Thursday was a big day for one of the largest publicly traded companies in South Florida.
Miami-based Carnival Corporation sent back to sea one of its more storied vessels: The Carnival Triumph.
In February an engine fire knocked out the Triumph’s power. No one was injured, but passengers complained of food shortages and a lack of working toilets.
Reports of improvised latrines (i.e. buckets and bags) helped earn Triumph the nickname “poop cruise” and made it an easy target for bits like Martin Short going on the Late Show with David Letterman and pretending to be Carnival’s “singing and dancing spokesperson:”
Now that we’re four months removed from the toilet humor, it’s worth asking: Is the Triumph name forever besmirched?
Lin Humphrey is a doctoral candidate at Texas Tech University. He also teaches a marketing class there.
Humphrey used to work at Carnival and has fond memories of the Triumph. But if it were up to him, he said the Triumph should be put into some sort of witness protection program for ships.
“Completely overhaul the vessel,” said Humphrey, give it a new name and send the ship formerly known as Triumph to one of Carnival Corporation’s other brands, maybe P&O Australia. “Kind of hit the reset button.”
“I think that’s absolutely overkill,” said Bruce Turkell, a Miami-based branding expert, “because let’s face it, 'ship' happens.”
Turkel thinks cruise passengers are forgiving and will even forget if you let them.
“Well, the question becomes how much are you going to do to remind people what happened as you tell them what’s not going to happen in the future.”
But talking about safety has been part of the Carnival strategy. The company put $115 million into the Triumph for upgrades. Carnival also set up an independent safety review board.
“That’s the first message I want to get out,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.
Cahill’s second corporate message: Fun.
Carnival’s bringing in comedian George Lopez and renowned DJ Irie for passengers on this re-maiden voyage. (Both Irie and Lopez have a standing relationship with Carnival though their Triumph appearance is extraordinary.)
“We wanted to show (passengers) how much we appreciated them standing by us in kind of a tough time,” said Cahill. “Plus we’re proud to be back.”
Carnival is standing by the Triumph name, and so far so good. The ship is booked solid for the re-launch.
When asked whether he was worried the ship’s name had been sullied -- whether he was concerned people will always have scatological associations with ‘Triumph' -- Cahill laughed.
“If I was, I would have changed the name of the ship.”