SeaLetter Cruise Survey Results Cruise Survey

How Did Carnival Handle the Ecstasy Fire?
SeaLetter Magazine Cruise Survey Results

We asked your opinion on the way Carnival Cruise Lines handled the July 1998 fire on board the Ecstasy. Following are the results and your comments which we have forwarded to Carnival Cruise Lines.

When asked "How did Carnival handle the incident of the Ecstasy Fire?" over 79% of our readers responded with "Carnival should be commended for their response to the Press, their care of the passengers on board, and their timely refund and free cruise offer."

Some of your comments appear below. We regret that we cannot publish all of them, and for the protection of our readers, names are omitted.

Being in the travel industry myself, I think Carnival did a good job reacting to an unfortunate mishap.


I was not personally on board the ECSTASY that particular cruise, but have sailed her 3 times in recent history. I believe Carnival Cruise Lines and the cruise industry as a whole was unfairly slammed by the media, and when the media realized that this was a "non-story" they dropped it, never apologizing for their unfair treatment of this horribly unevenly reported story (case in point NBC Nightly News and DATELINE). Carnival has been very quick to "make good" the misfortune placed in the laps of the 2400+ passengers who lost their vacations, and more than cooperative in rebooking those passengers that had their vacations disrupted. I even have friends that were booked on sailings that have been cancelled to affect repairs to ECSTASY and have rebooked on the SAME ship later this year, a testament to their belief that cruising is the safest vacation in the world.


My one concern was the crew's ability to be understood in English, as many passengers were English-speaking. Delos Johnson's article (in August Sealetter) did mention some communication problems between the passengers and crew. So that problem should definitely be addressed by stricter requirements to speak good, solid, fundamental English-- not just a phrase here and there, but good basic English! I have encountered in the past some crew who only spoke a few words of English!


First comment has to be about putting the fire out. If the Ecstasy was indeed 100 miles off the coast, could they have doused the flames on their own? I am skeptical about this, and that brings up the subject of spraying water back onto a ship. At this time, I am not convinced that any of the ships are capable of pumping the amounts of water back on the ship that the 3 tugboats did. I understand that the ship can give the hoses to their own life boats, but have they really been trained for this type of accident?

Fire aside, the ship came through with some scars - enough to keep in in dry dock 45 days - which must mean structural damage of some sort was sustained. Carnival only reported smoke damage at first, but since the ship had not gone into dry dock when those statements were made, Carnival tried to minimalize the actual damage. But think about it - what company would make "worst guess' estimates at time of a crisis? They had a job, in a way, to minimalize the damage and to instill confidence in all the thousands of cruisers representing the entire market that cruises are a very safe form of vacation.

While I am concerned about the fire safety issue, I don't think Carnival could have done anything else under the circumstances. If the people who were on the cruise were upset with the way they were treated, we'd be hearing about it.


Being one of the passengers that had their cruise cancelled, I was able to get a longer cruise on a different ship easily. My only complaint with the way they handled the rebooking is that in one week, the price of the same cruise went up almost $500.00! We tentatively booked a cruise the day after the fire to make sure we had a cruise for our anniversary and until our cruise was actually cancelled a week later, we couldn't change ships and the prices were raised during that time.

We have no fear of cruising at all and the fire was very unfortunate, but it could happen on any ship. Hats off to Carnival for their quick response. We will see you in September!


I feel Carnival did an excellent job of handling the fire and the security of it's passengers and crew. I feel the line went beyond it's call of duty, especially since this was a situation they could not have prevented. Stuff happens right?


I have sailed Carnival before & truly believe there was never maliciousness involved in this incident. I'm sure 1st time cruisers were more upset than experienced cruisers. After reading the Sealetter article by a passenger aboard the Ecstasy, it seems they may have been slightly disorganized since they were never in this actual situation before. Passengers should have been offered drinks & food earlier. What else could Carnival do but make sure passengers were safe, offer them hotel accommodations, food, a flight back home & a free cruise? I'm sure some people will try & take advantage of the situation & sue Carnival...but it was an accident. I believe the media reports sensationalized it since it is not a common occurrence!


I have cruised 10 times. On EVERY ship I have been concerned that many crew members know zero English. I feel that it is perfectly fine for cruise lines to hire foreign people to work on the ships BUT I feel each employee should know enough English to help in emergency situations. The majority of cruisers speak English. I saw a report on a news show that showed a man asking several staff members "if there were a fire on this ship where would I go" and the staff members had no clue what the man was talking about. It should be a requirement. I think Carnival handled their situation very well, otherwise there would have been many injured people.


Everyone should know by now that the press can blow anything out of proportion. I'm sure there were a few people who had REALLY BAD experiences throughout this ordeal, but with that many people on board (crew and passengers), there's bound to be someone. I know I would have been terribly disappointed, but not to the point of suing them. And yes, when something happens that is greatly unexpected, confusion will occur. Let's hope everyone learns from the problems that did occur. I will definitely cruise Carnival again!


Stuff Happens. Like your editorial, people have to learn to lighten up, roll with the punches, and MAKE a good experience even out of problems. You can always have fun stories to tell even after the worst of trips if you've got the right attitude.


