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Carnival’s Lackadaisical Response to Coronavirus: “Nothing’s perfect, OK?”

CA CORONAVIRUS LAWYERSCarnival cruise line’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic left many seriously ill, and some dead. On April 16, 2020, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Carnival executives had crucial information about the coronavirus onboard its ships, but chose to sail anyways. Not only did Carnival proceed with cruise voyages, they continued with business as usual. On Carnival’s Grand Princess, concerts, bridge games, line-dancing classes, and theater shows continued, even when crew members began wearing gloves and installing additional hand sanitizing stations. When the Grand Princess finally announced a quarantine on March 5, 2020, passengers were allowed to crowd the buffet and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in elevators before eventually going to their rooms.

Carnival’s response aboard the Grand Princess was not it’s only failing in recent months and has highlighted its concerning history in the cruise industry. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Carnival has failed 3% of CDC ship health inspections since 2016, whereas rivals such as Royal Caribbean fail only 1% of inspections. Widely publicized disasters, such as the 2012 crash of Carnival’s Costa Concordia, highlighted significant flaws in the company’s leadership. As recent as 2019, Carnival was criminally prosecuted for dumping waste at sea, despite being ordered not to do so and fined for such conduct in 2017.

Despite a public commitment to do better in 2020, Carnival’s leadership failed its customers in protecting them against COVID-19. Bloomberg Businessweek describes a shocking timeline of events on Carnival’s Diamond Princess:

  • On February 1, 2020, the Diamond Princess was notified that a passenger was being treated for COVID-19 in Hong Kong.
  • On February 2, 2020, Carnival’s Chief Medical Officer, notified Hong Kong authorities of the infected passenger but took no action aboard the Diamond Princess.
  • On February 3, 2020, approximately 43 hours after receiving word of the infected passenger, Carnival notified passengers of their potential exposure to COVID-19, yet continued guest activities and amenities such as mahjong tournaments, trivia contests, and bars.

There appears to be a theme to Carnival’s conduct in 2020: place blame, not accept it. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Carnival executives say they did their best, and are proud of how they served their customers. Carnival’s CEO, Arnold Donald, defended Carnival’s response stating, “Nothing’s perfect, OK?” Carnival blames its delayed response on the failure worldwide to grasp the seriousness of the virus, despite numerous accounts of early opportunities in January 2020 to cancel cruises and protect thousands. Carnival’s attempt to minimize the ease with which disease spreads on cruise ships was also dismissed by CDC officials.

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