MIAMI, Fla. - The top cruise line executives from around the world are gathering in south Florida this week in an effort to improve the industry. This, after what some passengers would consider a disastrous sting of events at sea.
Many of the executives meeting at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference say there is much room for improvement both in public perception and in practice.
In January of last year, the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy. Last month, the Carnival Triumph was crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for days after an engine fire. Closer to home, passengers aboard an April 2012 cruise on the Bahamas Celebration out of the Port of Palm Beach had complaints of their own.
Celebration passenger Mallory Barnett told NewsChannel 5 that she and her friends awoke to a gurgling noise and saw brown liquid spewing from the plumbing system. "The shower drains were overflowing and so was the sink and they were full of sewage water," she said.
The pictures and the people aboard the ships tell the stories. It has been much more than just 'smooth sailing' for some in the cruise line industry. In the case of the Triumph, there were public apologies from the top.
"That's what I'm going to do," said Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines on February 15. That was the night that the disabled ship made it to port in Mobile, Alabama. "I'm going ot go on board and apologize to the guests," he said.
Now, Cahill and others are vowing to improve the industry standards when it comes to passenger safety and comfort.
As part of an executive panel at the Miami Beach Conference Center on Tuesday, Cahill said it is his top priority to keep the scenario that unfolded on the Triumph from happening again.
Cahill said he aims to focus on three particular areas: prevention and detection of fires on board, engine room back-up power supplies, and the wider use of emergency generators. The review of what went wrong on the ship could go on for months.
"One of the secrets of success is saying 'I was wrong, I blew it, I'm sorry and I'm going to do better'," said Jack Stevens, who attended the conference and works for the Port of St. Martin.
Some passengers are hoping that calmer days are ahead for the multi-billion dollar industry.
"You're taking a risk, but you know when you go on vacation you're taking a risk," said Irina Pirvin, who is a frequent cruise passenger from Connecticut.
In these times of trouble, the cruise lines did often make concessions to passengers in the form of refunds, reimbursements for damages, or new cruises. Many of those passengers said they would, in fact, cruise again; which is good news for this industry that has strong roots in south Florida.