Carnival Cruise Lines plans to spend more than $300 million to improve emergency power, fire-safety technology and operating backup systems across its 24-ship fleet.
The move announced Wednesday follows a series of high-profile incidents involving its ships, two of which were left without propulsion after engine fires knocked out their power, stranding passengers and crew at sea for days. In the most recent case, cruisers complained about a lack of air conditioning and proper sanitation and limited food and hot water.
In coming months, Carnival will install extra emergency generators aboard all ships to ensure full operation of cabins and public toilets, elevators and availability of fresh water in the event of a loss of main power. It will also later install a second permanent backup power system on each ship that should provide more guest services such as Internet and phone communications, cooking facilities and cold food storage during a main power loss.
Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said Wednesday that a loss of propulsion was "pretty rare" on its ships given the roughly 1,500 cruises Carnival operates annually, but said what happened on two of the ships was still "two too many."
"We don't want to put our guests in that situation again," said Cahill in a phone interview from London.
Wednesday's announcement is the result of a comprehensive operational review the Miami-based cruise line launched after the Carnival Triumph was stranded.
In February, an engine fire aboard the Triumph left the ship without power and propulsion, stranding it for several days at sea in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,000 passengers and crew aboard. The ship was eventually towed to the cruise port in Mobile, Ala.
The Triumph incident recalled memories of another widely publicized stranding involving the Carnival Splendor, which in November 2010 was also left disabled at sea after an engine room fire. Although its vessels have two separate, redundant engine rooms, it also plans to reconfigure certain engine-related electrical components to minimize the chance of a loss of propulsion or main power.
A new safety and reliability review board will also be formed with five outside experts from agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy to aid the cruise line in its ongoing fleetwide improvements.
"These initiatives reflect our commitment to safe and reliable operations and an enjoyable cruising experience for the nearly 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year," said Cahill, in an earlier statement.
Parent company Carnival Corp. & PLC has also committed to additional corporatewide technological and operational upgrades across its 101-ship fleet. The price tag for these improvements is expected to range between $600 million to $700 million, including fixes to Carnival Cruise Lines' ships.
“Carnival Cruise Lines' announcement exemplifies their continued commitment to cruise passenger/ship safety and comfort,” said Stewart Chiron, a South Florida cruise specialist and chief executive of industry website CruiseGuy.com. “The recent, massive fleetwide review and upcoming implementation should provide comfort to vacationers that safety has always been the top priority of Carnival as well as the entire industry.”
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