Most people who know that I work on a cruise ship go out of their way to tell me about any mishaps at sea. I was inundated with emails and calls about Carnival Splendor.
I read the articles and watched the YouTube videos and though I appreciate the extreme inconvenience of not having electricity or flushing toilets and the uncertainty of not knowing when or where you will be disembarked, from an outsider’s perspective, given the size of the ship the whole thing seemed to have been handled well. Everyone assembled in their muster stations for a briefing. It all looked very orderly and calm. Once guests were allowed back in their cabins reports were that announcements were made hourly. The captain and the cruise director kept everyone informed. And then there is the cruise industry fail-safe, free booze.
CNN ran a piece on the ship, you can see it at http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/11/10/cruise.ship/?hpt=T2.
The segment included an interview with Micha Berman, a former Carnival Assistant Cruise Director who has written a book, Permanent Passenger, all about the so-called “under-belly” of the business. I found it odd for CNN to use him as their industry expert, someone not employed long enough to be promoted to cruise director, nevertheless he did voice what many people are thinking and that is as these ships get bigger and bigger … what if? That is the bottom line for most cruisers, what if?
So what did happen and can it happen again? According to Carnival spokespeople there was a fire in the engine room; I think one report said a block cracked leaking oil that ignited. It was contained but did effect the ship’s power. Ship’s do have auxiliary generators; reports were that not all the ship was without power so maybe areas were serviced by generators, I do not know. Has it happened before? Yes. I have been on ships that have had fires. Will it happen again. Yes. As in any environment fires occur and can be the worst enemy of a ship; that is why the mandatory safety briefing is so important. Should you be concerned? No. Are cruise ships safe? Yes. Ships go through rigorous inspection by local authorities around the world and crew are exercised weekly in emergency procedures. Given the number of passengers that are carried every year by cruise ships, the number of accidents or incidents is phenomenally low. I say congratulations to the staff and crew of the Splendor who worked hard under very difficult conditions!