One of the first things they teach you in law school is that corporations are people. They’re not natural people—an attribute lawyers share—but they are people nonetheless and they can splat, too. Just ask Carnival Cruise Lines.
Early Sunday morning, an engine room fire left the Carnival Triumph, which had been cruising through the Gulf of Mexico, in utter defeat. The disabled ship drifted in the Gulf of Mexico for days until tugboats came to its assistance and began towing it north at mall-walker speeds.
Getting the ship to port was a logistical nightmare for the company and a horror story for the 4,000 people aboard. Provisions ran low, the definition of “indoor plumbing” was expanded to include closets and hallways, and the Wayne Newton Revue on the Ledo Deck was canceled.
The unspeakable on-board conditions spawned comparisons to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, not to mention countless Poop Deck jokes.
Obviously Carnival has a PR disaster on its hands, on top of the floating one. Company management recognized this and leapt right into action. A few days ago its top executive, Gerry Cahill, promised to give passengers $500 and a cruise credit as compensation for their pain and suffering. Some passengers found the gesture grossly inadequate and insulting.
“What more do they want from me?” Cahill asked. “I already waived the excursion fees for the Open Sewer Tour.”
Mere hours ago, the ship finally docked in Mobile, Alabama, which ranks right up there with the French Riviera as exotic cruise destinations go. In Mobile, passengers were reunited with their loved ones, to whom Carnival had given free immunization shots and jars of Vicks Vapo-Rub as a goodwill gesture.
Carnival’s latest disaster is nowhere near as catastrophic as last year’s Costa Concordia incident, which resulted in thirty-two fatalities, but it shows the company is about as seaworthy as the Triumph. If Carnival hopes to bounce back, maybe it should quit recruiting executives from the Herbert Hoover School of Leadership.