Carnival Triumph dragged her way back to port in the United States, after a harrowing and unhygienic five days of floating in the Gulf of Mexico without power or flushing toilets. The last time this sort of mishap - an engine-room fire - occurred was in 2010 on Carnival's Splendor. The next time this happens . . . Well, will there be a next time?
For perspective, The Washington Post spoke to US cruise industry experts: Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor at leading travel website Cruise Critic, and Jay Herring, author of The Truth About Cruise Ships and a former senior officer with Carnival Cruises.
How common are engine room fires and other meltdowns on cruise ships?
Herring: Cruising is very safe. These incidents are very rare - maybe once a year, once every couple of years. You're more likely to be hurt driving to the cruise ship terminal than you are actually being on a cruise.
Brown: Engine room fires happen, but 99 per cent of the time passengers aren't affected.
Is Carnival to blame?
Herring: It could happen anywhere. Any ship at sea is at risk for a mishap.
How serious was the situation?
Herring: On a scale of 1 to 10, Costa was a 10. [Last year's Costa Concordia accident in Italy caused 32 deaths.] This is a 5 or 6.
Any heroes deserve a mention?
Brown: The crew kept everyone safe. The cruise line had better be generous to the crew.
Do you think Carnival's compensation package - reimbursement for the trip, credit toward a future cruise and US$500 ($590) - is fair?
Herring: I think the compensation is more than adequate.
Will this event affect future bookings?
Brown: Not only virgins [newbie cruisers] but people who have cruised before are skittish. It's a challenge to get past it. But if we can get past Costa, we can get past this.
Any advice for people now nervous about cruising?
Brown: Any ship designed after 2010 must have two engine rooms. If you have any concerns, go for a ship that has this new feature.
Would you still sail Carnival?
Brown: I would take Carnival tomorrow. This was an aberration.
David Jones, spokesman for Carnival Australia, says "Experience in this market confirms that confidence in cruising is not affected by incidents that occur overseas. The confidence Australians and New Zealanders have in cruising is well placed given the policies, procedures and practices that contribute to achieving a safe and secure environment.
"Such a high level of confidence is reflected in the continuing expansion of the local cruise industry which has seen double digit growth over successive years. Any impact on bookings and inquiries from an overseas incident is usually slight, if at all, and is also usually short lived."
Cruise specialists and industry representatives in New Zealand and Australia contacted by the Sunday Star-Times were unwilling to comment.
- © Fairfax NZ News