Cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry. One reason is that being aboard these behemoth ocean liners feels like a true escape.

Being out there in the deep blue sea is part of the appeal for vacationers — until a fuel oil leak causes a fire in the engine room, effectively cutting power to everything that makes the city-at-sea work well: the propulsion system, air conditioning, ventilation, refrigerators and, sorry to say, toilets.

Just such a disaster occurred aboard Carnival’s Triumph, the much-talked-about “cruise from hell.” Tugboats towed the disabled ship and its more than 4,000 passengers and crew from the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Ala., at about 4½ miles per hour. It took five days. Carnival didn’t have any empty ships to send to the scene and, anyway, a ship-to-ship transfer on the open seas was deemed too dangerous.

This has become a public relations disaster for Carnival Corp., which has weathered a few before. Carnival also owns Costa Cruises, whose Concordia went down off the coast of Italy early last year, killing 32 people, including two Minnesotans. Another Carnival ship, the Splendor, lost power at sea in 2010 and was towed to San Diego.

Their answer this time, beyond generously compensating Triumph passengers? Sales galore, including Caribbean cruises for $229. Interested in a cruise? Book now, before our collective forgetfulness sets in and prices rise. And no undue worry, please. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, 20 million global passengers went on cruises in 2011. The vast majority had working toilets the whole glorious time.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.