It’s entirely likely that more people know more details about the plumbing situation on the Carnival Triumph than about the asteroid that whizzed startling close to Earth last week and the meteorite that didn’t miss.
That’s a tribute to the power of the television live shot, social media and the our collective inability to turn away from a tale of sewage disaster.
But knowledge of the Triumph’s immediate storyline doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting complete or useful information about the actual conditions aboard the ship or what it should mean to travelers considering a future cruise. Much more will be coming out about the Carnival situation in the coming weeks, but here are some predictions:
1. We will learn that the cruise industry, because of its international base of operations, is difficult to regulate in terms of compliance with safety and maintenance standards. Enforcement jurisdiction, even when not literally questionable, is often practically impossible to determine. The industry does have some self-oversight and the pressure of public relations to help keep it in line.
2) Fires and other types of emergencies are not that uncommon aboard ships (although news coverage to last week’s extent is).
3) Cruise and other vacation industries sell fantasies of perfect trips, with pictures of blues skies, smiling staff and beautiful people. But it doesn’t always turn out that way — nor should we expect it to, at least not any more than we expect buying a new car to turn our morning commute into a scenic wonderland of curving mountain roads. But we should expect reasonable precautions have been taken – just like with a new car.
4) We will learn that different travelers will have different takes on how bad the situation was. They’ll likely all agree that it was hot, uncomfortable, unhygienic as well as scary during the engine fire itself. But there are already diametrically opposed takes coming out on the actual depth of the crisis. One person’s “hell on earth” is another’s inconveniently spoiled vacation, at least according to interviews with passengers so far.
These predictions are almost laugably safe ones. They’re the usual topics of analysis pieces that pop up after a cruise ship crisis.
Somewhere in the coming weeks we’ll be able to start sussing out what real lessons the Carnival Triumph’s story has to offer: Was it a freak accident? A problem with one company? An systemic industry flaw? How could it have been handled better? And more practically, Should you be worried about booking a cruise vacation?
As more facts come out, we’ll get to what answers there are. Meanwhile, a meteorite hit the planet. And an asteroid dodged it. Both are more spectacular news.