What You Can Learn From Carnival Cruise’s Crisis Communications on Social Media

carnival-cruisesBy now, I’m sure that you’re all well aware of the crisis Carnival Cruises found themselves in last week when an engine fire left the ship powerless and waterless, exposing passengers to a terrible situation that lasted for days.

Though there are many aspects that I could write about regarding the way Carnival Cruises handled the management of this crisis, I’ve chosen to evaluate and analyze their social media crisis communications (go figure!). The following evaluates both Carnival Cruises Facebook and Twitter crisis communications, from beginning to end of the crisis.

What You Can Learn From Carnival Cruise’s Crisis Communications on Social Media

Timely and consistent updates
I was, of course, glad to see that Carnival Cruises were consistent and timely with their social media updates during the crisis. I counted almost 20 updates on Facebook and countless tweets, ranging from updates to apologies to thank you’s and press releases. Each update was timely and quite informative.

However, I do have to note that some of their updates, especially those towards the beginning of the crisis, tended to be too repetitive. Since each Facebook update is right next to each other, it’s not required to relentlessly repeat the same details over and over again. When there’s no new news to report, it’s OK to say so. Detailed repeats tend to get repetitive, giving the allure that you’re simply trying to speak for the sake of speaking, or worse, avoiding important issues that should be addressed and replacing them with fluff.

CEO Gerry Cahill’s first statement
It took him a while to do so, but when he finally published a statement, CEO Gerry Cahill was informative, apologetic and caring, stating that:

“[…] We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration our guests are feeling. We know they expected a fantastic vacation, and clearly that is not what they received. Our shipboard and shoreside teams are working around the clock to care for our guests and get them home safely.”

However, with the conditions that his guests found themselves miserably in, Cahill should have been much quicker to be front and centre of this crisis.

One thing that I would like to address is the format in which Carnival Cruises published Cahill’s first statement. This was well done. They made it visibly clear that the message was from the president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, properly dating and time-stamping the post. Take a look:


Dating and time-stamping their updates
With nearly 20 updates and posts on their Facebook timeline, Carnival Cruises did a good job at dating, time-stamping and declaring each new update. This is especially important to do when:

  • A crisis goes on for days
  • Multiple updates are being posted
  • Updating on a platform such as Facebook where the timeline zig-zags and can often get confusing

Press releases
Within their social media updates, Carnival Cruises announced when their press release was to be held, tweeted and posted soundbites from the press release, announced its end and published both a link to the press release once it was available and embedded it straight into a Facebook post. This was extremely well done.

Confronted wide-spread questions and addressed rumors in real-time
It’s extremely important to be monitoring the online discussions in a crisis. Carnival Cruises showed that they were paying attention when they posted an update addressing a question that was being widely asked and discussed online. They addressed the question, addressed the fact that many were wondering about it and then provided a reasonable answer for their decisions.

On Twitter, they went a step further than this and also addressed some rumors that were beginning to form online, quickly correcting them before they spiralled out of control. The last thing you want in a crisis is for additional rumors to begin to spread. This is another great example of the importance of listening as well as communicating in a crisis.

Communicating resources for more information
Carnival Cruises consistently reminded concerned family members and friends of the correct numbers to call for more information:

“We have contacted the designated emergency contacts for all guests presently on board Carnival Triumph. Concerned family and loved ones of guests and crew may call 888.290.5095 or 305.406.5534.”

CEO’s presence on the scene
The fact that president and CEO, Gerry Cahill was present on the scene when the ship finally docked was extremely important. Announcing his presence via online channels and expressing his gratitude and sincere regret was equally important. Cahill did this well in a couple different social media updates, as was needed.

Thank you’s and marking the end of the crisis
I say this often: it’s important to mark the end of a crisis. People need to know that it’s over and what next steps the brand is taking to make sure that the situation doesn’t happen again. Equally important are sincere thank you’s and apologies where they’re due. Carnival Cruises did this well.


All in all, I have to say that Carnival Cruises did a thorough and sincere job at communicating with their audience throughout this crisis on their social media channels. There are tons of excellent examples and strategies within this case study that I hope you will incorporate into your own crisis communications plan.

What additional observations did you make throughout this crisis? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with me below in the comments section.

Melissa Agnes is an international crisis management keynote speaker and consultant. President of the crisis management firm Agnes + Day, Melissa has developed a worldwide reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises. She is also the editor of The Crisis Intelligence Blog and host of The Crisis Intelligence Podcast.

4 Comments. Leave new

I'm amazed that it takes corporate leaders so long to issue their statements when they begin with "We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience." Seriously, they should be – and sorry that they issued a statement that sounds like a form letter!

Melissa, do you have any resources to share that might help brand leadership better craft their statements? In today's world of instant communication, it doesn't hurt to have a grab bag of statement frameworks at the ready.



Better yet, I always snark when I see "we regret that this situation has happened" … yeah duh! Of course you do, you're in crisis because of it!

In regards to your question on help to craft better statements, Kristin, thank you for the inspiration! I haven't seen anything like this yet online – not for online issues and crisis situations anyway – and will get on creating this type of resource for my readers asap!

You're always inspiring, Kristin! Thanks for the great comment 🙂


Excellent analysis and information. Sadly, too often we find the the more senior the executive is the more often they delay the release of information. Our research shows that folks over 35 are grappling with using social media in any situation but especially during a crisis. Thanks for an excellent piece – we have shared it on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong


Excellent point. It's not in every case, but I have seen this to be true as well. It's the "old vs. new" mentality and adaptation of the new rules of crisis response.

I appreciate you taking the time to share my post and leave your thoughts!



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