Some aboard Carnival ship complain about ruined trip

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Florida Times-Union on August 18, 2006.

Hundreds of disgruntled passengers streamed off the cruise ship Celebration Thursday morning, returning to Jacksonville without ever setting foot in the Bahamas after the vessel's propeller scraped the ocean floor while the ship was trying to dock there.

Some of the 1,500 or so passengers were enraged at what they deemed shoddy treatment by Carnival Cruise Lines. Others were more sanguine, saying the trip had been enjoyable enough to make up for the inconvenience.

The overall mood of many outside the cruise terminal, though, was disappointment, with several passengers saying that a day in Key West and several days hanging out on deck weren't what they had signed up for.

"We could have driven to freaking Key West," said Alice Delellis, who instead drove to Jacksonville from Tampa. "We drove all the way here because it was going to Nassau, and then it didn't go there."

The five-day cruise was going well until Tuesday. The Celebration had left its home at the Jaxport Cruise Terminal near Dames Point on Saturday afternoon and stopped off in Key West on Monday. Then, about 11 a.m. Tuesday, as the ship was pulling into port in Nassau, the accident happened.

"We were in the bay at Nassau and you could tell the ship was too close to the shoreline," said William Williams of Pelham, N.C. "Anyone with any sense knew we were too close to the dadgum shoreline."

The scraping noise and vibrations were heard and felt throughout the ship, several passengers said. The Celebration then headed for open water, where passengers were first told it would try to dock again and then told they were heading back to Jacksonville.

To compensate for missing the day in the Bahamas, passengers were initially given $50 in shipboard credits -- later raised to $100 -- and have been offered a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

For some, that made up for the skipped stop. "It was no big deal," said Joe Caselli of Connecticut. "It bumped into something. Mistakes happen. You make the best of it."

But the offer didn't sit well with several passengers, who faulted the company and said they would demand more.

"It's their fault," said Anthony Baaks of Washington, D.C. "If it was an act of weather or an act of God, I could understand that. But this was their error."

On his last day on the ship, Danny Huett of Alabama wore a shirt on which he had written "I Was Shipwrecked in the Bahamas," and planned to spend the drive home calling Carnival, seeking greater recompense.

The company is conducting "a very through and detailed investigation" to see what caused the mishap, said company spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz. Divers checked the ship Thursday morning and deemed it safe to sail.

The ship left Thursday afternoon for its scheduled four-day cruise, although it will skip the stop it typically makes in Freeport on Fridays and have one port of call, in Nassau. Passengers on that cruise were given the option of canceling, and those who went received $100 in shipboard credit and 20 percent off of a future cruise.

The cruise scheduled for Monday has been canceled. After the ship returns to port, it will drop off passengers and then head to the Grand Bahamas shipyard, said de la Cruz, where it will be dry docked and repaired. It should be back in service in time for the next scheduled cruise Aug. 26.


This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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