Cruise ship goes overboard on crisis PR

MIAMI: Executives at Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) were looking to

hire three PR people, including someone to head the office, when the

company was plunged into crisis last week.

The cruise ship Norway and her 2,032 passengers were prevented from

leaving the Port of Miami for a planned seven-day cruise when US Coast

Guard (USCG) inspectors realized the ship sprinkler system was poorly

patched and possibly too damaged to extinguish a fire.

NCL's sole in-house PR staffer, PR manager Mirta Carreras, turned to the

NCL crisis plan and to NCL agency of record, New York-based Lou Hammond

and Associates.

Carreras said she kept passengers informed of USCG decisions via

newsletter, instituted a complimentary open bar and gave each passenger

a dollars 200 credit to use on the ship, with a dollars 600 maximum per

stateroom. When the ship was held in port the following day, the credit

was upped to dollars 300 per person - dollars 900 per stateroom.

"We also kept our full list of activities on the ship, as well as

excursions all around the city," said Carreras. "On the first day, 1,500

of our guests took tours. With 2,000 people on the ship, that's pretty


When NCL learned the ship would not be able to sail at all, the company

set up eight checkpoints at the Port of Miami to help passengers make

travel plans. Carreras said NCL will reimburse customers for their

return airfare, travel expenses, and the cost of the cruise, and will

also give customers vouchers for a cruise of equal value to the one they


Passengers were invited to stay on the Norway all week and enjoy ship

activities free of charge.

Carreras said Lou Hammond and Associates handled or filtered most of the

media calls.

"We've gotten great feedback from all the TV crews that were out there,"

said Carreras. "Of course our passengers are disappointed, and you can't

blame them for that. But I think most of them are satisfied with our

compensation, and at the end of the day, that's the most important thing

- satisfied customers."

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