Potential impact to Carnival, cruise industry after Triumph debacle

Cheers of joy and relief from the passengers of the Carnival Triumph as it pulled into Mobile, Alabama Thursday night.

It was the end of the harrowing five-day ordeal without power, plumbing and limited food following a fire in the engine room.

Only time will tell the impact on the Carnival cruise company, but local travel agencies are beginning to feel it.

“We did have one client call in and cancel a Carnival trip that they had planned later for this year,” said Courtney Bailey, customer relations director for Travel Time and Bailey Travel.

Bailey stresses that cruising is one the safest ways to travel, more than 20 million people took cruises in 2011.

“I don’t foresee this hitting the cruising industry really hard,” she said. “Carnival is going to take a bad rap for a while for this. I definitely think they’re going to take a thorough analysis of the situation that happened and I foresee if taking months for them to investigate so that this never happens again.”

Every cruise passenger signs a lengthy ticket contract. A clause in the contract limits the cruise lines liability if something goes wrong aboard the ship. But FOX43’s legal analyst Steven Breit said these passengers still have a shot in court, if they chose to go that route.

“At best, what would have to be shown, is that Carnival Cruise acted with gross negligence or malice in how they not only handled the situation, but how the situation occurred,” he said.

Breit said the laws also differ depending on where the ship was located when the incident happened and where it’s registered.

For now, Carnival is offering passengers a full refund, plus $500, expenses to get home and credit for a future cruise.