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Cruisers evacuated after Carnival ship has power problems

11:23 AM, Mar 14, 2013   |    comments
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Carnival Dream. Photo: CNN.

UPDATE 3:14 p.m.: Cruise Week editor in chief Mike Driscoll tells USA TODAY that the Carnival Dream incident "seems to be a technical issue that happens all the time on land ... at hotels" and is getting so much attention only because it happened a month after a fire on the Carnival Triumph. "But it's bad news for the cruise industry," he says, with the Dream and Triumph out of service at least temporarily and it might "cement in (some people's) minds a fear about cruises."

UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.: In an e-mail to USA TODAY following power issues that interrupted a cruise of its Carnival Dream, Carnival disputes reports of widespread problems with restrooms on the ship: "We have had multiple conversations with the ship's management team. Based on the ship's service logs and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom. ... The toilet system had periodic interruptions yesterday evening and was fully restored at approximately 12.30 a.m. this morning."

Another Carnival cruise ship -- the Carnival Dream -- has suffered power problems that kept the ship's toilets from working for several hours Wednesday night and has prompted the company to fly passengers home.

Passengers are leaving the ship, which is docked in St. Maarten, after it experienced what Carnival said was "a technical issue" that resulted in interruptions in the operation of toilets and elevators "for a few hours" Wednesday night.

"At no time did the ship lose power," the company said in a statement Thursday. "At this time, all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12:30 a.m."

But, the company said, "We are making arrangements to fly all guests home via private charter flights and scheduled flights from St. Maarten." It said that passengers on the interrupted sailing "will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise." Guests may remain on board while awaiting flights, Carnival added.

The cruise line added that it also is canceling the ship's next sailing, scheduled to depart on Saturday, March 16. "Guests scheduled to sail on this cruise will receive a full refund and 25 percent off a future seven-day cruise. Guests who re-book will have their current rate protected on the future sailing. Additionally, any non-refundable transportation related expenses will be reimbursed."

Before Carnival's announcement that it would fly passengers home, CNN reported that one passenger e-mailed Thursday morning. "We are not allowed off of the boat despite the fact that we have no way to use the restrooms on board," CNN quoted Jonathan Evans of Reidsville, N.C., as saying. "The cruise director is giving passengers very limited information and tons of empty promises. What was supposed to take an hour has turned into 7-plus hours."

Carnival said Wednesday was a scheduled call in St. Maarten and that "guests were able to spend the full day in port and have the option of continuing to do so until their scheduled return home. All of the ship's activities and facilities are fully operational. We are very sorry for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans and extend our sincere apologies. We look forward to welcoming them back on another Carnival cruise."

The ship, which has a capacity of 3,646 passengers, was on the last leg of a seven-day cruise and docked in St. Maarten. It is based out of Port Canaveral, Fla.

In the previous incident aboard the Carnival Triumph in February, some passengers complained that they weren't allowed off the ship while toilets and elevators weren't operating.

Problems with the Carnival Dream come two days after Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill told attendees of the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference that the company had started a comprehensive review of its entire fleet to see what it can do to avert problems with power and fire aboard its vessels in the wake of the Carnival Triumph incident and a 2010 fire that stranded passengers on the Carnival Splendor.

The 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph suffered an engine room fire on Feb. 10 while sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the vessel dead in the water. Although quickly contained, the blaze resulted in the loss of power used to operate lights, air conditioning, elevators and toilets in passenger areas as well as kitchen equipment used to prepare hot meals. For a time, the vessel's freshwater system also was down.

While ship technicians were able to restore limited toilet service and other functions over time, passengers described miserable conditions on the vessel over the four days it took to tow it to Mobile, Ala.

"We are now focused on the lessons that we can learn from the incident, and also what additional operational redundancies might be available," Cahill told an audience of more than a thousand representatives from cruise lines, shipbuilders and ports on Tuesday.

He said the fleet-wide review was focused on issues including how the line's vessels handle the prevention, detection and suppression of fires and ship engine rooms.

Also being looked at is "what additional hotel facilities might be provided (to) run off the emergency generator" in the case of a main power loss, Cahill says. "Fourthly, basically, (is) the learnings and the potential changes we can make from the first three items. How do we implement those things?"

The review is in addition to investigations conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and the Bahamian government. The Carnival Triumph is registered in the Bahamas. Cahill said the Triumph fire was from a "different source" than one in 2010 on the Carnival Splendor. In that case, too, the ship was left adrift without power for days.

Cahill said the fire on the Splendor resulted from failure of a diesel generator, and fire on the Triumph was triggered by a fuel line leak.

Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

Gannett / USA TODAY

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