Since an engine-room fire left the Carnival Triumph powerless in the Gulf of Mexico four days ago, Carnival Cruise Lines officials have been faced with a barrage of questions about the ship and their strategy to safely return passengers to shore.
Below is a list of questions and answers.
Q: Why did Carnival decide to use the ship when it recently had other mechanical problems, including an electrical problem with the ship's alternator on a previous voyage?
A: Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said repairs on the ship were completed successfully on Feb. 2 and that there was no connection between the alternator's problems and Sunday's engine fire. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.
Q: Why did Carnival decide to tow the ship back to Mobile, Ala., instead of to Progreso, Mexico, which was the original plan?
A: In a statement issued earlier this week, Carnival said the original plan was to tow the ship to Progreso because it was the closest port to the ship's location. But by the time tugboats arrived at the ship Monday evening, it had drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents, putting the ship nearly equidistant to Mobile.
Carnival officials decided to continue north with the currents, instead of trying to tow the ship against them, the statement said. Even if the ship had continued toward Progreso, it would not have arrived until Thursday, which is when it was arriving in Mobile.
Disembarking the ship in Mobile is also simpler for the 900 guests onboard travelling without passports, the statement said.
Gulliksen said costs were not a factor in the decisions made about where to take the ship.
Q: Why is Carnival putting cruise ship passengers on buses to Texas and Louisiana when they arrive in Mobile? Why not put them up in hotel rooms in the city and let them rest overnight? Why not fly them out of Mobile instead of busing them?
A: Carnival Vice-President Terry Thornton told a news conference Thursday that the New Orleans airport was better suited than Mobile to handle the large number of charter flights that will be required on Friday. He didn't go into details on the numbers, but the company previously said it needed 100 buses to take people to New Orleans from Mobile.
"It was not logistically possible for us to do the air charter service from Mobile," Thornton said.
He did not elaborate and Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva in Miami could not immediately provide additional details.
Q: Passengers' relatives have complained that Carnival has not been keeping them adequately informed. Why?
A: Gulliksen said the company has tried to keep families updated and established a toll-free number for friends and relatives.
Thornton said Carnival officials have provided various telephone helplines for passengers' relatives. He said officials at the company's Miami office had fielded more than 7,000 calls from family and friends.
Thornton added that 200 Carnival employees are in Mobile waiting to assist the relatives and that some will board the ship to assist after it docks.
Q: Why has Carnival not done more to explain decisions that so many have questioned?
A: Several crisis-management executives who spoke to The Associated Press said Carnival is being deliberately low-key because there is no ongoing safety threat to its other cruise ships — and because past experience has shown that these incidents don't seem to stop people from taking cruises.
"I think their PR is low-key because it's appropriate, it's worked in the past and incidents like this have not affected their business," said Bruce Rubin, a public relations executive in Miami. "''I think it could cause some short-term bottom line issues because they are going to take the ship out of service. But long term, I really don't think so."
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