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Another Cruise Industry #PRFail?

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Planning a cruise? You may or may not receive attentive customer service on social media.

While the latest skirmish with bad experiences hasn’t made the sort of headlines created by last year’s series of Carnival “challenges”, it did earn coverage on legal specialist Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News blog. And it gives us an opportunity to compare corporate crisis communications at three of the top cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean, Princess and Carnival all had ships unable to re-enter or leave port after an oil spill last weekend, but they went about addressing the problem in different ways.

Carnival, for example, quickly set up an FAQ about the Magic on its website:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 2.02.01 PM

…and responded to Twitter queries with links to the same from multiple accounts:

Princess Cruises was also on it, telling tweeters that it had no information on time of departure:

According to Walker, Royal Caribbean’s problem was two-fold: one ship was stuck due to the oil spill while another had technical problems that prevented it from docking. He writes that the company’s PR team neglected to inform waiting passengers of estimated departure times, though the company’s main Twitter feed did offer news of the technical problems when they first occurred:

It’s true that the company’s first Facebook update came the day after the second ship Navigator of the Seas was supposed to sail, but we see no update for the one with the fixipod problem:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 2.22.20 PM

It’s also true, as Walker writes, that the company’s official PR Twitter feed stayed silent during the incident. Here’s the essence of the critique in tweet form:

The problem, then, seems to have been a “dropping of the ball” by Royal Caribbean, which didn’t address the ongoing complaints raised by customers in real-time. That’s a tough lesson to learn, but it’s hardly a new story.

One contradictory opinion on the blog post itself reads:

“I was on the ship and they gave us probably for updates every day. The only reason they didn’t email us for every update is because they wouldn’t email unless it was a final decision. They had bigger things to do than post on twitter and Facebook when everyone on the ship had cell phone service to alert their loved ones as to what was happening. They kept us updated with what the Coast Guard told us-nothing more, nothing less.”

Walker made his opinion clear; what do we think? Did the two lines provide examples of crisis comms success and failure?

Also: in cases like this one, what role should the PR account play in supporting the primary corporate account?

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