Carnival Cruise Lines faced new questions about the reliability of its Fun Ships Thursday as one of its newest and largest vessels suffered a technical glitch while docked that left it stuck in St. Maarten.
The early end to the Carnival Dream’s seven-day sailing, which was scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on Saturday, fell a month after the fire-crippled Carnival Triumph reached land after days at sea. Its arrival — and stories of miserable experiences on board — made international headlines.
On Thursday, a fresh cycle of bad news started for Miami-based Carnival, with many stories referring to the “nightmare” aboard the Carnival Dream. Then late Thursday, CNN reported that the Carnival Legend was having problems that were affecting its speed. The company says an issue with an Azipod propulsion and steering unit is slowing the vessel down, forcing it to skip a stop in Grand Cayman and return — slowly — to Tampa.
An earlier issue with the Canival Elation also got some fresh publicity: Earlier this week, the cruise line said it had “a minor issue with the steering function” of an Azipod unit, which did not affect the speed of the ship. But Carnival said it had asked for a tugboat to accompany the ship last weekend “in the interest of extreme caution” as it set out on a voyage from its home port in New Orleans. That issue had not been widely covered before Friday.
“If it weren’t for Triumph, this just simply would not have received the attention it did,” Mike Driscoll, editor of the weekly trade publication Cruise Week, said Thursday afternoon. “I think that’s the issue confronting Carnival Cruise Lines right now — they’re really under a microscope.”
The malfunction, which happened during a routine test, knocked out elevator and restroom service periodically Wednesday night. The Miami-based cruise operator said everything was working again by 12:30 a.m. and the ship never lost power. The propulsion system was not affected, Carnival said, but the ship stayed in the Caribbean port in order to avoid sailing with 4,363 passengers, 1,370 crew members and no backup generator.
All aboard were safe and comfortable, Carnival said via a statement. The company said it would start flying passengers home to Orlando or their final destination Friday morning on scheduled and chartered flights. Late Thursday, the company said singer Jon Secada would give a surprise performance for the guests. Once all the customers are off the ship, the Dream will sail back to Port Canaveral under its own power, a spokeswoman said. The March 16 sailing will be cancelled.
Passengers will receive a refund equal to the cost of three days aboard ship and a discount on a future cruise.
Some passengers complained of toilets backing up onto floors in bathrooms and staterooms — conditions similar to the infamous Carnival Triumph “poop cruise” that ended exactly one month ago. But Carnival said it could only confirm that one public restroom was out of service due to an overflowing toilet and one guest cabin bathroom needed cleaning.
And several passengers who spent time in St. Maarten’s town of Philipsburg Thursday told The Associated Press that conditions were fine on board.
“We have toilets. We have water. It’s no different than a regular day at sea,” Tasha Larson, 31, from Winston-Salem, N.C., said after disembarking with her boyfriend to spend the day in St. Maarten.