HOUSTON -- Recent mechanical problems with three Carnival Cruise ships have not triggered an overall investigation, although the U.S. Coast Guard does plan to investigate problems aboard one of the ships that sailed out of Florida's Tampa Bay, officials said.
The nation’s largest cruise company announced Friday that the Carnival Legend was unable to sail at optimal speed off the coast of Honduras, bringing an early end to the seven-day Caribbean cruise for 2,500 passengers and 930 crew who set sail last Sunday.
Carnival officials said in a statement emailed to The Los Angeles Times that the ship was having technical issues with its Azipod units, used to propel and steer.
Guests on the Legend will receive a $100-per-person credit, a refund on pre-purchased shore excursions for Grand Cayman and half off a future Carnival cruise, the statement said. The Coast Guard says it will inspect the ship when it returns to port.
Also on Friday, the 4,363 passengers on the Carnival Dream were being flown home from the Caribbean on 50 chartered flights after their week-long cruise from Port Canaveral, Fla., stalled in St. Maarten with a backup generator problem Wednesday. Carnival officials said the Dream never lost power, but acknowledged there where problems with elevators and toilets.
“Guests began disembarking the ship this morning to board flights scheduled for today, and will continue to do so throughout the weekend. We are working to try to accommodate special requests from guests, including those who asked to remain on board longer,” Carnival officials said in a Friday statement.
Coast Guard officials do not plan to investigate the Dream because the incident is not considered a marine casualty, Petty Officer 3rd Class Sabrina Laberdesque in Miami told The Times.
The Carnival Elation also ran into problems last Saturday with its backup Azipod unit and had to be escorted back to port by a tugboat as it began its voyage from New Orleans, Carnival officials said. Coast Guard Cmdr. Paul Dittman in New Orleans said no investigation is planned.
“There was a problem with one of the redundant systems, however the vessel was compliant with all national and international standards,” Dittman told The Times.
The latest problems are a reminder of the drama that played out last month, when the Carnival Triumph was crippled by an engine fire in the Gulf of Mexico during a four-day cruise, stranding more than 4,200 passengers and crew. The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating.
The NTSB does not plan a broader investigation of Carnival’s fleet, including the three ships that suffered recent mechanical problems, spokesman Keith Holloway told The Times, because, “The others at this point don’t look to be NTSB-warranted investigations.”
Tampa-based Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Eric Allen, chief of inspections for the St. Petersburg division, said the Legend will be investigated when it returns to port, likely Sunday.
He told The Times that the ship’s mechanical failure was a “reportable marine casualty” under federal regulations that requires investigation.
Marine casualties include “an equipment failure, a grounding, a strike — anything like that,” Allen said.
He said there have been no problems with passengers or passenger conditions aboard the Legend. “The elevators work, the toilets are working, everything’s working,” he said.
He said the cruise ship has a certificate of compliance good for two years and is routinely inspected by the Coast Guard every six months.
“Because they carry U.S. passengers and embark from a U.S. port, we’re bound to inspect the vessel,” he said.
He cautioned that the investigation will focus on the Legend, not the other two Carnival ships.
“Each one of these casualties or equipment failures are independent. There has been nothing to link them together,” he said.“Granted, there has been a great number of incidents and ironically they have all happen to be Carnival vessels, but we treat them as independent incidents, unrelated.”
“Down the road, there is probably going to be a deeper investigation,” into all of the ships by the company and foreign countries or “flag states” they’re based out of, “to try to prevent these problems from happening again,” he said.
Some of the smaller foreign countries where the cruise ships are based authorize private classification societies to conduct such investigations, Allen said. “There’s no one entity that’s responsible for connecting all those dots” although the Coast Guard will likely follow up months from now “to see if there’s any connectivity,” between the problems on all three ships, he said.
“We have an obligation to be very proactive in eliminating these problems,” Allen said, adding that the latest string of problems aboard Carnival ships do not necessarily indicate deeper problems with the fleet or the industry.
“Cruise ships are heavily scrutinized” by regulators, Allen said. “Is Carnival unsafe? No. They’re just having a bad run right now.”