Carnival Splendor Fire Crisis Management

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Carnival Splendor, a cruise ship owned by Carnival Corporation & plc, faced a fire crisis aboard on November 8, 2010. The cruise ship weighs 113,300 tons and has a 952-foot long behemoth. The vessel has 13 passenger decks with a total of 1503 guest staterooms. The cruise ships accommodate over 3,000 guests per voyage. The Carnival Splendor is powered by six diesel engines, three in the aft engine room and the rest of the forward engine room. There are two electric switchboards for each engine room and they are linked to the generators via electric cables. The electric cables from the forward engine room to one of the switchboards pass through the ceiling of the apt engine room. The fire started in the apt engine room after a catastrophic mechanical failure of one of the diesel generators that provide power (O’Rourke, 2007). The fire spread quickly to the control boards of other power generators damaging them. Also, the fire harmed the power lines transmitting energy from the engine room to other sections of the ship. The heat of the fire was so intense that it damaged cables connecting the forward engine room to the switchboard. Only one generator was faulty but the major problem was the destruction of the control boards and power lines taking power from both forward and apt engine rooms to the rest of the ship. Without energy, Carnival Splendor stalled in the sea near the coast of Mexico and 200 miles south of San Diego. During the time of the crisis, the Cruise Director John Heald kept the guests informed of any measures being taken to handle the situation. Meanwhile, Tim Gallagher, who is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for Carnival Cruise Lines, coordinated the call for rescue teams and assistance with food for the guests while a solution was being sought. It took approximately 3 days to arrive in San Diego after the fire incident had occurred (O’Rourke, 2007).

Should the Company have done Anything Differently in Their Communication Efforts While the Ship was being Brought Back to Port?

The Carnival Corporation management could not have done anything differently in their communication efforts while the ship was on its way to the port. The communication measure they carried out was sufficient for the situation. Opting for different communication methods might have caused the panic to guests hence making it difficult to manage them. The lack of use of proper communication protocols could have caused the guests onboard to lose trust in the management of the cruise ship and think that their chances of survival were diminishing. The communication methods employed in handling the situation worked effectively to keep the guests calm and granted a feeling that the situation was under control. Firstly, the manager provided announcements via the Public Address (PA) system about the fire crisis and frequent updates that ensured the guests remained calm and firmly reassured that the situation is under control. Provision of the announcements and updates on the fire crisis could not have been done differently since the first people that must be informed of any emergency beside the technical team are the guests onboard. Once the customers realize something is amiss they begin searching for information about the incident. Failure to inform them about the situation and how it is being managed causes anxiety and unrest, with some of the clients seeking ways to escape the tragedy (O’Rourke, 2007). When people on board are panic stricken since they do not understand what is going on they get injured or sometimes kill in an attempt to save their lives. Secondly, Tim Gallagher ensured that the ship called for rescue teams through the conventional methods. The United States Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy responded to the call from Carnival Splendor. The rescue call by the Vice President of Corporate Communications ensured that the guests and the crew obtained external help to assist them to reach the port in time. Also, the management of Carnival Splendor assured the guests that they would be offered with guest houses and flights would be arranged for them (O’Rourke, 2007). Besides, the guests were assured they would get a full refund for the cruise and a credit equal to the price they paid for a future Carnival cruise. The decision of Carnival Cruise Lines was highly appropriate and it was the best option the Corporation could offer to the stranded passengers. The decision to make a full refund to the passengers made them have a feeling that the cost of the tragedy does not fall on them. The solution depicted Carnival Cruise Lines as a responsible organization that is able to shield its clients from costs emanating from situations out of the passenger’s control. In addition, the management of the organization showed passengers that it took care of them by arranging flights and accommodation as soon as guests arrive in San Diego. No other better way could have been used to compensate for the passenger’s lost time during the crisis other than ensuring their convenience once they reached the coast.

Who are the Key Stakeholders? Who are the Most Important Stakeholders?

The key stakeholders are the guests onboard, the crew including the technical team, the Cruise Director, the general public that comprises the relatives and friends of the guests on board, the rescue team especially the U.S. Coast Guards, the Panama government, and the Vice President of Corporate Communications for Carnival Cruise Lines (O’Rourke, 2007). The most important stakeholders are the passengers on board. Guests can be compared to the employers of the corporation because without them Carnival Cruise Lines have no business to run. There are many players in the Cruise industry providing the same services and Carnival has to do its best to show concern for the welfare of the passengers more than the competitors. The main objective of the cruise team is to minimize any injuries or casualties that may befall the passengers during the rescue operation. The crew is important since it ensures that the passengers are able to access basic amenities and have food and water to sustain them in the case of emergency situation. The U.S. Coast Guards are responsible for providing rescue teams for ships facing navigation problems. They provided food and health services to ensure the safety of all people onboard. The Cruise director was liable for providing announcements and updates on the situation with fire. The Vice President for Corporate Communication ensured rescue teams were signaled, and both accommodation and flight plans were provided to the guests once they arrived in San Diego. The technical team is responsible for providing means of solving the technical problem that led to power outage in the ship. The Panama government needed to know of the failure that occurred and caused the disruption of the voyage since they have the mandate to probe into the official cause of the fire (O’Rourke, 2007). The general public includes friends and relatives who need to be informed of the safety and well-being of their loved ones and the progress of the situation.

What Channels of Communication Should Carnival Cruise Lines Use and What Should be the Message?

The Carnival Cruise Lines should use press releases and controlled post on the social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Corporation can also use telephone interviews with members of the media with an aim of passing the right information to the general public and other stakeholders. The message should inform the recipients of how the situation is being managed and the approximate time the passengers will arrive in the San Diego port. The message should address any pertinent questions and any rumors spreading around regarding the fire crisis.


In conclusion, the management of the Carnival Corporation handled the crisis that hit Carnival Splendor in a commendable manner. Firstly, the Cruise Director kept the passengers updated on the progress of the rescue operation and helped prevent anxiety and panicking amongst them. Secondly, the Vice President for Corporate Communication helped in making arrangements for the arrival of rescue teams and in getting the guests to San Diego safely. Thirdly, the Carnival Corporation took a creditable action of arranging for accommodation and flights for the passengers from Carnival Splendor. The press releases from Carnival Corporation were timely and regular. During a crisis, it is of paramount importance to provide updated information on regularly and time-stamping them to avoid any confusion to the recipients. Ensuring consistency in provision of announcements and updates on a crisis helped kept the stakeholders patient and calmly waiting. The Carnival Corporation showed that they were in control of the situation and hence there was no need for both passengers and stakeholders to worry.

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