Managing a Fire Crisis on the Carnival Splendor

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Carnival Splendor is a cruise ship under the ownership of Carnival Corporation & plc, it faced a major crisis of fire aboard it on November 8, 2010. The weight of this cruise ship is 113,300 tons and it has a long behemoth which is 952-foot in length. It has 13 passenger decks with guest staterooms at a total of 1503, and it can accommodate over 3000 guests on each of its voyages. Six diesel engines were designed to power the cruise ship, three of them are situated in the aft engine room while the rest are in the forward engine room. Two electric switchboards were designed for each engine room and they are linked to the generators with electric wires. Wires from the forward engine room to one of the switchboards passes 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 (Rourke, 2007). The fire spread quickly to the control boards of other power generators damaging them. Also, the fire damaged the power lines transmitting power 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 power, 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 as a solution was being sought. The ship took approximately 3 days to arrive at San Diego after the fire incident occurred (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 were sufficient for the situation. Opting for different communication methods might have caused the guests to panic hence making it difficult to manage them. 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 provided 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 to be informed of any emergency beside the technical team are the guests onboard. Once the onboard customers realize something is amiss they begin searching for information about the incident. Failure to inform them of the situation and how it is being management causes anxiety and unrest, with some of the clients seeking ways to escape the tragedy (Rourke, 2007). When people on board are panic stricken since they do not understand what is going on they get injured or sometimes killed in an attempt to rescue their lives. Secondly, Tim Gallagher ensured that the ship called for rescue teams through the conventional methods. The United States (U.S.) 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 guest that they will be offered with guest houses and flights have been arranged for them (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 by Carnival Cruise Lines was very much 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 the feeling that the cost of the tragedy does not fall on them. The decision depicted Carnival Cruise Lines as a responsible organization that is able to shield its clients of costs emanating from situations out of the passenger's control. Further, the management of the organization showed the passengers that it cared by organizing for flights and accommodation once the guest arrives 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 cost.

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 includes 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. The guests or passengers on board can be likened to 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 as the rescue operation continues. The crew is important since it ensures that the passengers are able to access basic amenities and have food and water to sustain them as the situation is being handled. 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 health and safety of all people onboard. The Cruise director was responsible for providing announcements and updates on the fire situation. The Vice President for Corporate Communication ensured rescue teams are signaled, and both accommodation and flight plans are provided by the guests once they arrive 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 need 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 the 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 be arriving in the San Diego. The message should address any pertinent questions and any rumors being spread around regarding the fire crisis.


O'Rourke, J. S., & 奥罗克. (2007).Management communication: A case-analysis approach. Pearson Prentice Hall, p. 137-142.

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