Agents Foresee No Impact From Fire


MIAMI -- Agents reacting to the Ecstasy fire said they felt Carnival had handled the incident well and did not expect an impact on cruise bookings.

But Marilyn Wexler, leisure manager for Direct Travel in Boston, said she expects clients to ask more questions about how ships handle fire emergencies. "I don't think it's going to stop most people. ... You can be sleeping in your house and fire and lightning can strike," Wexler said. "It's not a positive news story, but I don't think it will have an impact."

Jay Caulk, group manager for Peter Berlin Travel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he feels that the Coast Guard might have been slow to respond but that the fire won't leave any "scars or black marks" on the industry. "Look what happened with 'Titanic.' The movie came out and bookings went [through the roof]," Caulk said. "This is a very isolated, unfortunate but a [manageable] incident."

Jim Godsman, president of Cruise Lines International Association, the industry marketing group, said the cruise industry has an "outstanding" record in terms of safety, and this incident is no exception. "The observations made about how the ship's crew responded quickly ... and resolved the problem says a lot about professionalism and safety," Godsman said. "We will not have impact on bookings. This will be viewed as an incident. Accidents do happen in any business, the question becomes how quickly do you respond to them and resolve them."

Days before the Ecstasy incident, coincidentally, Kathryn Sudeikis, ASTA director of Area 8, asked Carnival president Bob Dickinson about the industry's fire preparedness efforts. The exchange came at the ASTA South Florida Chapter meeting when Sudeikis asked Dickinson to respond to a report that had aired on NBC that looked at the issue of cruise ship fire safety. At the time, Dickinson declined to comment, saying to do so "would give the story legs."

Read the official Carnival Corp. press release.


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