[UPDATE 1/8/2011: The fire-damaged Carnival Splendor cruise ship is out of service until at least until late February 2011. Eleven cruises were scrubbed for November, December and January. On December 15, Carnival announced another five were cancelled - taking the ship out of service until February 20.
The ship was to be moved in mid-January to a dry dock facility in San Francisco for additional repairs.
Its ports of call in Mexico estimate the economic costs of missing 11 scheduled cruises at $11 million or more. That total has not yet updated with the additional cancellations.]
Carnival Cruise Lines scheduled its fire-damaged ship, Carnival Splendor, to be back in service, in regular duty, Nov. 21. But after five days of round-the-clock repairs, the cruise ship company cancelled all voyages on the ship until January 16, 2011.
The ship was pulled into San Diego for repairs, after a catastrophic engine fire Nov. 8 left it bobbing helplessly in the Pacific Ocean 55 miles off the coast of Baja California, some 200 miles south of the u.S. border. The ship was towed back to port, arriving in San Diego the morning of Nov. 11. (Watch Splendor being repaired – live – on this downtown San Diego webcam.)
Questions immediately arose as to where repair work could be done on the huge cruise ship – Carnival’s largest when it was launched in 2008. It must be repaired on the West Coast, because it is too wide to fit through the Panama Canal, and a voyage around the tip of South America is not an option.
Dry dock facilities on the West Coast for a ship of this size are scarce to say the least. The closest suitable facilities in the U.S. would appear to be in Honolulu, Hawaii. Another possibility: A large dry dock is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In either case, transporting a crippled ship, in an uncertain time of year weather-wise, across such great distances would appear to be problematic – if not impossible. Besides, David Strawford, a Carnival technical services expert, has said reservations must generally be made six to 12 months ahead of time, to book such dry dock space.
So, for now, the cruise line said it would try to have the ship repaired in San Diego, before returning to its home port of Long Beach, Calif.
“We are in the process of developing a detailed repair plan and will be in a position to disclose these plans in the near future,” a Carnival spokesman said Tuesday.
The cause of the fire was a broken crankshaft on its No. 5 engine. The ship is equipped with six massive diesel engines from Finland’s Wartsila.
“Splendor was on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Sunday, Nov. 7, from Long Beach, Calif. The ship’s normal itinerary includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The ship, which measures 113,000 gross registered tons and first entered service in July 2008, was carrying 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew,” the cruise line said in a statement.
Carnival said it would refund the money of all passengers on the fated cruise, and offer them free passage on a later cruise.
As to the voyages subsequently cancelled for November, December and January, Carnival’s statement 11/16 said:
Guests who were scheduled to sail on these voyages will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.
Carnival Splendor was towed to San Diego following the fire which occurred off the Mexican coast on November 8. A team from the U.S. Coast Guard, NTSB and flag authorities, along with Carnival’s engineers and technicians, is currently on board investigating the cause of the fire. Carnival personnel are being assisted by representatives of the shipyard that built the vessel and other manufacturers of engine room components in assessing damage and necessary repairs.
“We realize how much guests look forward to their vacations and know that they are very disappointed by this news. We too are disheartened that we are not able to fulfill the dreams of those who have entrusted us with their important vacation plans. We sincerely apologize to everyone who was scheduled to sail on these cancelled voyages and look forward to welcoming them aboard in the future. Now that we have a full technical team engaged in the assessment, we wanted to provide this information as quickly as possible,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.
Carnival is contacting travel agents and guests on the affected sailings and providing assistance in finding alternate cruises. Travel agent commissions on the cancelled sailings will be protected.
This is similar to the financial arrangement made earlier for customers who had purchased tickets on the cancelled Nov. 14 sailing were to receive full refunds, plus a 25 percent discount on a further cruise, Mr. Cahill added.
The popular Nov. 21 sailing, which spans the Thanksgiving holiday and for which Carnival charges a price premium, was only a few days from leaving, with customers being told the cruise was still on. But tickets could not be purchased on the Carnival website. As repairs continued, Carnival stopped selling tickets for more and more cruises, until Nov. 15 the ensuing month’s worth of cruises were pulled off the booking site. See the screenshot below, and accompanying update:
A Carnival spokesman had explained the disappearing booking options as “increased interest in the ship has resulted in these cruises selling out.”
The next Splendor sailing for which Carnival is now showing availability was the January 16, 2011 7-day itinerary to the Mexican Riviera.
[For additional information, read questions from readers and answers below.]
Nov. 10, 2010 (with twice-daily updates)