Daily Finance published a debate today by the Motley Fool analysts about whether Carnival is a sound investment following the Costa Concordia disaster and the fire aboard the Costa Allegra cruise ship. 

The result?  Three thumbs down.

Here are the analysts’ thoughts:

"I’ll keep my flag planted on dry land."

"My primary beef with Mr. Arison was his delayed response (more than one week, according to The Wall Street Journal) to the Costa Concordia tragedy and his lack of response just six weeks later regarding the fire on the Costa Allegra. He seemed concerned more with the Miami Heat, which he owns, than Carnival Cruise Line - Motley Fool AnalystCarnival Cruise Lines, leaving shareholders as an afterthought."

"I see troubled seas ahead for Carnival."

The analysts didn’t even mention other recent troubles facing Carnival: the desperate move to steal tips from waiters on Carnival’s subsidiary cruise line P&O Cruises, or the widespread sexual abuse scandal on cruise ships managed by its subsidiary Cunard, or the alleged criminal conduct of the Captain of the Star Princess cruise ship operated by another one of its subsidiaries, Princess Cruises.

My take?  Most Carnival cruise passengers are indifferent to the exploitation of crewmembers,  They don’t want to hear about the sexual molestation of children during cruises. And they are going to give the captain of the Love Boat the benefit of the doubt, especially over some Panamanians floating 100 miles from nowhere.

Carnival is largely disaster proof. CEO Arison has 100 cruise ships at sea, actually 99 ships cruising and one lying on its side off the coast of Giglio.  Last year, $15,000,000,000 (billion) rolled in. Carnival pays virtually no U.S. taxes. Short of al Qaeda seizing a cruise ship, forcing U.S. passengers into orange Guantanamo jump suits and cutting their heads off, an occasional capsizing, collision or fire will not spook the Carnival faithful.  

Carnival fans want cheap cruises on their fun ships, lots of food & booze, and an escape from reality. As long as Carnival can provide that, fat cat cruise CEO Arison will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

Over the years I have learned that the single most critical factor that drives clients to our office is not when a cruise passenger has been injured or inconvenienced.  Stuff happens, and most people understand that.  But when a cruise line treats passengers poorly after injuring or inconveniencing them, that’s when our law firm’s telephone begins to ring.

Over 75% of the cases in our office are against Royal Caribbean.  If a crew member from India or Trinidad calls us and complains that he or she were injured on a cruise ship and then dumped back home with no or poor medical care, nine times out of ten its a Royal Caribbean employee. 

Why do so many RCCL passengers and crew members sue Royal Caribbean?

The answer is what I call the Royal attitude.

Last month, the Royal attitude was on public display following the stranding of 145 passengers in San Juan when hurricane Irene was approaching. 

Unlike Carnival which contacted or at least tried to contact guests ahead of time to tell them the port authorities were requiring cruise ships to leave the port early, Royal Caribbean didn’t do anything.  Carnival paid for over 300 guest’s hotels and offered to fly them to the next port to meet the cruise ship.  But Royal Caribbean did not bother to have a representative at the airport or port to explain what was happening.

Its dismissive press release then added salt into the wound.

Even cruise fans were outraged.   The popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic posted hundreds of unflattering comments about Royal Caribbean’s attitude.  Its editor even wrote an scathing editorial "Bad Weather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control?"

The other popular cruise community Cruisemates wrote a blog criticizing Royal Caribbean entitled "Carnival 1 – Royal Caribbean 0."

Cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a Captain Greybeard, who writes cruise friendly pieces for the U.K.’s Mirror, added an article "How Hurricanes and Art Led to a Series of Right Royal Blunders."  Captain GreyBeard not only joined in the criticism of Royal Caribbean for stranding it guests but mocked cruise line president Adam Goldstein’s decision to avoid the issue in his Nation of Why Not blog and instead write about employees delivering the "Wow factor" by finding a guest’s passport on an airplane and driving it over to the port.  He also blasted Royal Caribbean for Obfuscation the delay and lack of transparency in responding to an inquiry about problems with the art vendors on the cruise ships. 

Greybeard characterized the cruise line’s non-response to his inquiries as a "masterpiece of obfuscation." 

I feel your pain too Captain Greybeard.  I wrote about Royal Caribbean’s skill at obfuscation last year in a blog: Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook.

Even when the cruise line changed course in response to the universal criticism and decided to offer a future cruise credit (only 30%) to the abandoned guests, it was unable to issue a clear or genuine apology – calling the incident just an out of norm fluke.   The cruise line then arranged for president Goldstein to be interviewed in the Miami Herald about his passion for running and playing ping pong.  I’m not kidding.  145 passengers stranded in a foreign port with a hurricane approaching and the cruise president is now talking about ping pong.

You can dismiss my criticisms as coming from a lawyer who sues this cruise line every week.  But when cruise fans like Cruise Critic, Cruisemates and even the affable Captain Greybeard start talkin smack about your cruise brand, Royal Caribbean may want to consider changing its attitude toward its customers.