TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Lines has been beset by a fresh dose of mechanical mishaps, disgruntled passengers and bad publicity this week.
The latest cruise ship to suffer a breakdown is Carnival Legend, which is heading back to Tampa under reduced power because it's having problems with one of its Azipod propulsion units. It's the third Carnival cruise ship to lose power, propulsion or toilets within a week.
The Legend, which can hold more than 2,000 passengers, left Tampa on Sunday for a seven-day cruise around the Caribbean. But it ended up skipping a scheduled stop in the Cayman Islands on Friday to get back to Tampa on time.
Despite those mechanical failures, Carnival said that the Legend will arrive on time early Sunday morning. Then the cruise ship will have just hours to get ready to ship out with a new group of passengers later Sunday afternoon for another seven-day cruise.
Passengers on that cruise have the option of canceling for a full refund or rescheduling, according to company spokeswoman Joyce Oliva.
"We've got technicians on board and we brought in a specialist," said Oliva, "and they're working on getting the propulsion problem fixed."
Ross Klein is a sociology professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who studies the cruise ship industry and runs the industry-monitoring site cruisejunkie.com. He said passengers on the Legend told him that the ship's crew warned them that there may be a delay.
"The passengers had been told they may not get to Tampa on schedule," Klein said.
Oliva said the company expects the ship to arrive back in Tampa on time.
Every passenger aboard the Legend will get a $100 credit and a refund of what they paid to go ashore on Grand Cayman. They will also receive 50 percent off future cruises with Carnival.
More than 4,000 passengers were stranded aboard the Carnival Dream in St. Maarten on Thursday when a failing backup generator affected the elevators and bathrooms. Guests were flown back to Port Canaveral. The Carnival Elation was accompanied by a tugboat along the Mississippi River after a propulsion failure on March 9.
But one of the most infamous incidents was just last month, when more than 3,000 passengers were left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine fire crippled the Carnival Triumph. Passengers spent several days in filthy conditions without power while being towed ashore.
"Each of these situations was different," said Oliva, the Carnival spokeswoman, in an email. "All modes of transportation, including cruise ships, have strong overall safety records, but sometimes technical issues will occur from time to time."