Carnival turns on-ship flooding into a torrent of PR praise

In a viral video after a water main burst, hallways and staterooms were shown filling with water, reminiscent of ‘Titanic.’ Crews and brand managers deftly handled the crisis, however.

Rapidly flooding ship decks terrified passengers; the viral video of it horrified Carnival Cruise PR reps.

The social media storm hit Carnival when a water line broke, flooding some 50 staterooms aboard its Caribbean-bound ship. The cruise line is garnering plaudits for its response, both from the ship’s crew and the line’s brand managers.

The Miami Herald reported:

Video and photographic footage from a Thursday flood on the Carnival Dream, caused by a break in the ship’s fire suppression system, shows gallons of water gushing out of pipes like a bath faucet turned on. The rushing water filled hallways with roiling pools, and spurted out of walls.

“I literally thought this was a scene from ‘Titanic,’ ” a Facebook user posted on a passenger’s thread that displayed images of water gushing all over the hallway of Deck 9.

The video got extensive attention before being taken down by its videographer. Screen grabs endure on Twitter, however.

The Miami Herald continued:

Passenger Marla DeAnn Haase’s post with the video and images on Facebook is the one that especially caught social media’s attention. In a big way. More than 10,000 people shared her first post, stamped 6:33 p.m. on May 3. Her video of water pouring from the ceiling and walls has had more than 1.3 million views.

Um….FB folks…..this is a rare moment of internet connection ….we are flooding on a cruise, we heard the violins and the silverware all came crashing down. What in the world….say a prayer for is [sic] all.”

A response: “What in the Titanic?”

Another: “I cannot fathom how scary this had to be. Hoping you all are safe and will get full refunds!”

Carnival Cruise Line sprang into action, offering refunds to affected passengers and sending statements to media outlets that were covering the much-shared video.

ABC News reported:

In an emailed statement, cruise line spokeswoman Annemarie Mathews said it took six hours for the crew to replace or dry out the carpeting in the hallway and 50 staterooms.

About 100 guests were affected by the flooding. Mathews said the cruise line provided full refunds to all those guests, as well as a discount on a future cruise.

Mathews said two guests accepted the company’s offer to fly them home early. The ship returned to its homeport in New Orleans as scheduled Sunday morning.

The company also put out this press release:

The Carnival Dream has continued on its 7-day Caribbean cruise uninterrupted after the water line break on Thursday evening, May 3. It will return to its homeport of New Orleans as scheduled on Sunday morning. The water main break had no effect on the safe operation of the ship. The safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority.

Both our crew and our guests have been amazing during this voyage. The water line break occurred at 6:00 p.m. and in six hours, our crew had replaced hall and stateroom carpeting, dried out other sections of carpeting that were damp but did not need to be replaced, and restored the 50 staterooms so that all guests could sleep in their beds that evening. There were a handful of guests that chose to sleep elsewhere that first night and we moved mattresses to the spa for them.

We never want our guests to experience anything other than a perfect vacation, so we sincerely regret that we inconvenienced nearly 100 guests. We provided a full refund and a future cruise credit as a goodwill gesture. We offered to fly the impacted guests home at our expense if they wanted to disembark early and only two of the nearly 100 guests that received our offer chose to do so. Most of the guests on board were not even aware of the incident until the last 24 hours as word circulated and our passengers heard from friends and family who saw media reports. Needless to say, the tremendous positive attitude of our guests and crew is proof of why we are America’s favorite cruise line.

Carnival’s crisis response got two thumbs up from many, including Minda Zetlin, writing for Inc. She offered these reasons for why the Carnival deserved crisis communications plaudits:

1. They were completely transparent.

Carnival crew welcomed Haase when she videoed the informal bucket brigade of uniformed staff scooping up water, and many of them smiled for the camera.

2. It took decisive action swiftly to make up for the damage.

A full refund plus 50 percent discount plus airline tickets for roughly 100 passengers is a significant expense […] Yet Carnival was able to announce its offers in less than 24 hours.

3. It did not minimize the incident.

No one was endangered, fewer than 100 passengers out of a total of 3,500 were directly affected, and the situation was resolved in less than six hours. […] But Carnival resisted any impulse to treat the flood as no big deal.

4. It praised its customers.

Carnival was justifiably proud of the quick response by its crew members. But the company said this in its statement: “Both our crew and our guests have been amazing during this voyage.”

Curiously, Carnival stayed off its social media channels despite prior success there.

One thing it could have shared online: a video of the hallway after it had been drained and repaired. The company even took the time to create a video, adding it to its press release:

A before-and-after montage, shared across social media channels, could have been powerful. After all, it was video of a flooded hallway that grabbed attention in the first place.

What do you think of Carnival’s crisis response?

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