Monday, December 15, 2014

Oceania Insignia - A Fire, Three Lives Lost, Quick Action By Oceania...and An Ambulance Chaser

I have not yet commented on the fire last week aboard the Oceania Insignia which left two contractors and a crew member dead and two other injured, but all of passengers and other crew and staff safe.  Why?  Because I didn't really know enough to comment or give opinion that was anything more than repeating what you already know.


But then this morning, I saw an article by a rather infamous maritime attorney, Jim Walker, Esquire entitled:

Insignia Fire Reveals Cruise Industry Remains Unprepared for Disaster

I read the article...pretty much knowing it would be another one of his ambulance-chasing-like articles not so subtly fishing for clients to attempt a suit against Oceania...and found something rather curious that Mr. Walker just couldn't seem to bring himself to overtly admit:  Oceania has done a pretty outstanding job dealing with a serious fire which disabled its ship on a very small Caribbean island.

His complaints:  

  • Oceania Cruises didn't tell the passengers what the cause of the fire was.  Huh?  I don't even know if Oceania has that fully figured out and that is not really something any business is going to be putting as a top priority.
  • The St. Lucia fire department didn't seem to know what it was doing? Huh?  What does that have to do with Oceania Cruises and, more importantly, why did Walker not mention that the fire was quickly extinguished and that all of the passengers where safely disembarked without any reports of that being mishandled.
  • All of the passengers and crew were relocated to a warehouse with either limited food and water or no food.  Huh?  What was Oceania supposed to do?  Finding them shelter and a centralized place to address things in a few short hours on a small island with limited infrastructure is not good enough, I guess.  Quickly organizing charter flights home is not enough, either. In fact, Walker, why not also ignore the praised most all of the Oceania passengers have been giving?  Oh, that's right, you did!
  • Oceania gave a 100% refund and a 50% discount on a future cruise as "a calculated and inexpensive way to hook [the affected passengers] into another cruise"  Huh? So Oceania immediately providing cash compensation and significant non-cash compensation is a bad thing?  Further, if the passengers were so disgruntled with Oceania (and they are not), giving a discount on a future cruise would be worthless to them and they would complain...and there is not a single report of that happening!
  • Oceania hasn't given enough information about the crew member that died so it doesn't care. Huh?  How about that crew member has a family and they are entitled to know what is going on first and are entitled to privacy?  How about the vast majority of the passengers (if not all of them) never met that particular crew member and, while many have expressed sadness over his death, rightfully none of them have complained they needed or wanted more information about this soul.  
Further, the fact is that the passengers are, from the front end of the business, unquestionably Oceania's number one priority.  But another fact is that that crew member...and all of the crew members are, from the inside of the business, unquestionably Oceania's priority as well.  Getting passengers home, housing the crew, dealing with the death and injuries of those 5 people, figuring out what can be done to address the cause of the fire and the repairs...with thousands of more people waiting for their upcoming cruises (including a world cruise), regulatory requirements, securing repair facilities, and the list goes on.  

In the end each one of the above items are "top priority"...handled by different personnel. And Oceania doesn't need to tell the public (in fact, probably should not tell the public) what it is doing in relation to each of those items.  (I mean, is Oceania supposed to tell you how it will deal with the spoiled food, cleaning the carpets and furnishings, laundering the bedding, etc.?)  

The affected passengers (both current and future) and the affected crew are mostly interested in what is the "end game"; in other words, what is going to happen to them.  Is their world cruise cancelled, do they have jobs for the next month or two? etc.

It doesn't matter if there is a fire at a hotel, earthquake, power outage, sinkhole, terrorist, etc. someone is going to say, "The hotel should have done more."  And, to be sure, that same someone is going to say at another time, "The hotel should not be charging you so much under the guise of having fail-safe  plan for every contingency because it will probably never, or very rarely, be needed."

Here, Oceania Cruises has done a really good job of making sure their passengers were safely evacuated, were kept safe at all times, were expeditiously returned to Miami and were significantly compensated as a result of the shortened cruise. It seems to me that Oceania Cruises was extremely well prepared for this event.

I guess the question really is "Jim Walker, Esquire, why did you write your terribly inaccurate article?" If you read Walkers "About" page you will see that it is about publicity, publicity and publicity.  

Shameful.

If you want the accurate facts about a cruiseline or a cruise, contact Eric Goldring, of Goldring Travel, at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com