As friends and family celebrate the safe return of the Carnival Triumph’s guests and crew, questions are being raised about the mechanical failures on the ship. A day after the story broke, I wrote an article about Carnival’s response to the situation. In the article, I commended Carnival for its response to the situation. However, I received some surprising responses. Multiple guests responded with questions about the mechanical issues, and whether Carnival put guests at risk by allowing the ship to sail with known issues.
The questions began with a reader named Christin. Christin sailed on the Triumph on January 28, 2013. The night before the cruise, Christin received an email stating that the Triumph had experienced technical issues with the propulsion system that affected the ship’s maximum speed. The letter informed guests that the ship would be sailing later than expected, and recommended that guests arrive later to avoid long waits with limited seating in the cruise terminal. The ship was scheduled to visit Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico. Due to the issues, they were only able to visit Progreso. The ship stayed in port overnight and, according to Christin, left port later than expected. During that time, multiple announcements were made stating that the crew was waiting for “special tools and spare parts” to complete repairs on the ship. Christin stated that, in a discussion with the cruise director of the Triumph, Jen Baxter, they were informed that repairs to the ship had still not been completed.
According to another guest, Barbara, the issues continued into the following cruise. Guests sailing on the Triumph February 2, 2013 were also sent an email describing technical issues with the ship. Again, the guests were advised to arrive later due to the issues and the expected delay. These guests were advised that repairs were still underway, but that they were expected to be completed, allowing the ship to meet its scheduled itinerary. Barbara’s experience on the ship included continued technical failures. She described issues with the speed of the ship the day after they sailed. She said that the ship would be going slowly and then pick up speed. On the final night of the cruise, the cruise captain announced that he would be increasing speed to get the ship back to port earlier than scheduled. Fog was blamed for the change in the arrival time, but Barbara noted that there was no fog at the time. That night, she attended the comedy club at the back-end of the ship. According to Barbara’s account, the ship began shaking very badly and making noise. At some point in the evening, water began leaking from the roof. Apparently, the comedian performing that night noticed the disturbance and stopped his performance to question the situation.
Both of these accounts leave questions about the technical issues on the Triumph. I contacted Carnival about the questions being raised by the previous guests. The media relations department responded as follows:
Carnival Triumph previously experienced an electrical issue with one of the ship’s alternators. Repairs were conducted by the alternator supplier and were fully completed on February 2. Comprehensive testing of the repaired alternator was conducted and certified successful by both the alternator supplier as well as a third party verification organization. There is no evidence at this time of any relationship between this previous issue and the fire that occurred on Feb. 10.
Even with this explanation, the question remains, did Carnival allow a ship to leave port with known technical failures? If an investigation into this issue determines that the source of the fire that disabled the ship was the malfunctioning alternator, who is responsible? Is it Carnival, the supplier, the third-party verification organization, or all three?
I still believe that the response to the situation is admirable. I haven’t seen many companies that have responded to a horrible situation as well as Carnival. The staff of Carnival should be commended for their tireless efforts during this situation. As horrible as the conditions are, I believe Carnival has done everything in their power to minimize the risk and compensate guests for the terrible inconvenience. However, the reports of multiple previous issues raises serious concerns about the decision to allow the Triumph to leave port. Hopefully an investigation will be conducted into the situation, and the possible negligence that caused the fire. I expect that this will be demanded considering the similar situation that caused almost 4,500 guests and crew of the Carnival Splendor to endure similar conditions for three days in 2010. I hope to see that the fire was an anomaly that had nothing to do with the previous mechanical failures, but if not, Carnival will have an awful lot of explaining to do.
According to preliminary reports from the Coast Guard, the fire on the Triumph was caused by a fuel oil return line that sprayed onto a hot surface. The reports state that the fire suppression system kicked on immediately, and that the crew did a good job of working to contain and extinguish the fire. There is currently no evidence of the fire being started intentionally. The investigation is continuing, but the final report could take approximately six months. Further questions still to be answered include when the lines were last inspected and why the fire disabled the ship.