The news story about a man kicked off the Carnival Conquest has made headlines from here to the Netherlands and possibly even farther.
If you've missed the buzz, the story goes like this: During the first sea day of a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise, a crew member onboard the Conquest became seriously ill and needed to be taken to the hospital. The ship turned around to rendezvous with a rescue helicopter and the delay made it impossible for the ship to reach Jamaica in time. Passengers received a $25 refund for port charges, but many onboard felt they deserved further compensation. One man started a petition, but when he brought his demands to the purser's office, he became belligerent and aggressive and was ultimately kicked off the ship at Grand Cayman, the next port of call.
Everyone has an opinion about how the situation was handled -- especially Cruise Critic readers who posted nearly 500 comments on our message boards. At this point, every possible opinion has been expressed and no nitpicky detail has been left undissected.
Reader reaction was mixed with many readers siding with the Captain, who chose to both skip Jamaica and forcibly debark the rabble-rousing party, and others claiming passengers deserved better information and compensation. To save you from sorting through 25 pages of thread posts, here's a recap of the debate.
Some readers didn't believe the situation warranted missing Jamaica.
RCruise2: I was surprised that such a predictable situation (it is very possible with 3,000 passengers + 1,000 crew on the ship) was handled in such an inefficient manner. My point is that Carnival as a company should be responsible for not delivering the service that we paid for. I believe there are more efficient ways to handle this (e.g. get helicopter from Jamaica, Mexico, Cayman Islands...). They picked the cheapest (for them) solution regardless of all the inconvenience for the passengers.
But other posters discussed the realities of cruise navigation and port logistics.
monkeythyme: I'm no expert on geography, but I can do some basic 5th grade math and figure that the emergency would put the ship about 5 to 6 hours behind schedule and would cut a 9-hour port call down to 4, which is hardly worth the additional "rock and roll" caused by the increase in speed. Then, when you figure that it is about 18 hours round trip from Grand Cayman to Kingston, it is apparent that you have at least 12 hours to kill once you give up on MoBay, hence the sailing in circles.
jakesplace: Ships have specific times to arrive in port, time slots are given months in advance. The logistics involved is much greater then just pulling up to a parking space and letting everyone off. It may have been the port authority who denied them. So it all may not have been up to the Captain. I don't think he was saying to himself, "hey, let's just go in circles and make more money."
Many commenters thought $25 was not enough compensation for a missed call.
CitizenX: A measly $25 dollars is a crime considering Jamaica is one of the more interesting spots. If this is a once in a lifetime expenditure to go see the islands like our trip then a $25 refund is criminal. I say they should get a full 1/6 of the price of the cruise as a refund or more like a full 1/3 of the price of the cruise.
jackkip: How much extra revenue did the ship make on that day of the missed port? I am sure there were extra drinks ordered, another round of bingo. Not to mention the casino, shops, spa. How many of these passengers would of been onshore if the ship had made it to the port. Not to mention the fuel savings, I am sure that the bottom line was in the black. Even with the $25 credit given to the passengers.
Others agreed the onboard credit was fair.
Sixgun8: You know technically you are only getting about 1/3rd of a day inconvenienced by missing a port. Now, our latest booking that we have is for 2 people on a 7 day cruise and we are paying $1,100. Fees included for an inside cabin.
1,100/2 = 550
550/7 = 78.57
78.57/3 = 26.19
26.19-25 = exactly $1.19 that Carnival owes this guy.
Cruiseloverandagent: Yeah, after doubling back, not once but twice, spending an extra day at sea and burning fuel not budgeted for (I have a ballpark figure on what similarly sized ship burns and it ain't cheap), paying staff to stay on duty who normally would have a partial day off, people consuming food when they would normally be off the ship eating at the port, medivac-ing an employee to a hospital, running water purification systems, etc. It's entirely possible that they didn't have a very high profit margin, if at all, after all this.
But perhaps the biggest issue was a perceived lack of communication from the Captain to the passengers.
Okie Steve: The petition did have a point, but they went about it poorly. In addition, the Captain did not handle it properly either. He let the rumor mill run around the ship, instead of nipping it in the bud by communicating with everyone on the ship.
Wilcox: That is what this whole mess boils down to -- lack of communication between the captain and his paying passengers. Had there been clear and constant communication, I can promise no one would have cared about the missed port. Instead they let speculation and armchair quarterbacks run wild for a day before offering any explanation.
Many readers insisted the Captain is the Master of the ship and should be trusted. He does not need to explain his every move.
Yaletown605: A captain will not turn a ship around for any old reason. Even though he did not specify it, we know it is serious. So this man is upset that he missed a port. Boo hoo, and he is upset. I suppose the life and health of another human being just isn't as important as Montego Bay. The captain has to make a lot of decision in the course of the voyage. We may not understand but trust that each one is rightfully justified.
Magic City Cruiser: As in many life situations, we're all often on a "need to know" basis. In no way, in this particular instance, do I think the Captain should have done anything more to communicate his decisions or to EXPLAIN why he made the decisions. As previous posters have stated, he was in communication with MANY people and together they made the best and safest decision for the ship and it's passengers. My job, as a passenger, is to accept that the Captain made the best decision possible and attempt to ease my disappointment with another fruity drink. Or two.
Longtime cruise travelers reminded everyone that missed ports are inevitable, and that's the chance you take when you sign on for a cruise.
Bsc819: I am prepared on every cruise to miss every port of call. I am happy knowing that if something happens to me, the Captain will turn the ship around to get me the care I need at the expense of everyone else's day in port. And I would gladly give up my day in port for the same for someone else.
cuccicruisers: If you cruise....like the ship. There is always a chance you will not get off where you expect. Especially during hurricane season. I have friends who were diverted from several ports during Wilma and complained nonstop. Are you kidding? We have also traveled with NCL...missed ports. One for a medical emergency and one due to weather conditions and guess what? Nada...nothing...just a "we're sorry."
Ultimately, people are going to complain no matter what.
WeBeCruisin: A cruise line is in an impossible situation in that they cannot possibly please everyone, but as America becomes more and more of a whining "me, me, me" society, no matter what transpires on a cruise, there will be a large contingent of greedy people demanding financial compensation because the cruise line and all the other passengers didn't comply to THEIR demands and whining. After all, it's THEIR vacation and not anyone else's.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
Debate Rages over Man Kicked Off Carnival Conquest
April 14, 2008