As cruise ship Legend makes its way back to Tampa, some advice for ocean travelers

TAMPA - The Carnival Legend cruise ship is slowly making its way back to Tampa. So slowly, in fact, passengers report missing stops in both Belize and Grand Cayman.

"Our whole trip has been really bad. It's been a bad experience," explained Sherrie Almand.

Friday afternoon, Almand was aboard the Legend somewhere off the coast of Florida. The ship is the fourth in a month for Carnival to make headlines for technical problems, this time for issues that affect the ship's speed.

"I've used my whole vacation for the year to come on this trip and it's been wasted," Almand said.

The following statement was released late Thursday night:

Carnival Legend is experiencing a technical issue with one of the ship's Azipod units that is affecting the vessel's sailing speed.  The ship's safety systems and hotel services are all functioning normally. 

The vessel made its scheduled call today in Mahogany Bay, Roatan, in addition to visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya earlier in the week.  Because of the reduction in sailing speed, tomorrow's visit to Grand Cayman has been cancelled and the ship will proceed to its homeport of Tampa, where it is expected to arrive on Sunday as scheduled.   

Guests on the current voyage will receive a $100 per person credit and a full refund on pre-purchased shore excursions for Grand Cayman.  In addition, guests will receive 50 percent off a future Carnival cruise. 

Carnival Legend is currently on the last leg of a seven-day Caribbean cruise that departed Tampa on Sunday, March 10.

According to the Coast Guard, the Carnival Legend says that there are no other problems and passenger comfort is not being compromised.

Another Carnival ship, the Dream, experienced problems with an on-board generator while docked in St. Maarten and the company announced Thursday that passengers would be flown home. 

A month ago, passengers on the Carnival Triumph spent five days in the Gulf of Mexico without power or working toilets.

AAA Spokesperson Jessica Brady recommends three tips for cruise travel. Use a reputable travel agency to advocate for you in case of an emergency; register with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) with the State Department and purchase travel insurance to ensure a full refund instead of waiting and hoping the cruise line will give reimbursements.

"You may not use it until something happens but when something does happen you're very happy that you have it," she said.

AAA agents continue to book Carnival cruises, some customers hoping the bad publicity will get them a better deal. However, if it continues, the cruise line may have see business turn away.

"First and foremost, you have to reassure the public that you're aware of the maintenance issues, that you've got it under control, and you're doing everything in your power to protect them," said Glenn Selig. "'Do I really want to destroy my vacation by going on this ship?' Is the public at that point there right now? I don't know."

Selig operates The Publicity Agency, specializing in saving brands from crisis. If advising Carnival, he'd first tell them to be honest about the issues, and make sure customers believe what they're saying.

"Are these ships not being fixed properly? Is there a maintenance problem? First you have to find out what the truth is then figure out how to deal with it," Selig said.

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