Some 'Carnival Legend' passengers disembarking in Tampa unhappy

TAMPA — The Carnival Cruise Line ship Carnival Legend, still moving slower than usual, left Sunday for another week-long excursion only days after the mechanical problems forced it to cancel a stop in the Cayman Islands.

Passengers disembarked Sunday morning in the Channel District as hundreds of others arrived to set sail in the afternoon.

The Legend was forced to change its itinerary last week when its propulsion system malfunctioned. To stay on schedule, the liner stopped in Mexico rather than Belize and eliminated a stop in the Cayman Islands to return to the Port of Tampa. The ship arrived hours ahead of schedule.

Amy and Marty Brown of Lexington, Ky., had been stashing away money each month for years to be able to go on the cruise. With four teenagers at home, it had promised to be a welcome diversion.

"We saved for five years to go on this trip and they didn't even have the boat fully functioning to get us there," Marty said.

Amy said the couple booked the cruise in December. When they heard about the woes that beset Carnival's Triumph last month, they stayed undeterred.

"We said, 'What are the odds that they'd have more problems?' " she said.

Carnival has offered passengers a $100 credit and reimbursement of costs incurred if they booked a trip ashore in the Caymans. The company also offered a 50 percent discount on future cruises.

The Browns were not swayed.

"We're not Carnival fans," Marty said. "We won't be going back."

The Legend, which can hold more than 2,000 people, is the third Carnival cruise ship to lose power, propulsion or toilets within just a week.

More than 4,000 passengers were stranded Thursday aboard the Carnival Dream in St. Maarten 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 March 9.

One of the most infamous incidents occurred last month when more than 3,000 passengers were stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine fire crippled the Carnival Triumph. Passengers spent days in filthy conditions without power while being towed ashore.

The Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines said last week it was bringing in a specialist to look at the propulsion system on Legend. But the breakdown continued as the ship set out again.

"The repairs are still ongoing," spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Sunday. "The ship is sailing at reduced speed. It's only affecting the ship's speed to a slight degree. Everything else on board from entertaining, dining, shows and activities is all operating as normal."

The ship will sail at 19 knots instead of its usual range in the low 20s, Gulliksen said.

This was Alex King's third cruise, his second with Carnival. And it's the third time that the 28-year-old from Springfield, Miss., has been on a ship that missed a scheduled port.

"From that standpoint, we have kind of a bad taste in our mouth for cruises," King said.

King and his group were disappointed that the ship skipped the stop in Belize and replaced it with a stop farther north in Costa Maya, Mexico — a swap King said was not at all comparable.

Because of that, King's friend felt that the compensation Carnival offered wasn't enough.

"We missed Belize, but they don't feel like we missed a port because they replaced it," Matthew Spaccamonti, 24, said. "We missed half of our trip. That should be worth a 50 percent refund."

As passengers disembarked the slow ship, a separate crop of travelers dropped off luggage and prepared to board for another cruise on the Legend.

The trip that launched Sunday afternoon also will not visit the Cayman Islands, but will instead substitute the Costa Maya stop.

The company called passengers on Friday to give them the option of rescheduling or canceling for a full refund, but that wasn't possible for Arman Serobyan, 38, of Los Angeles.

He was there with his wife and two children. They booked the trip six months ago to coincide with the kids' spring break.

"We're trying to stay positive," he said. "As long as it doesn't sink, I'm okay."

Some 'Carnival Legend' passengers disembarking in Tampa unhappy 03/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 5:13pm]

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