Carnival's New Debacle: Cruise Ship 'Dream' Stuck in Port

Passengers wave from the stranded Carnival Splendor 2010
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Passengers wave from the stranded Carnival Splendor 2010

A Carnival Cruise Lines ship was stuck at a Caribbean port with equipment trouble on Thursday, a month after thousands of passengers were trapped at sea for days on a Carnival ship disabled by a fire.

The incident is the latest black eye for an industry battered by problems ranging from norovirus outbreaks to the Costa Concordia accident in Italy last year that killed 32 people.

The Carnival Dream, which was on a week-long cruise, remained in port in St. Maarten after its emergency diesel generator malfunctioned during testing Wednesday, according to the company.

Though the problem temporarily disrupted elevator and toilet services, the ship never lost power, Carnival said.

CNN reported that passengers had contacted the cable news channel to complain about power outages and overflowing toilets.

Carnival said it was making arrangements to fly passengers to Orlando or their final destination via charter flights and regularly scheduled flights. It is offering passengers refunds and a 50 percent discount on a future cruise.

The Carnival Dream, which according to the company's website can accommodate 3,646 passengers and 1,367 crew members, is being repaired at the dock by company engineers.

The cruise industry has proved resilient in the face of a series of disasters. The Cruise Lines International Association projects a 3.3 percent rise in the number of cruise customers this year. Carnival and its smaller rival, Royal Caribbean Cruises, have said bookings are recovering from a slump following the Costa Concordia accident.

But headlines—coming at the busiest booking time of the year—about mechanical problems and passengers stuck without working toilets could take a toll.

"It's first-time cruisers that will have issues," said Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz. "This is definitely a PR (public relations) concern. This is some inflection point."

Carnival canceled the Dream's next voyage, scheduled to start Saturday. Its home port is Port Canaveral, Fla.

On Tuesday, Carnival said it had begun a comprehensive review of its entire fleet after a fire crippled the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico last month.

An engine-room blaze knocked out power and plumbing throughout most of the Triumph, which had more than 4,200 people on board. Passengers said toilets and drainpipes had overflowed, causing an overpowering stench in parts of the ship.

The Triumph eventually was towed into port in Mobile, Ala.

Carnival has assembled teams of fire safety experts, naval architects, electrical and mechanical engineers and engine manufacturers to conduct its own investigation, President and CEO Gerry Cahill said Tuesday.

The CLIA's website said a typical cruise ship has more than 60 safety, environmental and health inspections annually. The Coast Guard inspects all cruise ships in the U.S. to certify compliance with federal and international regulations.

Last weekend, the Carnival Elation suffered mechanical difficulty and had to get a tugboat escort down the Mississippi River.