Carnival cruise passengers to fly home after fault on ship

Cruise operator Carnival said Thursday it was arranging to fly as many as 4,300 passengers home after the Carnival Dream moored for repairs in the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten.

The cruise line moved swiftly to defuse a public relations headache, amid reports of complaining passengers aboard the Carnival Dream, a month after a hellish ordeal aboard another of its ocean liners.

"While personnel continue to work on the technical issue we are making arrangements to fly all guests home via private charter flights and scheduled flights from St. Maarten," spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in a statement.

"Guests on the current voyage will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise," he said.

The ship's next voyage, scheduled to depart on March 16, was cancelled and guests will receive a full refund and 25 percent off a future cruise, he said.

The Carnival Dream's passengers were near the end of a seven day cruise and the ship was supposed to depart St Maarten on Wednesday at 5 pm local time, when an emergency back-up generator went down, the US Coast Guard said.

"Our main concern is for the Dream's safety and that all the passengers are safe," US Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Mark Barney said.

The cruise line said the ship did not lose power and its propulsion systems and primary power supply were not affected, but admitted there were "periodic interruptions of elevators and restroom services for a few hours last night."

"However, all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12.30 am," it said.

Some passengers, however, shot off emails to news network CNN complaining of power outages and toilets not working.

"The cruise director is giving passengers very limited information and tons of empty promises. What was supposed to take a hour has turned into 7+ hours," CNN quoted an email from passenger Jonathan Evans of North Carolina as saying.

The incident came a month after another of the firm's vessels, the Carnival Triumph, limped into Mobile, Alabama after a nightmare cruise in the Gulf of Mexico that made headlines around the world.

The Triumph ship lost power after an engine room fire and its 4,000 passengers were stranded for days in sweltering heat with backed up toilets, no air conditioning and little food.

That public relations disaster followed by a little more than a year the shipwreck of Costa Concordia, a ship owned by a Carnival Cruise subsidiary that ran aground off the coast of Tuscany and keeled over, killing 32 people.