Live From CSM: Triumph Fire Tops CEO Panel Chat at World's Biggest Cruise Event

March 12, 2013
(Miami: 12:45 p.m. EST) -- Cruise Shipping Miami, the industry's annual mega-event where experts gather to discuss trends, new products and emerging markets, kicked off Tuesday with an executive panel discussion on safety -- and specifically Carnival Triumph.

Gerry Cahill, president and C.E.O. of Carnival Cruise Lines, fielded the first question of the day, which, naturally, focused on Triumph, the ship that was towed to Mobile, Alabama, after an engine room fire disabled it in February.

Cahill reiterated the rarity of the incident -- the second such fire to disable a Carnival ship since 2010 -- and said the company is performing its own investigation of the fire and cooperating with others performing independent investigations, including CLIA, the Bahamas Maritime Authority, the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"It is our highest priority," Cahill said.

To that end, Cahill said Carnival is taking a four-pronged approach toward preventing further such incidents and improving response if something similar happens in the future. The company is:
  • Reviewing the fleets across all of the Carnival Corp. brands, which include Princess, Cunard, Costa and others, to learn more about the prevention, detection and suppression of fire;
  • Exploring engine room redundancies. While Triumph had a second "redundant" engine room, the fire knocked out both engine rooms. Redundancy improvements could work toward preventing a fire from disabling both engine rooms at the same time;
  • Determining what hotel systems can be run off the emergency power. While Triumph had emergency power -- which was used for emergency and communications systems -- it famously lost power to many of its vacuum toilets, one of its "hotel systems";
  • Deciding how to implement such changes across the entire company.
Cahill said the process will be lengthy, but didn't provide a specific timeline.

Tuesday morning's panel also featured Celebrity Cruises President and C.E.O Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International President and C.E.O Adam Goldstein, Holland America Line President and C.E.O Stein Kruse, Norwegian Cruise Line President and C.E.O Kevin Sheehan, Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre D'ovidio and MSC Cruises President Pierfrancesco Vago. Other subjects addressed by the panel:

Look East
No question -- Asia is the hot topic at Cruise Shipping Miami. Its presence is everywhere, from the expo floor to the big screens in the main meeting area to the focus of panelists.

Cruise Line International Association President Christine Duffy highlighted a growth trend among Asian cruisers, citing a 10-year span that saw the number of Asian cruisers triple, through 2011. Panelists were excited about the Asian market was well, with virtually every big-wig mentioning a yearning to attract the local middle-class.

"Chinese customers love their cruises just as much as everybody else does," Goldstein said.

For U.S. cruisers, that could mean better port and destination experiences on Asian itineraries as cruise lines work with various authorities around the region to develop better infrastructure.

Oz and Coffee and Football Uniforms, Oh My
Speaking of growth, Cahill confessed to doing just about anything to help ensure Carnival Spirit, the line's first full-time ship in Australia, was a success among the locals.

"This is a big deal to us," Cahill said.

To show the Carnival's commitment to fun, Cahill talked about meeting with Australian travel agents. He showed up to an event wearing a 1970 Sydney Swans uniform, which included a shirt that constricted his breathing, red knee socks and "the tightest shorts" he'd ever seen in his life.

He said Aussies are fun-loving people, which aligns perfectly with the Carnival brand.

Sadly, he didn't provide pictures.

He did, however, provide one more interesting nugget: Australians consume six times as much coffee as Americans.

"No one ever sleeps," he said.

2012 -- Not a Good Year
MSC boss, Pierfrancesco Vago, called 2012 an "annus horribilis" for the cruise industry. Silversea's top man was quick to agree. With growth at just 1 percent for his line, it was "not a beautiful year," Manfredi Lefebvre D'ovidio said.

Admissions aside, the Concordia disaster, a January 2012 tragedy that left 32 people dead, was not mentioned until more than an hour into the discussion.

Bad Timing
With the panel event's 11:30 a.m. finish drawing close, moderator Anne Kalosh asked Goldstein if he had anything to reveal about Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's next new ship set to debut at the end of 2014.

"I had four pages of stuff to go through, but it's 11:29, and we're out of time," Goldstein quipped.

He did add one newsy-ish caveat: More news is forthcoming, in weeks rather than months.

4 Tweetbytes
Cruise Critic Editor in Chief, Carolyn Spencer Brown (@CruiseCritic), and Cruise Critic U.K. Editor, Adam Coulter (@CruiseCriticUK, tweeted live from the event. A taste:

MSC boss: "Media attention on #Costa Concordia possibly put off new to cruisers". We think it might have been the "incident" itself.

Will fares rise in 2013? @CruiseNorwegian boss: "Industry can be bold and move pricing to more respectable levels."

Cool to see @CruiseShipping trending on Twitter!

@CarnialCruise served over a million Guy Fieri burgers, helps attract 1st timers.

--by Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor