A&M dean witnesses crisis on cruise
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 01:02
Curious on the first day, stranded by the second, and wading through floors pooled with gray water by the third, the high spirits with which passengers set out on the Carnival Cruise ship, Triumph, flowed overboard as they awaited the sight of land for days.
Kim Dooley, associate dean for academic operations for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, was among the passengers.
“This was only my second cruise,” Dooley said. “It was my husband’s birthday. We were having a blast and it was a great experience – but that changed quickly once the engine caught on fire.”
The ship departed Feb. 7 and was disabled after an engine room fire. Tug boats pulled Triumph to Mobile, Ala., docking late Feb. 14.
Dooley said it was at least a day after the engines caught fire before Carnival called the tugboats. By that time, the ship had drifted a long way and it made the voyage back home even longer.
“At first, none of us realized how bad it would be,” Dooley said. “Everything was looking pretty good, but as the time went on and ice was melting, toilets weren’t flushing — that’s when you started to see the best and the worst of people. It’s just survival mode. That’s really what it was.”
These types of incidences are rare. However, Carnival’s recent breakdown was its second in two years, according to James Petrick, professor of recreation, park and tourism science.
David Williford, junior agricultural communication and journalism major, took a trip along the Triumph in December and also faced problems onboard.
“We left on Dec. 14. We were supposed to go to Cozumel,” Williford said. “But the cycle right before ours, which came back that morning, had the speed governor messing up on it. They fixed it at the dock in Galveston, but we still got rerouted to Progresso instead of going to Cozumel.”
The most recent cruise was not fortunate to have such a minor problem. Dooley said once the power went out on the ship, she was lucky because she had a balcony room which gave her light during the day.
“People created like a tent city,” Dooley said. “People just started gathering and putting lounge chairs around the deck. You saw this community develop.”
She compared the experience to a refugee camp because people began to hoard food and water.
“There was once where three to five people had working toilets on the ship,” Dooley said. “People were so desperate, they would just go. It was sickening. You were so afraid and thinking, ‘Oh gosh, you don’t want to touch anything.’”
Dooley said her biggest concern was getting sick. Ice was melting and she worried about the food safety on the ship. The staff began serving food, but she said it wasn’t rationed well. She said some people would get lots of food, but the people at the end of the line were lucky to get much of anything.
The day the ship arrived in Mobile, Dooley said many things had changed by the time everyone woke up.
“We kind of felt like they were trying to make it look like it wasn’t as bad as it really was,” Dooley said. “Servers were wearing gloves, handing silverware to us, whereas the other day, we were grabbing all of our own stuff.”
However, she said the last day was very orderly when it came to getting off the ship. All the security was set up ahead of time, people weren’t allowed to leave their rooms and they were filed out deck by deck.
“This has hit broad-stream news,” Petrick said. “In the past, they have been able to hide under the radar. There will be some effect of this. The image of Carnival will be tarnished in some way. Their reputation will take a hit.”
Petrick said some would think Carnival would lose revenue, but demand for their product as a first-time cruiser market is the lowest return of any cruise line. They have no established loyalty, because they are an entry-level line. Buyers tend to shop there first, and if they don’t like what they get, they will get something better next time.
Dooley said the passengers were refunded for the trip. They were also given another trip and all their tabs were covered. All of the pictures taken on the ship were free and each passenger was given $500 in cash.
“I want to again apologize to our guests and their friends and families. The situation on board was difficult and we are very sorry for what has happened,” said president and CEO of Carnival, Gerry Cahill, in a press release. “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience and clearly we failed in this case."
Carnival canceled 14 voyages of the Triumph previously scheduled through April 13.
Other passengers on the ship associated with A&M were: her husband, Larry Dooley, associate professor of education and human resource development; David Kipp, choral activities director; Holly Moore, lead music accompanist for the student band; Ben Welch, assistant dean for the Center of Executive Development; and David Wier, athletic trainer for the athletic department.
“Personally, I wouldn’t go back,” Dooley said. “When you’re stranded on a cruise ship, you really are stranded.”