No doubt we will continue to be regaled with tales of good and bad customer service experiences from the  passengers on the ill fated Carnival Cruise ship Splendor. For those of you who might not know, this 113,000 ton floating city lost power one day out of port last week and had to be towed back to shore over the next four days.  While stranded at sea, the passengers and crew were without air conditioning, hot water, hot food, or only a few working toilets.

Stories of “survival” are beginning to emerge describing just how bad the experience and service was. From the variety of emerging stories, you would hardly know these passengers were stranded on the same ship.  Many of these different experiences can be attributed to the multitude of people who see the world and every event through different personalities, backgrounds, and past experiences. 

Ironically a consistent theme emerged in the way the crew responded.  Initially confusion was reported, but then the crew pulled it together to make the best of a bad situation.  The majority of stories that have surfaced regarding the crew have been ones of praise.  According to a story from ABC news (, one passenger, an employee of a Denver news station, said the crew was attentive and responsive to the passengers round the clock. 

How did Carnival Cruise Lines seemingly escape this public relations disaster?  Maybe luck had something to do with it – fortunately it wasn’t a terribly slow news week.  But I’d like to think three other strategies contributed significantly Carnival turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade. 

First, Carnival Cruise Lines apparently hired people with a customer service mindset. It’s one thing to have employees who have the right customer service skills and another to hire customer service employees who do the right thing.  Second, raw talent never prepares you to respond to this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.  Carnival by all accounts trains their employees very well.  Finally, the cruise line responded with an unprecedented offer that seems to have won many customers over. The cruise line is offering full refunds plus a free cruise in the future and there are reports that there are passengers willing to take them up on the offer. It’s not often that a company can recover from such a horrible customer experience but Carnival seems to have pulled it off.