An arrest warrant was issued for MS Carnival Triumph late Friday after a judge ordered she be held because of a $10 million lawsuit which has been filed by the family of a German tourist who died aboard the Costa Concordia in January. Responding to media inquiries, US Magistrate Judge John Froeschner said, “The court finds that the conditions for an attachment of defendants’ joint and collective property within this district, mainly the MS Carnival Triumph, appear to exist upon an admiralty and maritime claim.” The seizure of the Carnival Triumph is yet another blow for Carnival Corporation and the cruise industry which seems to be having a year full of bad luck.
The legal situation is confusing and sorting it out takes a well-trained legal mind—so I won’t even try. Ultimately, the ship was able to depart on her voyage at 5:45pm EST, but not before some fretful moments for Carnival, the passengers and their travel agents. But suffice it to say that Carnival’s woes still continue both for the company and for its travel agent partners.
Carnival has been through the public relations ringer this year and it did not stop this morning. This morning, when questioned about the seizure, Carnival’s popular Cruise Director, John Heald denied the reports on his well-trafficked facebook page. Later, after media outlets reported the seizure, Heald posted an internal memo stating that guests who canceled would forfeit any payments. The posting was quickly taken down; but not before the 823,120 members of Cruise Critic discussed the incident for 36 (and counting) pages on their forum. As of this writing, Carnival has yet to address this with their travel agent partners.
Understandably, guests sailing on the Triumph were concerned. Galveston is a huge drive market and the uncertainty of the sailing was causing much concern that was voiced over Twitter and other social networks. And while this incident seems to have worked out well (at least for the passengers booked on this sailing), it does beg the question, can this happen again? It would seem that if Federal Judges are inclined to seize ships to protect potential awards in lawsuits, most of the ships afloat might indeed be susceptible to a similar action. This was one lawsuit on behalf of one passenger aboard the Concordia. And, if it happens again, will it have the same positive result?
This column was never intended to be a plug for travel insurance, but it seems that we have just witnessed another incident that was incomprehensible before this weekend. We always tell clients to expect the unexpected. Over the past few years we have seen war, disease, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, an now $400 million dollar ships seized due to a lawsuit. Use this incident as an example to your clients as to the need for travel insurance almost any time they travel.
While this is a highly unusual happening, as an industry, we will take it in stride. What sets us apart from the online options is our ability to put a person into the equation to solve, mediate, or just talk about the issue. Oddly enough, we tend to thrive under pressure and this is just one more arrow to put in our quiver. Years ago, we were tagged as obsolete and nearly extinct. The way I see it, we are more valuable than ever!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This Editorial Musings was published on Saturday.