Sink or Swim: Keeping Brand Reputation Afloat

Lyn Gateley via Flickr

Lyn Gateley via Flickr

After hearing the recent news that Carnival Cruise Lines’ CEO is stepping down, I couldn't help but remember my first cruise experience – leaning over the railing watching a Carnival ship approach to help my ship as it burned.

Yep, I was on the ill-fated Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas back in May.

At the time, one of the ongoing jokes—or should I say, immediately after, since no one was kidding around in the “heat” of the moment—was, “Boy, we must REALLY be in trouble if a CARNIVAL ship is here to rescue us.” See unlike other cruise lines, Carnival has a reputation for disastrous voyages. And in today’s world that’s full of choices, most people aren’t too eager to take a chance on a dangerous reputation – the root cause of Carnival’s dwindling profits and C-Suite shakeup.  

But now that Royal Caribbean has a spot on its squeaky clean history, will the brand suffer?

My guess is that it won’t, and here’s why:

  • Got by with a little help from the crew. Based on my harrowing experience, the RC crew was well-prepared and kind, and that’s the image being spread across the news, too, helping to uphold Royal Caribbean’s image. Given the situation, everything was well-organized despite it being one of the only disasters the crew members had ever faced too. 
  • Information kept everyone afloat. RC kept the communication channels open when Carnival didn’t after its catastrophe with the Costa Concordia. RC tweeted and posted updates to its website, which was helpful to both passengers and our loved ones back home.  Keeping honest also helped convince the public that we were safe despite the media’s efforts to amplify the severity of the incident. 
  • The money didn’t burn up. RC was not stingy about reimbursing us. The voyage was refunded and we each received vouchers to go aboard a future cruise of our choosing for free within a year.  Even though Carnival reimbursed its cruisers similarly, their passengers suffered days without power, running water, or much to eat.  In that instance I probably wouldn’t be satisfied until the company clothed me in diamonds and named a dining room after me.

For any business, it’s essential to have a plan in place for if and when disaster strikes – be it a string of public statements or state-of-the-art fire sprinkler system.  Only time will tell if Carnival’s new CEO can turn the company’s image around but until they convince me I plan to stay “loyal to Royal.”

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