Cruise fears don’t triumph on Carnival Breeze

ABOARD THE CARNIVAL BREEZE – When a friend heard I was going on a Carnival Breeze cruise, one of the first questions she asked was, “Aren’t you afraid?”

Launched in June 2012, the Carnival Breeze is the third in the line's popular Dream class.

Launched in June 2012, the Carnival Breeze is the third in the line’s popular Dream class.

Afraid of what?

I had seen the news about the Carnival Triumph problems in February when a fire damaged the ship’s water and plumbing systems. None of the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew was injured and the Triumph was towed to Mobile.

I have been an avid cruiser since my first time aboard the old Mississippi Queen back in 1976. I’ve never met a ship I didn’t like. It is one of my favorite ways of traveling, whether on a big ocean liner or a small riverboat.

So, no, the Triumph incident did not scare me in the least. I am far more concerned about driving the icy hills of my Southern Indiana home to get to the Indianapolis airport for a flight to Miami to board the Breeze. Sure enough, we had ice and snow when I left Indiana.

But my friend’s comment did make me wonder what other people might think. To find out, I asked some passengers when my daughter Kelly and I boarded the Breeze for our six-night cruise from Miami to Grand Turk, Jamaica and Nassau.

Granted, my small survey was certainly not scientific and the people I asked were already on board a cruise ship. The responses, however, were unanimously in favor of cruising as a fun and safe way to vacation.

“Things happen. Machines break down. My car has broken down at the least convenient times, leaving me stranded. That was before cell phones so it wasn’t fun,” says Sam Miller of Tampa. “But from what I’ve heard, the Carnival people did the best they could in a bad situation.”

That is true. Within hours of the Triumph fire, the Carnival Elation cruise ship arrived to transfer food and supplies to its crippled sister ship. The Carnival Legend brought even more food and supplies for Triumph’s passengers and crew. Still a third ship, the Carnival Conquest, delivered even more.

Carnival officials made a decision to tow the Triumph to Mobile, Alabama, instead of to the equally distant port of Progreso, Mexico. That was wise because about 900 Triumph passengers didn’t have passports, which could have caused nightmare delays with Mexican and US immigration and customs authorities. (A word to the wise – get a passport. Everyone should have a passport.)

Having to arrange flights from Mexico for all the Triumph passengers and crew also would have been difficult. Far easier to get transportation from the American port of Mobile.

Even while I was watching the news of the Triumph when at home, I couldn’t believe that anyone would question why Carnival officials didn’t just transfer passengers from the stalled Triumph to another Carnival ship. In the middle of the ocean.

Obviously, the people who were suggesting this transfer had never been on a cruise ship. Now that would scare me – to have to be moved from one ship to another on turbulent seas. No way.

Triumph passengers were undeniably uncomfortable. But they were not in danger. I can’t imagine the horrific logistics of trying to move thousands of passengers from one huge ship to another. And what about their possessions? Would all those suitcases and other passenger paraphernalia have been moved as well? Or would that have been another trumped-up reason for a later lawsuit? That my irreplaceable family heirlooms were left behind on the ship when I was moved?

I’ve seen the great planning that goes into the process of disembarkation at the end of a cruise. Even that can sometimes get hectic. Imagine the chaos and dangers an at-sea transfer could have presented. Carnival’s decision to keep passengers onboard was wise and unquestionable to me.

Jake Matthews tests his ping-pong skills aboard the Carnival Breeze.

Jake Matthews tests his ping-pong skills aboard the Carnival Breeze.

I also couldn’t fathom why armchair experts were espousing that Carnival had deliberately let the Triumph sail when officials knew it was not seaworthy. Come on. No cruise line wants the bad publicity that Carnival got while the Triumph was slowly being towed to port. According to the US Coast Guard, the Carnival Triumph was inspected as recently as November 2012.

“Safety and security are our No. 1 priority,” says Breeze cruise director Butch Begovich in a welcome aboard briefing.

It irks me when I am standing in one of the mandatory lifeboat drills on a cruise and a few people are joking and playing around. Cruise officials certainly take those drills seriously and passengers should, too.

For Marshall Matthews of Orlando, this is his 10th cruise and the fourth since he got married and has children. “I’m not concerned at all,” he says. “I wouldn’t bring my family on a cruise if I thought it was dangerous.”

Marshall’s 4-year-old son Jake has already found some favorite Breeze activities. “Swimming and eating hot dogs,” Jake says, playing ping-pong with his Dad on the upper deck. (The boy has a surprisingly strong backhand serve.) “And the candy store.”

Joe Perticome of Indianapolis is ready for fun and sun aboard the Carnival Breeze.

Joe Perticome of Indianapolis is ready for fun and sun aboard the Carnival Breeze.

One of my favorite replies came from a fellow Hoosier. Playing foosball in the RedFrog Pub aboard the Breeze, Joe Perticome says he would have readily switched places with some of the most vocal Triumph passengers who complained to the never-ending media.

“I would have viewed it as an adventure,” the Indianapolis man says. “I’m a totally positive person and it could have been one of the great adventures of my life. I would have made the best of it.”

Plus, Joe adds with a grin, “I could have used the free cruise they gave the passengers.”

Carnival Cruise Lines gave each passenger a complete refund for the cruise fare and travel expenses and wiped out shipboard accounts, plus gave a free future cruise credit and an additional $500 per person. “I would have been back on a Carnival cruise the first chance I got,” Joe says.

My kind of person.

Now that I’ve got this Triumph question out of the way, I’m looking forward to some fantastic fun on the beautiful Breeze. New restaurants to try. Thrill Theater to experience. Shipboard shows. Lovely comfy cabin. Ship shops. A singing maitre-d’. Cloud 9 Spa. Waterworks. Bob Marley shore excursion.

So much fun. Hope you’ll come along for the trip. Cruises are always a treat and I can already tell that I’m going to love the new Carnival Breeze.

Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch

 

About Jackie

Jackie Sheckler Finch fell in love with cruising 35 years ago when she rode the magnificent Mississippi Queen riverboat in its inaugural 1976 voyage. A newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans. Read more...

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