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Carnival debacle: Experts float opinions

Crew members watch the activity on the dock

Crew members watch the activity on the dock after the Carnival Triumph was towed to the cruise terminal in Mobile, Ala. (Feb. 14, 2013) Credit: AP

Carnival Triumph dragged her sorry stern back to port after a harrowing and unhygienic five days of floating in the Gulf of Mexico without power or flushing toilets. Could it happen again? Two cruise industry experts offer perspective: Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor at Cruise Critic, and Jay Herring, author of "The Truth About Cruise Ships" and a former senior officer with Carnival Cruises.

How common are engine room fires and other meltdowns?

HERRING: These incidents are very rare -- maybe once a year, once every couple of years.

BROWN: Engine room fires happen, but 99 percent of the time passengers aren't affected.

Is Carnival to blame?

HERRING: Any ship at sea is at risk for a mishap.

How serious was the situation?

HERRING: On a scale of 1 to 10, Costa was a 10. [Last year's Costa Concordia accident in Italy caused 32 deaths.] This is a 5 or 6.

Did Carnival handle the disaster well?

BROWN: This is a textbook case of how not to react.

Any heroes deserve a mention?

BROWN: The crew kept everyone safe. The cruise line had better be generous to the crew.

Do you think Carnival's compensation package -- reimbursement for the trip, credit toward a future cruise and $500 -- is fair?

HERRING: I think the compensation is more than adequate.

Any advice for people now nervous about cruising?

BROWN: Any ship designed after 2010 must have two engine rooms. If you have any concern, go for a ship that has this new feature.

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