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The death of five crew from Thomson Majesty and the engine-room fire that immobilised Carnival Triumph were a serious blow to the industry which has been trying to restore confidence after 32 people died when Costa Concordia crashed into rocks and capsized off Giglio in Italy in January 2012.
Although the Passenger Shipping Association says the number of UK cruise passengers hit a record 1,701,000 last year, it was an increase of just 1,000 on 2011 and more than half were past passengers taking advantage of low fares rather than the first-timers the lines need to attract.
The five crew on Thomson Majesty died during a lifeboat training exercise put in place after the Concordia disaster.
No one was hurt in the fire on Carnival Triumph, which struck while the ship was in the Gulf of Mexico, but passenger reports of four horrific days of overflowing toilets and long lines for food while the ship was rescued and towed back to shore have damaged Carnival Cruise Lines’ credentials, especially as a similar incident left Carnival Splendor stranded off the coast of Mexico in 2010.
In a survey of 2,230 Americans last month, half agreed air travel was safer than a cruise, while 58 per cent who had never cruised said they were less likely to take one now than a year ago.
To try to stem a drop in confidence, Carnival’s UK boss has promised an investigation into what went wrong on Triumph and what can be done to ensure it never happens again. Both Costa Allegra and Azamara Quest were immobilised by engine-room fires in 2012.