Was the Carnival Triumph the Last Straw? Trust in Cruise Lines Plummets According to Poll

What a difference a blackout and overflowing toilets can make.  In September of last year the headline in the L.A. Times was “Cruise industry rebounding from ship accident, woes in Europe.”  The subtitle read, “Cruise reservations seem to be rising, with the drop in European bookings offset by strong U.S. sales. The Costa Concordia disaster had only a short-term effect.”

Then came the fire on the Carnival Triumph in February which left the ship in the Gulf of Mexico without power, running water, hot food lighting or air conditioning.  Unlike the tragedy on the Costa Concordia, where 32 passengers and crew died, no one died or was seriously injured.  Nevertheless, the proximity to US media markets guaranteed that the stories of toilets overflowing and sewage in the hallways would get full coverage on the networks, newspapers and across the internet.

A Harris poll released this week shows trust in the cruise industry in general and Carnival in particular has plummeted since the incident.  Since the fire on the Carnival Triumph, America’s trust in cruise lines has dropped by 12%.  For Carnival, the news is much worse. Trust in the world’s largest cruise conglomerate has fallen by 26% in the same period.

We suspect that the loss of confidence is not just a response to the Carnival Triumph fire but the cumulative effect of the string of cruise ship casualties starting with the fire and blackout on the Carnival Splendor and continuing with the sinking of the Costa Concordia, followed by fires and blackouts on the MSC Opera, the MV Azamara Quest, the Costa Allegra and a power faliure on the Carnival Dream.  For the past several several years, the cruise industry has suffered a steady string of disabling casualties.  The Carnival Triumph appears to have been the last straw.

Poll: Trust in cruise lines continues to drop

The poll results suggest the industry’s reputation has been hurt more by the Carnival Triumph fire than industry watchers initially expected. In the days after the incident, many analysts at Wall Street firms and other industry observers predicted that any impact on the traveling public would be short-lived.

The poll also suggests Carnival continues to be impacted far more than its rivals by the incident. It found an additional 11% decline in the measurement of trust in Carnival over the past three months, on top of a sharp drop after the incident. As compared to levels before the incident, the measurement of trust in Carnival is now down 26%.

Measurements of trust in rival lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Holland America also remain down, though not as sharply.

The perception of quality at brands such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also continues to be down significantly in the wake of the incident, according to the Harris poll. A measurement of America’s perception of quality at Carnival is now down 28% from before the incident, according to the poll.

Carnival also has suffered a 20% decline in a measurement of purchase intent in the Harris poll.

Perhaps more significantly, the poll suggests that newcomers to cruising continue to be put off by the incident. Harris says 56% of respondents who had never taken a cruise said they were less likely to take one now than they were a year ago.


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7 Responses to Was the Carnival Triumph the Last Straw? Trust in Cruise Lines Plummets According to Poll

  1. Andy Hall says:

    Triumph returned to Galveston yesterday, and sails on Thursday with a new load of passengers.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    Thanks, Andy. Let’s hope the lights stay on and the toilets don’t overflow this trip.

  3. A large part of the problem is that generally cruise lines have in the last decade tried to equate ships at sea to hotel resorts. People have no understanding of the problems involved and several of the cruise lines failed to equip their vessels with adequate backup and reserve equipment. One positive step was made this week with the return of Bob Dickinson (70) to the Carnival Group in the role of Consultant. If they listen to him and follow his guidance they just might improve their image.
    Good Watch.

  4. Rick Spilman says:

    Cruise lines have had a long term problem balancing the hotel and ship operations aspects of their business. I agree that it has only gotten worse in recent years. I also think that the entire cruise industry has yet to come to terms with the complexities of structural fire protection and diesel-electric power plants. A number of ships, particularly several designed and built by Fincantieri seem to share common design flaws in the main and emergency power systems.

  5. Dale says:

    I have been on 5 cruise, 4 on Royal Caribbean, including the maiden voyage of the Freedom of the Seas. You could not pay me enough to gamble on a cruise on any ship where the ultimate company owning it is Carnival.

  6. Andy Hall says:

    Newspaper says when Triumph sailed Thursday, she was sold old, completely full up. That sort of makes sense; if you’re gonna cruise on Carnival you probably want to go in the one sailing where they’re determined not to have anything go amiss.

  7. Rick Spilman says:

    Let’s hope that Carnival has fixed what appears to be significant flaw in the fire protection of many of the ships in their fleet. The problem was not just limited to the Triumph.