There has been remarkably little media coverage of the fire on the Dawn Princess cruise ship last weekend.
We were the first to report on the fire which broke out sometime after 8:00 PM Friday night as the Dawn Princess sailed between Wellington and Napier in New Zealand.
Princess Cruises was tight lipped about what happened, stating only that a fire occurred in an electrical substation on deck six of the ship.
Other than Travel Agent Central, no newspapers or news stations in the U.S. have reported on the fire, even though U.S. citizens were aboard and the Carnival owned Princess Cruises is based in California.
An Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun, published a short article. The Herald Sun reported that crew members stated that the fire suppression system, which should have suppressed the fire, failed. That appears to explain why over 30 minutes after the fire was first reported (when the passengers were initially ordered to their cabins) the captain ordered them to their muster stations where they remained for over an hour.
A fire on the high seas is serious business. A fire and a failed suppression system on the high seas is potentially deadly.
But there appears to be little appreciation of this danger expressed on the few social media sites discussing the incident. Regular cruisers on cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic appear more interested in praising the crew for battling the fire than having a meaningful discussion about why the fire broke out and why the fire suppression reportedly failed (assuming the Herald Sun account is correct).
Don’t get me wrong. The crew members who battled the fire and risked their lives deserve the credit. But if you really care about the crew’s safety and well-being, you would demand an explanation why the automatic fire suppression system reportedly failed necessitating the heroic action by the crew.
The cruise industry has been under scrutiny following numerous fires during the last couple of years. CNN ran a story earlier this year entitled "Spate of Fires Poses Problems for Cruise Industry." You can watch the video below.
What is troubling from my perspective is not only are there fires, but the automatic suppression systems which are suppose to put the fire out are failing. For example, the Carnival Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas fires both involved failed suppression systems.
Regarding the high profile Splendor fire, CNN reported that "the U.S. Coast Guard said the ship’s CO2 firefighting system had failed to operate correctly due to leaks, poor maintenance and component failures."
What’s the explanation for the reported failure of the suppression system on the Dawn? It is over 16 years old. Do other Princess Cruises ships have the same problem? Princess will never say, and it does not appear that the public is clamoring to find out.
For the time being, it looks like we will all remain in the dark. Perhaps when the Dawn returns to Sydney on November 15th some of the passengers and crew will have more to say.
Princess escaped scrutiny on this latest incident so far because the fire occurred on a Friday night on the other side of the world at the beginning of a three day Veteran’s Day weekend when many in the U.S. newspaper and television businesses were on vacation. It also appears that the public may well be tired of non-stop cruise-ship-bad-news.
Luckily there were no injuries due to this latest fire. The only casualty appears to be the public’s demand for an explanation regarding what went wrong on the Dawn last weekend.