceful passenger uploaded his video of the Carnival - Royal Caribbean collision to YouTube.  One of the passengers on the video is heard criticizing the Captain of the Carnival cruise ship: "you have the whole f - - - ing ocean to park on!"

It should be obvious to anyone with a computer that breaking news will no longer be covered first by newspapers or the conventional media, but by citizen journalists, iPhone photographers and YouTube videographers.

 

 

Its nice to see the Twitpics and YouTube videos for yourself rather than having to rely on cruise line press statements and the usual spin.

 

Photo credit: @enchantedtravel

Video credit: hedojake (via YouTube)