While the torrid pace of cruise line expansion continues, the cruise industry as a whole has endured some rather serious bumps and bruises lately, with a spate of collisions, groundings and fires which could result in potential travelers casting a wary eye when making vacation plans. The latest in the line of mishaps has struck Carnival Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corp
., the world's biggest cruise operator. Last Sunday (September 19) a fire broke out in the engine room
of Tropicale -- one of 45 cruise ships operated by Carnival Corp. -- causing the ship to lose propulsion and leaving it precariously close to an on-rushing tropical storm. At the time of the incident, the vessel was about 100 miles southwest of Tampa, Fla., in the Gulf of Mexico, Carnival said. Engineeers were able to repair the starboard engine by Sept. 20 and the ship was moved to dodge Tropical Storm Harvey
, which was threatening Florida's western coast.. "It's now making eight knots to the southwest and will get behind the storm. The Tropicale will
let the storm pass and then head to Tampa," a Carnival spokesman said at the time.
None of the 1,097 passengers or the 600 crew was hurt in the fire, though a 40-year-old man with a history of cardiac illness was airlifted to a Tampa hospital by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after complaining of chest pains, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.
The cause of the fire aboard, at press time, had not been determined. The fire was contained in the engine room, and all other ships functions were working, Carnival said. Carnival will provide full refunds to passengers on the Tropicale's four-day cruise, and will offer a free future three- or four-day cruise as well.
To passengers booked on a subsequent five-day cruise on the Tropicale, which had been scheduled to start Sept. 20, Carnival said it will offer a full refund and a 50 percent discount on future cruises three to five days in length.
The company could not yet estimate the financial impact of granting the refunds and discounts, a spokesman said.