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Public Relations Case Study: Carnival’s Crisis Cruise

Updated on September 5, 2015

Briefly describe the accident and the actions of the Costa Concordia’s captain in regard to ethical behavior.

Consider the following questions as you construct your initial post:

  • What do you think of Carnival Cruise Line’s response to the crisis?
  • As the PR Director for Carnival, how would you have advised the Carnival CEO to respond in the wake of the Costa Concordia crisis?
  • What do you think of the settlements and discounts offered to the more than 3,000 passengers of the Costa Concordia?

Elaborate on and fully support your positions.

Carnival Cruise Lines was well known as the company that owned one of the world’s largest fleet of cruise ships under the leadership of CEO Micky Arison (Seitel, 2013, p.360). Carnival Cruise Lines’ image was altered on the night of January 13, 2012; when the Costa Concordia, under the command of Captain Francesco Schettino, struck a rock (Seitel, 2013, p.360). The rock tore a 160 foot hole into the port side of the Costa Concordia; at the time the ship was 1,600 feet away from a nearby island. However the order to abandon the ship was not given until an hour after the hole was made and 300 passengers were left on the ship to be evacuated later by helicopters (Seitel, 2013, p.360). The crisis ended with 32 people dead of the 4252 known to have been on board the ship.

It was later uncovered that Captain Francesco Schettino had been the first person off the ship; the Captain was charged with multiple manslaughter, failing to describe to maritime authorities the scope of the disaster, and with abandoning incapacitated passengers (Seitel, 2013, p.361). In wake of the crisis the CEO of the company remained silent, the only response to the crisis was given through Carnival Cruise Lines. Six days after the crisis the company sent out social media messages to the public saying that they would not be posting anything new for a while out of respect for those affected. The public was outraged; one social media user summed it all up nicely in saying:

—Sorry, Carnival, you don’t have a heart. Only bags of money. And stop calling Costa a “sister” line – it is a SUBSIDIARY of CARNIVAL. Carnival owns all of its TEN LINES! Even if Micky Arison stays away from the scene of his latest crime the world is watching and everyone will know who is behind this tragedy. The company is at fault. I wish Arison would stop trying to hide in order to avoid losing money on his other CARNIVAL owned cruise ships (Seitel, 2013, p.361).

Costa Concordia offered a reparations amount of $14,500 to all of the passengers as well as a 30% discount on all future cruises (Seitel, 2013, p.361). Three weeks after the crisis had ended and Carnival Cruise Lines were back to posting normally on social media.

Carnival Cruise Line’s response to the crisis was horribly prepared; the company and its CEO did nothing to keep their PR image, instead they offended the public with their lack of response. Once the company noticed the negativity coming from the public because of their silence, they did nothing but offer reparations and discounts to the survivors. If I was the PR Director for Carnival, I would have advised the Carnival CEO to respond in the wake of the Costa Concordia crisis. I would have advised the CEO to respond on television talk shows and on social media; the CEO should have been offering apologies for the crisis and his deepest sympathies to the families of those who lost friends and loved ones. Then the CEO should have talked about what the company would be doing to stop this situation from occurring again, adding more safety measures and better screening of candidates for command positions. I would have also advised the CEO to have the check with the reparations sent with a letter of sincere apology saying that the company understands that money cannot make up for what happened to them , but that the company hopes that the money will assist them in their recovery from the crisis. I would have also advised that additional reparations be made to any family that lost a family member in the crisis. The reparation amount offered to the passengers was a move in the right direction, but the 30% discount for future cruises was poorly done; instead of looking like a nice thing done for each of the passengers it looked too much like a marketing stunt. If the company really wanted to encourage those passengers to become customers again then they should have offered a free cruise ticket to each passenger for any cruise of their choice. If the passenger accepted the free ticket and used it then the passenger could have been issued an additional apology upon disembarking the cruise with a promise of a 30% discount for life.


Seitel, F. (2013). The Practice of Public Relations (12th ed.). Harlow: Prentice Hall.


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