The Carnival Triumph is relaunching today out of Galveston, Texas. In February an engine fire knocked out the ship's power. No one was injured, but passengers complained of food shortages and a lack of working toilets.
The Triumph situation was everywhere, from CNN to Saturday Night Live. 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 this:
But now that we're four months removed, it's worth asking: Is the "Triumph" name forever besmirched?
Lin Humphrey teaches marketing at Texas Tech and used to work at Carnival. If it were up to him, he'd send the Triumph into a sort of witness protection program for ships.
"Completely overhaul the vessel," reconfigure the insides, and "rename the ship," he says. "Kind of hit the reset button."
But Bruce Turkel, branding expert in Miami, suggests a lighter touch. "I think that's absolutely overkill specifically for the Triumph," he says, "because let's face it, ship happens." Turkel says 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," Turkel says.
But talking about safety has been part of the Carnival strategy. The company put more than $100 million into the Triumph. Carnival also set up an independent safety review board.
"That's the first message I want to get out," says Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. And his second corporate message: Fun. Carnival's bringing in comedian George Lopez and renowned DJ Irie for passengers on this re-maiden voyage.
“We wanted to show (passengers) how much we appreciated them standing by us in kind of a tough time,” says Cahill. “Plus we’re proud to be back.”
As for the question of the ship's sullied moniker, Carnival is sticking by the Triumph -- and so far so good. There are at least 3,300 people who aren't scared off by the name. The ship is booked solid for the re-launch today.