The fire was a serious problem, and I'm sure concern from the passengers was warranted. No one ever thinks that they received all of the information soon enough or fast enough. At the time I'm sure that the captain felt he was doing the proper things. Once everything was under control and the port authorities felt the ship was safe to return to port, it was allowed to do so. For Carnival to refund and give those effected a free cruise is more than fare, but also I believe that it is the least they can do. Most cruises are not booked at the last minute, and many vacations were ruined. In this way, if possible, those affected will be able to book another cruise, and yet have their initial investment returned. I think that in this situation, Carnival by far exceeded what needed to be done. I only hope that if something like this were to happen to us that our cruise line would do something as similar.


The fact that Carnival is willing to do so much for their passengers is commendable. For the inconvenience of missing out on a week long cruise, they are being compensated in a manner consistent with being "bumped" on an airline. I'd be disappointed, but realistic in what Carnival could reasonably do for its passengers. Accidents happen, and this was a relatively new ship.


My husband and I were scheduled to go on the Ecstasy on Aug 3 and of course we were cancelled. Carnival has been very good to us. We are rescheduled on the Tropicale this coming Saturday (Aug 15). We are hoping that even though this is Carnival's oldest and smallest trip we will still have a great time. We did our own air fare and had to pay penalties for changing our flights, but Carnival is giving us shipboard credit and we are pleased with Carnival's willingness to help passengers readjust their vacations.

The media has been very unfair to Carnival and I feel they did their level best for all concerned.


I think the cruise line did the best they could under the circumstances. It is very hard to please everyone.It was a bad situation for everyone no one likes to be interrupted on there vacation.


I'm not a Carnival fan, but have read comments in the web that the crew handled the situation very well, working hard (after the fire was off) for making the incident less painful for the passengers. It's easy to see that Carnival has a genuine interest in their passengers, and want them (as well as the rest of the people) to have a good image of the line. I think their response to this accident was very good, and maybe even an example to follow. No?


Everyone should have been offered a 7-day cruise, not the "equal" of what they got. With the prospects of rescheduling, etc., I feel it's the least that Carnival can do in this situation. As one who was recently bumped from an RCCL cruise, the cruise line must offer something of greater value, not equal. It's only fair!!


Actually, I have mixed feelings on this one! I think Carnival could have done more in terms of compensating their clients. After waiting months for your cruise day to arrive, you're excited and eager! What a disappointment to those passengers it must have been.

On the other hand, Carnival has my sympathies for having to put up with all the press over-reacting to something that seemed to be under control. The press tries to sensationalize everything and acts more and more like sleaze tabloids!

Carnival's first priority was to make sure the passengers were safe, get the fire under control and THEN respond to inquiries from the press. I think they did do this. I'm sure it must have seemed like an eternity to the passengers but, all in all, I think they did what they needed to do.


I believe CCL did the right thing and responded to the situation quickly and honestly. It was a rare and unfortunate incident that was totally blown out of proportion by the press.


Carnival not only offered a full refund yet then offered the free cruise all very quickly without hesitation. Many of us who cruise would have loved a deal like that! I understand how it could have frightened people who have never cruised before yet the American Airline out of San Juan that had the engine fire the week before would have scared me much much more! Did they get a refund and a free flight? Carnival did a great job!


First of all, I was really irritated by the way the press handled the story. They seemed to try very hard to make it sound far worse then it was (example: "Agony on the Ecstasy"). They also seemed to search out the most unhappy people they could find and when they found someone with something favorable to say, they tried to add words to their story (an example is the way the Today show handled the story - Matt & Katie seemed disappointed that some people didn't agree with their negative story line). As for Carnival, I thought they handled it very well. No passengers were harmed. No one died. They were given a free cruise. They were provided transportation and accommodations. I feel that Carnival did all they could to help their passengers. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to sail with them. They did a good job during an unfortunate situation. Hat's off to Carnival!


After reading your story about the actual events of the fire from someone who was on board, I do believe Carnival acted as adequately as they could under the circumstances. When situations happen, on board, or at home, we react as best we can. After things have settle we look back and realize things could of been handled differently.

It appears Carnival took care of their passengers, on board, as well as arranging lodging and travel once the cruise was cancelled. Sure there was some discomfort for the passengers. Long lineups for food, and waiting for information are common in situations like this.

Carnival has adequately compensated these passengers by giving them a total refund and a free cruise.

It is unfortunate that these passengers had to return home disappointed however these things happen.

I would not hesitate to sail on Carnival again, as I have three cruises with them under my belt. This incident does not concern me at all.


I think it was very unfortunate what happened with the fire. It seems to me that sometimes these things happen and that Carnival tried their best to make it good for the passengers. They certainly didn't want this to happen and they lost money over it and the crew certainly lost a lot of money with the ship not running.


It was interesting to watch the press "Look" for a story.


Having the experience of cruising on 2 Carnival Cruises, and the 3rd booked for November, I am a little skeptical regarding my safety. I do feel that Carnival handled the situation adequately, but, no matter how hard I try, I can't understand WHY this happened in the first place. Where were all the crew members from that area? On such a large ship, I would think SOMEONE on staff was responsible for that area, and the fire should have never occurred in the first place.


The insight and charity of our SeaLetter Readers always amazes us. Thanks for taking the time to respond to our survey questions!


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