CNN Fecklessly Turns “Carnival Triumph” into Tragedy

By Karen

Throwing responsible journalism overboard, CNN dished so much misinformation and ill-informed opinion about Carnival Triumph, with Erin Burnett calling it the “horrific ordeal” of the “Cruise From Hell,” I think Carnival may have a defamation case against CNN.

In case you need it, background: Cruise ship Carnival Triumph had a fire February 10 on the last day of a 4-day voyage from Galveston, Texas, to Cozumel, Mexico, lost all power, and was towed by tugs back to Mobile, Ala., with 3,000+ passengers and about 1,000 crew onboard.

For starters, CNN incorrectly reported the fire was “on deck” when it was confined to the aft engine room and extinguished by the ship’s systems. The ship was never in danger of sinking although, when it drifted, the wind sometimes caught it broadside and made it list.

I had CNN on yesterday until midnight as the ship “limped” (their description) back to Mobile.

Even as their medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, repeatedly said contagious disease was a remote possibility from the lack of working toilets, CNN insisted on calling the ship “a floating petri dish” of illness.

Passengers who had working phones yesterday reported eating crab and lobster, but CNN kept urging them to describe the “horrors” of cucumber and onion sandwiches from the previous days.

When the ship was within spitting distance of land, surrounded by small boats, a bunch of passengers goofed with news helicopters by spelling out “HELP” with their bodies on the top deck. Others held signs scrawled on bed sheets.

CNN reported all this as desperate pleas for assistance.

Getting real, the worst seemed to be that passengers insisted on using nonfunctioning toilets to overflowing, and some people took dumps anywhere and created a disgusting mess for everybody.

I’m betting the resourceful passengers who created that tent city up top around the pool weren’t the ones shitting in corners.

As for reports of people hogging food, just walk by any cruise ship buffet any day. That’s “normal” behavior.

I’ve cruised 3 times on Carnival, including 2 sailings on Triumph’s sister, Carnival Victory. Last May I was on Carnival Glory. On formal night, a nearby group got roaring drunk and had a screaming fight while they puked in the carpeted corridor at 2 a.m. until Security arrived.

That’s what they do on Canival’s “Fun Ships.”

So I wasn’t surprised that the crew didn’t begin massive cleanup until the last day. They’d probably seen it all before and knew some passengers would just keep making messes.

As the ship came upriver approaching the dock, one brilliant reporter said, “We should see the bow first, then the rest of the ship is going to follow.”

REALLY? Dontcha want viewers to think it might fall apart in the last few yards?

CNN also tried to make a struggle out of passengers offloading their own luggage. It was only a 4-day cruise. The people I saw seemed to have what most airlines would deem carry-ons.

Donny Deutsch claimed Carnival owns “thousands” of ships (which it doesn’t), so they should compensate each passenger onboard with free cruises for life. Yeah, right.

Granted, passengers who had it worst were in inside (windowless) cabins on lower decks because it was dark, hot, and airless. But those are the cheapest cabins so, to be brutally honest, they got what they paid for.

The CREW live in even tighter quarters BELOW the cheap cabins, yet they were expected to continue working round the clock under the same conditions.

I was so glad to hear every passenger praise the crew. Even on a good day, their living conditions are Spartan, and their hours and compensation from the cruise line are inhumane.

If you want to fault Carnival for anything (beyond ongoing failures to communicate), it’s for not having a Plan B when the waste disposal system crapped out. (Couldn’t resist that one!) In fact, they should consider inventing special plastic bags that can be placed in inoperable ship toilets (like trashcan liners) that passengers can use, tie off, and place in proper receptacles in such an event.

If not for proper sanitation, it boiled down to a lack of hot showers, hot meals, lights, and power to recharge smartphones. BUT THEY WERE STILL ON A BEAUTIFUL CRUISE SHIP.

I don’t think you’ll see any victims of Hurricane Sandy shedding tears over the plight of Carnival Triumph. What these people “endured” was no worse than what millions around the world call “life.”

I still believe cruising is safer than just about any vacation on land, and my next one is coming soon — but not on Carnival.

If there’s any lesson to learn from this incident, it’s that cruise ships have become too big. Cruise lines need to stop brainstorming silly ways to make them floating amusement parks with the population of a small town, and get serious about planning contingencies for infrastructure failures.

6 Responses to CNN Fecklessly Turns “Carnival Triumph” into Tragedy

  1. Jill Fuller says:

    Well-written! And just about exactly what my boss (travel agent manager) told the news when they came to interview her last night. Bravo!

  2. catsworking says:

    Why, thank you, Jill. I followed that story closely all week. It made sense that the ship wasn’t too well-provisioned to be at sea 4 extra days because it was only on a 4-day cruise to start with.

    On the other hand, CNN’s implications that people were “starving” and “worried about surviving” were so beyond the pale, they should be ashamed to call themselves a news organization. Have you ever seen the size of many cruise ship passengers? A week on reduced rations could only help them. 😉

    I just hope Carnival is able to clean it well enough. They’re probably going to have to rip out and replace all the carpeting and toss all bedding, linens, drapes, and upholstered furniture, and scrub that ship from top to bottom. I don’t envy the crew who gets stucks with that job.

  3. annie pelfrey says:

    excellent commentary!

  4. catsworking says:

    Thanks, Annie. The inivisible heroes in all of this are the crew. Just about every one of the dozens of passengers I’ve seen talking to the media has said how splendidly the crew behaved through the whole mess, yet I’m betting they are under pain of termination to let themselves be photographed, let alone speak, to the media.

    In the first days of the breakdown, the skinny was that Carnival was allowing the passengers to cancel their gratuities, which was an outrage, considering the fire happened on the last day of the sailing and the crew had provided the usual services up to that point.

    By the time the ship was reaching Mobile, one of the talking heads (possibly Cahill, the president), said the crew would face no loss in compensation. A disingenuous statement at best, since they work mostly for tips. Did he mean Carnival would pay them their usual peanuts in salary, or would it kick in the amount of a typical week’s tips? We may never know, since any crew member who dares to speak of it probably risks being put on the next plane home.

    Like most cruise lines, Carnival has its share of loyal customers who will sail on its ships no matter what (they already do, even though some passengers act like animals even on a good day). But there’s no denying this is a PR disaster, and the news media is doing its best to portray cruising as a life-threatening activity, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

  5. Zappa's Mom says:

    Hhhhmmmm…I have spa industry friends who work on various ships….I will try to do a little snooping

  6. MorganLF says:


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