Stinking ship saga unlikely to pull cruise industry far off course
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Global cruise giant Carnival Corp found itself in deep doo-doo this week, due to alarming reports about an engine room fire that left one of its jam-packed U.S. passenger ships adrift and awash in raw sewage in the Gulf of Mexico.
The saga involving the ill-fated Carnival Triumph cruise ship, which received extensive coverage on U.S. cable news stations, was a second public relations nightmare for Carnival in as many years.
It came as the Miami-based company was recovering from last year's disaster, when its Costa Concordia luxury liner ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.
But the lure of inexpensive vacations at sea is likely to keep the booming worldwide cruise industry on course toward strong profits this year, despite the befouled five-day ordeal endured by more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard the Triumph, industry analysts said on Friday.
"They have done a much better job communicating this time than they did with the Costa Concordia," said Evan Nierman, a South Florida-based public relations crisis management expert.
But he would have liked to see Carnivals' billionaire Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison take a more prominent role in the company's response.
Arison finally offered up his first public apology for the troubles aboard the Triumph in two postings on Twitter on Friday. "We are very sorry for the difficult conditions experienced by our guests on #Carnival Triumph," Arison wrote.
"But glad that all guests are off safe & sound. I want to thank all the @CarnivalCruise team members for their tireless efforts," he wrote in a second Tweet.
The accident could add to concerns about safety in the industry, where towering ships the size of floating cities have become the norm. But maritime attorney Michael Winkleman said calls for higher safety standards, more oversight and other regulatory changes that might affect cruise lines have fallen on deaf ears in Washington for decades.
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