The world’s largest cruise line continued to make waves Friday as more of its “Fun Ships” reported technical problems that drew widespread attention.
For those keeping track — and at this point, plenty of people are — the tally of troubled Carnival Cruise Lines ships has reached four in just a few weeks. On Friday, the juggling act for the Miami-based cruise line included flying thousands of passengers home from the moored Carnival Dream in St. Maarten while monitoring the progress of the Legend, crawling back to port in Tampa with propulsion problems.
Carnival also said that its New Orleans-based Elation had experienced a “minor issue” with one of two steering mechanisms on March 9.
“The recent occurrences are most unfortunate and very concerning to us,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email.
“The cause of each of these incidents are unrelated to each other. We are currently conducting an in-depth review to understand what happened and apply any lessons that can be learned. That said, we would like to point out that Carnival carries some 4.5 million guests and operates thousands of cruises each year without incident.”
On the heels of the much-publicized Carnival Triumph fire and “floating petri dish” debacle in February, the newest troubles created yet another unwelcome batch of headlines.
“How long does it take before customers say they’re not doing this anymore?” said Christopher Muller, a professor in the School of Hospitality at Boston University. “I think you’re going to see it unraveling. This is death by 1,000 cuts. This is something that management can’t just say, ‘It’s OK and it’s rosy and everybody loves our cruise lines.’ ”
While executives with parent company Carnival Corp. did mention millions of happy customers in a hastily scheduled earnings call Friday morning, they also detailed the toll they expect recent events to take.
The company decreased its full-year earnings forecast significantly, blaming lower than expected revenues because of continued weakness in Europe, pricing promotions for Carnival Cruise Lines and lower onboard spending, as well as higher costs because of Triumph repairs, and upgrades that will be needed to address potential problems fleetwide.
After reporting a $1.3 billion profit for all of fiscal 2012, Carnival Corp. said it earned $37 million in the quarter that ended Feb. 28. That compares with a loss of $139 million a year earlier.
With the cloudier outlook, Carnival’s share price dropped more than 2 percent, closing Friday at $34.95.
Finding some silver lining in all the gloom, Carnival Corp. CEO and Chairman Micky Arison said that Carnival Cruise Lines booking levels for the week through Wednesday were up 25 percent compared to a year ago.
“That was in response to a promotion, but we’re not anticipating that the promotions will be much deeper than they were last year,” he said. A year ago, the company was still dealing with the aftermath of the deadly shipwreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy. Carnival Corp. owns the Italian Costa Cruises brand.
Arison said there was an initial drop in bookings after the Carnival Triumph lost power following an engine room fire in the Gulf of Mexico. Between Feb. 10 and 14, as the ship was towed to Mobile, Ala., passengers ate cold food and coped with a lack of hot water and working toilets.